ESPN's 10-part documentary series about Michael Jordan and the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls, The Last Dance, aired over five weeks and drew considerable attention. Fans loved the access to the championship season and the various interviews included, which helped boost the series in the ratings. The Last Dance ranked among the top shows on cable this season.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, The Last Dance found success at a time when cable ratings are decreasing. The series averaged nearly 13 million viewers and competed with The Walking Dead, Dave, and the heavyweights on HGTV and the Food Network. The Last Dance started strong by becoming ESPN's most-watched documentary ever, and it only grew in popularity. NBA fans and casual viewers alike continued to tune in every Sunday until the series ended.
This is not just a case of recency bias. ESPN's nonfiction series about Michael Jordan and the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls is among the highest-rated shows on all of Nielsen-measured TV this season. Among adults 18-49, only three primetime NFL franchises and The Masked Singer ranked higher than The Last Dance's 2.9 rating. Across all platforms, the series averaged almost 12.9 million viewers through May 20.
The series' popularity was made clear when the show routinely trended on social media every Sunday night during its run. There were millions tweeting about each storyline while commenting on Dennis Rodman, Carmen Electra, Horace Grant and Scottie Pippen. The Last Dance became appointment viewing, to the point that one of The Ranch's stars compared the series to another popular show.
Danny Masterson tweeted that The Last Dance "is the new Game of Thrones" while watching one of the 10 episodes. This became an apt comparison considering the number of viewers and the conversations generated each week. Although the fans appeared to enjoy the finale of The Last Dance more than the HBO show.
Similarly, Houston Texans star JJ Watt referred to the documentary series as a "joy to watch" while he remained at home. The defensive end admitted during an interview that he has binged all of Chopped and watched several other shows. The Last Dance became one of his favorites.
While certain NBA peers such as Pippen and Grant were not happy with certain aspects of the series, the viewers have no such issues. They enjoyed sitting back and learning about secret trips to Las Vegas during the season and the relationships in the locker room. Many even hoped that more episodes would air.