The Last Dance has been highly anticipated by NBA fans since it was announced over two years ago, and with stay-at-home orders around the country halting live sports, viewers pushed, successfully, for ESPN to push up the release from June to April.
On Sunday, it made its debut to the delight of fans and, unsurprisingly, drew big numbers for ESPN. The broadcasts on ESPN and ESPN2 (where they showed a “clean” version with cursing bleeped out) averaged 6.1 million viewers for the two hours of episodes 1 and 2. Episode 1 had 6.3 million viewers, while Episode 2 drew 5.8 million, making it the most watched broadcast on ESPN since the College Football Playoff National Championship game.
They also make for the two most watched episodes of ESPN original programming, topping the previous record-holder, “You Don’t Know Bo,” the 30 for 30 on Bo Jackson that drew 3.6 million viewers. It’s a strong number for ESPN in a time where sports networks are desperate for anything that can draw eyeballs to them, and it will surely continue to do well streaming on ESPN+. Those that thought it might rival Game of Thrones viewership were overestimating how big a draw this would be, but for a documentary about a 20-year-old subject, it is a pretty massive number and represents a big win for ESPN.