Alongside the linear airings of “Last Dance,” which premieres this Sunday (April 19) at 9 p.m. ET, the ESPN Plus streaming service will present “Detail: 1998 Chicago Bulls,” with five episodes over the next five Sundays.
The retrospective edition of the “Detail” sports-analysis show is hosted by key members of the championship team: Dennis Rodman, Steve Kerr and head coach Phil Jackson. In individual episodes, they’ll break down pivotal games and moments during the Bulls’ run to their sixth NBA championship.
ESPN originally planned a June premiere for “Last Dance,” the documentary series centered on NBA great Michael Jordan’s final season with the Chicago Bulls. But with the COVID-19 pandemic leaving gaping holes in its programming lineup, it moved the docuseries’ premiere up. ESPN plans to air two versions of the series: one with profanities on the flagship ESPN net; the other, with expletives deleted, will air simultaneously on ESPN2.
Over at ESPN Plus, once “The Last Dance” timeline was moved up, the team scrambled to put into production a “Detail” companion series analyzing the Bulls’ games, said Brian Lockhart, VP and executive producer, ESPN Plus original content.
“With the absence of live sports, we saw an opportunity to eventize this,” Lockhart said.
About five weeks ago, Lockhart reached out to “Detail” production company Granity Studios, formed by the late Kobe Bryant, to get the ’98 Bulls analysis series in the works. “Granity moved mountains to make this happen,” he said. “Even under normal circumstances, it was going to be tough to get this done in this timeframe.”
Indeed, with the 11th-hour push, producers are still racing to finish the series: ESPN and Granity are currently are in talks with other players from the ’98 Bulls championship run to be featured in a fifth episode.
Each of the subjects were — or will be — interviewed remotely, with the production team shipping laptops to them so they could watch the game footage they were commenting on. The episodes will run about 20 minutes.
Episodes of “Detail: 1998 Chicago Bulls” will post prior to the linear ESPN and ESPN2 broadcasts of “Last Dance” Sunday evenings from April 19-May 17. In addition, the TV networks will promote the ESPN Plus original series to viewers.
“If you didn’t get enough from ‘The Last Dance,’ this lets you completely nerd-out with the 1998 Chicago Bulls,” Lockhart said.
Given the sports desert created by the pandemic, ESPN has high hopes that “The Last Dance” can become a five-week water-cooler event, and the “Detail” streaming-only sidecar series is part of feeding the hype. “Last Dance,” directed by Jason Hehir (“The Fab Five,” “The ’85 Bears,” “Andre the Giant”), chronicles one of the biggest icons and most successful teams in sports history, Jordan and the 1990s Chicago Bulls, featuring never-before-seen footage from the 1997-98 season. Outside the U.S., the 10-part docuseries will be available on Netflix.
“Detail,” which was created by Bryant, was originally designed to be a sports-analysis show breaking down recent games. But with the coronavirus pandemic, ESPN Plus has introduced the look-back historical format, including episodes with UConn women’s basketball head coach Geno Auriemma and U. of Alabama head coach Nick Saban breaking down college football strategies.
More than 50 episodes of “Detail” are available on ESPN Plus. Those include NBA and college basketball episodes hosted by Kobe Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26. Bryant was posthumously elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame earlier this month.
According to Disney, ESPN Plus, which debuted in April 2018, reached 6.6 million subscribers as of the end of 2019 and had risen to 7.6 million by Feb. 5. ESPN Plus is $4.99 per month (or $49.99 per year); it’s also available as part of a bundle with Disney Plus, Hulu (ad-supported) and ESPN Plus for $12.99 monthly.
The first episode of “Detail: 1998 Chicago Bulls” will feature Jackson breaking down Game 3 of the 1998 NBA Finals in which the Bulls trounced the Utah Jazz in Chicago 96-54 to take a 2-1 lead in the series. Jackson highlights the critical moments in that game and explain how the “triangle offense” helped drive the Bulls to unprecedented success.
Subsequent episodes of the series will include Rodman analyzing Chicago’s 111-105 regular season win over Dallas on December 29, 1997, during which the Mavericks’ Bubba Wells committed six intentional fouls in three minutes against Rodman in an attempt to rattle the notoriously bad free-throw shooter. Rodman will share how and why Dallas’ strategy backfired, as he went 9 for 12 from the foul line and collected 27 rebounds to complement Michael Jordan’s 41 points.
In addition, Kerr will host an episode to break down Game 2 of the 1998 NBA Finals, which the Bulls’ won 93-88 at Utah to tie the series 1-1. Another episode will feature Jackson analyzing the deciding Game 6, a tight 87-86 Bulls win that earned Chicago its sixth title and second three-peat championship in eight years.
On Friday, meanwhile, ESPN released a five-minute clip from the first episode of “The Last Dance”: