ESPN has thus far set viewership records with its showing of “The Last Dance,” the 10-episode documentary on the Chicago Bulls that premiered April 19. This columnist is not a fan of the team—nor is any longtime Detroit Pistons fan or native Detroiter from my generation.
That dates back long before Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Phil Jackson et al joined the hated rivals, or an inside look of the last year they won an NBA title.
But still, those Bulls had to go through the hated, two-time league champs Bad Boys, as did the Pistons have to go through the Celtics and Lakers, and the Lakers had to go through the Celtics to finally reach their championship level.
While you can still watch the remaining “Last Dance” episodes—two episodes are shown on Sundays through May 17—we also may suggest, in no particular order, the following 10 ‘inside looks’ that can be found either on You Tube, ESPN, ESPN+, or other streaming services:
- “Basketball: A Love Story” (2018)—Must watch in its exact order of appearance to truly appreciate it.
- “Bad Boys” (2014)—This ESPN 30-for-30 chronicled how the Pistons won their two titles.
- “Hoop Dreams” (1994)—St. Paul’s Robin Hickman was behind this documentary on two Chicago high schoolers.
- “Celtics-Lakers: Best of Enemies” (2017, ESPN)—Enough said.
- “Long Shots” (1997)—an hour-long doc on the ABA.
- “Requiem for the Big East” (2014, ESPN+)—America’s first all-college basketball conference created in the late 1970s.
- “Survive and Advance” (2013, ESPN+)—North Carolina State beating Houston.
- “The Fab Five” (2011, ESPN+) – Michigan’s famed five that took the basketball world by storm.
- “Women of Troy” (2020, HBO)—This might be better than “The Last Dance” for compelling stories.
- “This Is a Game, Ladies”—a hard-to-find but must-see PBS documentary on the 2000-01 Rutgers women’s basketball season. We found it on YouTube.
WNBA Draft coverage weak
Despite no live sports at the time, the WNBA still got media seconds on its draft coverage and its immediate aftermath.
Lindsay Gibbs on her weekly “Power Plays” newsletter analyzed ESPN’s April 17 barely two-hour broadcast. The first 16 picks got minimal focus, while the last 20 draftees’ names were scrolled along the bottom of the screen after a commercial break.
But less than a week later, ESPN, ABC and the NFL Network showed four hours of the NFL’s first round, and all seven rounds over three days were broadcast on multiple channels. The pro football draft coverage was chock full of features, highlights, and other fun facts.
“The WNBA Draft itself couldn’t even take center stage during a broadcast devoted to the WNBA Draft,” Gibbs wrote.
She also tracked 16 newspapers from around the country, including the 12 WNBA team markets, for five days (April 16-20) and found just 60 W related pieces out of 830 total sports stories, while 167.5 stories were on the NFL draft.
April 16: 12 WNBA stories, 31.5 NFL
April 17: 20 WNBA stories (10 on front page), 24 NFL
April 18: The day after the W draft, 23 W stories (11.5 front page), 28 NFL
April 19: Four W post-draft stories, 43 NFL draft stories
April 20: One W story, 41 NFL
“I think this just shows how much harder the WNBA has to work in order to get coverage that other leagues take for granted,” Gibbs concluded.
Yale’s Saroya Tinker was the fourth overall pick in last week’s NWHL draft by Metropolitan. She was the only player of color drafted in the first round.