- Final two episodes of ESPN’s The Last Dance to air Sunday, May 17
- BetOnline has a slew of props available ahead of the series finale
- Odds say cigars will be smoked, F-bombs will be dropped
The Last Dance, ESPN’s 10-part documentary on the final season of the Chicago Bulls’ dynasty, is set to air its final two episodes on Sunday night. The show has drawn massive television ratings every Sunday since it debuted on April 19, and it’s a shame that we’re already to the finish line.
The sports calendar isn’t exactly jam-packed right now, which means sports bettors are working with limited offerings. Fortunately, some betting sites are offering a few props on how The Last Dance finale will play out. Odds were released for a variety of props ahead of the debut last month, and new odds have been posted again in advance of the series coming to a close.
Let’s break them down, shall we? Here’s how to bet The Last Dance’s finale.
Chicago TV Ratings
|Ratings||Odds at BetOnline|
|Over 12 market rating||-120|
|Under 12 market rating||-120|
Without a lot of new sports content on TV these days, the highly-anticipated Bulls documentary has been doing massive numbers for ESPN. The anticipation was the primary reason behind ESPN’s decision to move the series from its original start date in June up to April. They knew people would flock to their TVs, desperate for sports.
And they were right.
Eight of the 10 most-viewed sports programs since the middle of March have been the first eight episodes of The Last Dance. An average of five million people have been watching each episode across the US on ESPN and ESPN2, which is a massive number for a cable program.
Nielsen estimated that episodes seven and eight last Sunday averaged a rating of 11.6 in the Chicago area. That comes out to about 377,000 households without accounting for people that DVR the show to watch later or watch via streaming services.
The biggest household rating the show has done in the Chicago area is 12.6 back in the second week of episodes. In the first week, the Chicago market rating came out at 12.2.
Viewership has waned as the documentary’s season has progressed, but I’d imagine we’ll see another spike in viewership for the final weekend. Obviously, the finale will show the Bulls winning the 1998 title in dramatic fashion, which is the denouement of the entire series.
I would be a little surprised if Chicago’s number didn’t rise back up over 12 on Sunday. Viewership has been hovering around that number for the duration of the series. Bet the over here at -120.
The Bet: Over 12 (-120)
Average Viewership Across US For Episode 10
|Viewers||Odds at BetOnline|
|Over 6 million||+145|
|Under 6 million||-190|
I mentioned that The Last Dance has been one of ESPN’s most-watched programs of the year. Here are the full viewership numbers, courtesy of Mark Medina of USA Today:
The viewership numbers on "The Last Dance." Since sports ended in mid-March, the 8 episodes of "The Last Dance" are among the 10 most-viewed sports programs on ESPN pic.twitter.com/Zm97kIE5pd
— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) May 11, 2020
Forbes says the show has averaged 5.6 million viewers across each of the first eight episodes. Episodes seven and eight from last Sunday averaged 5.1 million across both ESPN and ESPN2. Episode seven was around 5.3 million, while episode eight dipped to 4.9 million.
While I do think the finale will attract more eyeballs than episode eight, it does have the disadvantage of airing later. The finale doesn’t start until 10pm Eastern, which is obviously pretty late. That’s the primary reason viewership tends to decline from the first episode to the second episode each Sunday.
Averaging six million viewers is no easy task, but the odds kinda force your hand here. Do you really want to bet the under at -190? Probably not. With this one, I’d take a small flier on the over at +145 and hope for the best.
The Bet: Over 6 million (+145)
First Person Other Than MJ to Appear On Screen in Episode Nine
|Person||Odds at BetOnline|
The Last Dance has focused primarily on Michael Jordan, the driving force behind the Bulls’ six title-winning teams from the 1990s. Jordan’s shocking baseball-related retirement and his controversial competitiveness were the focal points of last weekend’s episodes.
This weekend, I’d imagine the focus will center around Chicago sneaking past the Pacers in seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals before taking down the Jazz in the Finals. Phil Jackson was credited with coining the phrase “the last dance” when he was told that ’98 would be his final season as Chicago’s head coach.
Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman have been tangential figures in the series to this point. We’ve seen plenty of team owner Jerry Reinsdorf, but I’d be surprised if he was the first face other than Jordan we’ll see on Sunday. Jerry Krause died in 2017, so he hasn’t been able to give his side of the story very often.
Jackson looks like the play here. This isn’t my favorite bet, though, considering it’s essentially a total crapshoot.
The Bet: Phil Jackson (+150)
Will Jordan Cry During an Interview?
|Outcome||Odds at BetOnline|
Jordan has been emotional during his interviews for The Last Dance, but we haven’t seen many tears from His Airness. His eyes seemed to well up last weekend when he was talking about his competitiveness, but he was able to remain pretty stoic even when asked about his father’s tragic murder.
We can see that Jordan still has that feistiness given the way he defends his treatment of his teammates. However, this bet once again comes down to the odds. You just aren’t getting much bang for your buck in betting on MJ not crying during an interview at -150. You might as well roll out a small bet on “yes” at +110 and hope the greatest player that ever lived finds himself in a glass case of emotion at some point on Sunday night.
The Bet: Yes (+110)
How Many People Will Have Cigars In Their Mouths?
|Outcome||Odds at BetOnline|
|Over 3 different people||-120|
|Under 3 different people||-120|
The ’90s Bulls teams won a lot of basketball games. They also knew how to properly celebrate all that winning.
Jordan appearing on screen with a cigar in his mouth is an absolute lock. He’s even doing his interviews for this show with a cigar sitting right next to him. After the Bulls beat the Jazz to win the title that year, Jordan celebrated with his trusty cigar. Jackson also happily lit one up after his final game as the team’s coach.
The question is: Where will the crucial third cigar come from? We might have to trust the promise of some additional never-before-seen TV footage. Here’s Steve Kerr holding a cigar in celebration. Was this from ’98? Who knows?
We do know Dennis Rodman is happy to party with cigar in hand. Or in arm, as it were.
Here’s Ron Harper enjoying a puff ON THE COURT next to Scottie Pippen.
Toni Kukoc is European. He probably smokes, right? Hell yeah, he does.
Needless to say, you should bet the over here. Then light up a cigar to celebrate your triumph.
The Bet: Over 3 (-120)
How Many F-Bombs Will Drop?
|Outcome||Odds at BetOnline|
ESPN is airing an uncensored version of The Last Dance on ESPN, while the more family-friendly censored version airs on ESPN2. Sometimes, people cuss. Sometimes those people are NBA players. Shocking, right?
The Last Dance hasn’t exactly shared Quentin Tarantino’s infatuation with the F-word, but there has been no shortage of bombs being dropped over the course of the first eight episodes, either. Again, Jordan remains hyper-competitive. Once he gets riled up, those bombs start dropping.
We’re looking for value here. This is another crapshoot prop, so you might as well side with the more favorable odds. Bet the over on 2.5 F-bombs on Sunday night across the final two episodes.
The Bet: Over 2.5 (-110)
Will Jordan Be Shown in a Wizards Uniform?
|Outcome||Odds at BetOnline|
Michael Jordan retired from the NBA three times. The Last Dance went into detail regarding his first retirement last weekend, and the 1998 season is his final campaign before he hung up his sneakers for the second time.
Of course, let’s not forget that Jordan came back again. That happened in 2001, when he decided to make a dramatic return. Rather than returning to the Bulls, though, Jordan laced ’em up for the Washington Wizards. About a year after retiring, Jordan became a part owner of the Wizards, and he was named as president of basketball operations.
Mark Cuban: I tried to convince Michael Jordan to join Mavericks instead of Wizards https://t.co/e4hNWEngGT
— Dan Feldman (@DanFeldmanNBA) May 14, 2020
While Jordan’s two seasons with the Wizards weren’t amazing, he still averaged about 21.5 points per game despite being in his late-30s at the time. I doubt we get a ton of detail about Jordan’s time in DC, but there’s at least a chance we see a brief highlight toward the end of the finale.
Again, you never know. The +150 odds on Jordan’s Wizards tenure getting a mention are favorable enough. It’s worth a shot, right?