In honor of Michael Jeffrey Jordan’s 50th birthday, Dustin explains why his contribution to cinema history, “Space Jam” joins the ranks as a Movie that Rules.
In case you don’t watch ESPN on a round-the-clock basis, Sunday, February 17th, Michael Jordan will celebrate his 50th birthday. He’s still considered the best to play the game by just about everyone and fans and analysts alike, are still searching for the next player that can step up and be the “Next Jordan.” (Spoiler: Kobe and LeBron are the only two with any sort of shot at this, and that’s unlikely at best.) It’s easy to forget just how big of a deal Jordan was in his heyday, especially to younger NBA fans who may never have seen Jordan play a game or that only know him for his time with the Wizards and as a shoe mogul and Charlotte Bobcats owner.
That’s not what this is all about though, let me take you back to 1996; Jordan has already won 3 consecutive NBA titles and at this point could already be in the Hall of Fame with 3 regular season MVPs, 8 All-Star appearances and 3 NBA Finals MVPs. He’s the most known athlete on the planet; everyone wears his shoes and has his posters on their walls. He’s back in the NBA after a year in retirement trying to be a baseball player.
If you’re Jordan, you’re about to go win 3 more straight NBA titles, 3 more Finals MVPs, 2 more regular season MVPs and 6 more All-Star selections, so what else is there you can do?
GO MAKE A MOVIE WITH THE LOONEY TUNES!
Which brings us to “Space Jam.” The plot is simple, Michael Jordan is enjoying trying to be a baseball player and his retirement from the NBA while up in space at Moron Mountain, the evil Mister Swackhammer (Danny DeVito) is trying to save his amusement park from foreclosure, his plan: using his cute little alien lackeys, the Nerdlucks to kidnap the Looney Tunes and use them as his latest attraction. Shockingly, the Tunes are not so cool with this idea and talk the tiny, little Nerdlucks into playing a basketball game for their freedom.
The Nerdlucks then use a form of cheating that I’m sure Barry Bonds, Lance Armstrong, Roger Clemens, Ray Lewis’ Deer Antlers and countless others see and cry for not thinking of- they steal the basketball talents of Patrick Ewing, Larry Johnson, Charles Barkley, Muggsy Bogues and Shawn Bradley (all as themselves and all competing for the honor of worst athlete turned actor.) Somehow, all this basketball talent turns the cute, tiny and nonthreatening Nerdlucks into the Monstars; the biggest, baddest, meanest basketball powerhouses this side of the 90s Pistons.
When they showcase their newfound abilities, the Looney Tunes begin to realize that they might be in a little bit of trouble. To try and avoid being kidnapped and taken to be amusement park attractions, the Tunes decide they need their own secret weapon, so they kidnap the shit out of Michael Jordan and try to convince him to help. At first, MJ wants nothing to do with it, but after being bullied by the Monstars himself, he changes his mind and tries to help whip the Tunes into shape to beat the Monstars.
The game itself these teams play is one of the most entertaining games ever played out in a movie. Seeing Bugs Bunny, Lola Bunny (who along with Jessica Rabbit, may or may have not been my first childhood love), Daffy Duck and all the classic characters you know and love playing alongside Michael Jordan is fantastic (I mean literally, the animation work is spectacular.) Near the end of the game, the Monstars have knocked almost every TuneSquad player out of the game like an Army of Bill Laimbeer’s and only four Tunes remain; Jordan, Bugs, Lola and Daffy. Just as the ref (Marvin the Martian) is about to declare a TuneSquad forfeit due to lack of five players, the day is saved by Michael Jordan’s good friend, Bill Murray! This taught young me one of the most important lessons I’ve ever learned; no matter how dire the situation is, Bill Murray will always be there for you. With seconds left in the game and the TuneSquad down by one point, Jordan drives to the basket and does this:
You’re goddamn right he extends his arm and dunks that ball despite gigantic monsters committing the greatest flagrant foul ever seen. And do you know why he does that? Because he’s Michael F****** Jordan.
I don’t care what you say, in the hierarchy of basketball themed movies the top three are:
- Space Jam
- Teen Wolf
Anyone who says otherwise, I’m sorry that you missed out on a childhood.
This is a movie made great by the sum of its’ parts; Michael Jordan playing himself, the Looney Tunes in easily their best film, the presence of Bill Murray, the amazing special effects, the NBA cameos, “Newman” from “Seinfeld” as Michael’s assistant, the Jordan’s that Michael wears in the game; everything about it charms both kids and adults alike.
I haven’t even gotten to the soundtrack yet; it went 6x Platinum and spawned the hit “I Believe I Can Fly” by R. Kelly. Yes. We wouldn’t have that R. Kelly masterpiece without “Space Jam.” It also had Seal’s take on “Fly Like an Eagle.” You’re telling me you want to live in a world without those songs? No way.
Don’t believe me? Think I’m over-selling the shit out of this movie? Ask me how much money this made when it was released in theatres. Go on, ask.
In 1996, $230 million is “Avatar” money by today’s standards.
That’s the dominance of Michael Jordan in the 90s, there was nothing he couldn’t accomplish. That’s why all these years later, people still get so nostalgic talking about him, why they’re so quick to say the LeBrons and the Kobes of today, will never be the same as Michael. Nobody could possibly do it like Mike because Michael redefined what it meant to be a basketball player, a celebrity and an icon.
Dustin Brewer is co-creator of HefferBrew. If you prefer to get your odd opinion fix in less than 140 characters, you can find him on Twitter @dstnbrwr. You can like HefferBrew on Facebook or Follow us on Twitter @HefferBrew.