I’d like to congratulate all of us for reaching the absolute depths of the non-basketball season without doing serious harm to ourselves. Have you found yourself plopping in front of your TV after a long day of work, begging for the days when that will mean choosing which of the 6 games currently on to watch? I certainly have. So in the summer, I’ll take whatever fill of basketball I can. Free agent rumors? Sure. Playing pickup? Yup. Terrible basketball movies? I guess so.
The fact is, there aren’t really any great basketball movies. Hoosiers is the closest, but it takes every ounce of energy I have to stay awake during the Gene Hackman/Barbara Hershey flirting scenes. SNORES. Get back to the 80s synth music and white guy jumpshots. Jimmy Chitwood, the best character in Hoosiers, has six lines in the entire movie. And that’s the best we’ve got!
There’s a host of lesser hoop films that vary in ridiculousness and terribleness, but none mixes the two better than Space Jam. It stars the greatest player of all-time, during his peak, playing with cartoons. It is short, nonsensical, and weird. It is the highest grossing basketball film of all-time and beloved by a generation.
I, personally, have seen Space Jam no less than 500 times. Between 1996 and 1999, if it rained in the summer, my best friend and I were probably going to watch Space Jam. I wasn’t even a Jordan fan. I vividly remember watching the Bulls-Sonics and Bulls-Jazz Finals and rooting against the Jordan Juggernaut. I loved all the players who had a shot to beat Mike. Reggie, Charles, Stockton, Shaq. But I still loved Space Jam. When I got to college, I was not surprised to find similar stories from new friends, and our conversations became littered with quotes from Bill Murray and Daffy Duck and the creatures from Moron Mountain.
Now, as there always have been, there are rumors of a follow up film. I think Space Jam is fun and quirky and goofy and a piece of my childhood. I think making another movie is a terrible idea. The hurricane of coincidences and perfect scenarios that led to its success, and even its inception, are impossible to recreate. Assuming LeBron James is the star of the new film, the plot device that connects him to the Looney Tunes will be contrived and stupid. 2015’s computer graphics will make Bugs and the gang even more shiny and new (read: wrong) than they did in 1996. The plot will more than likely be a Xerox of the original script, without the brilliance of Bill Murray, Charles Barkley, and (I’m dead serious) Wayne Knight. Barkley is better than any current player would be in the same position (more on this later in the week), while Murray and Knight both pitch in honest-to-God, full-fledged comedic efforts. Hey, Warner Brothers and LeBron. Go ahead and make a basketball movie. Just make a different one! If LeBron wants to be compared to Jordan, make a better movie.
Which isn’t hard, because Space Jam is objectively bad. My adjectives bag is just about empty, but the point I’m trying to make can be boiled down quite simply. If you were older than 10 when it was released, or you didn’t see it until years later, you probably hate Space Jam. Unless your brain is 100% ready for the wackiness of this movie, it won’t hit you in the right spot.
But if you’re like me (and I know many of you are), this movie has a place in your heart.
Over the next six days, I’ll have a new post each day that looks back at Space Jam. I’ll examine it, flip it around, turn it upside down, and wring every last drop of fun out of this 87 minute long movie. Whether you are someone who thinks of it fondly or you’re a joyless hater, you’ll enjoy what will be posted here. I’ve done my best to be as silly and as wild as the movie itself and (deep breath), boy was I successful in some cases.
Get your Hanes on, lace up your Nikes, grab your Wheaties and your Gatorade, and we’ll pick up a Big Mac on the way to the ballpark.
Come on and slam. Welcome to the jam.
Monday: The Running Diary
Wednesday: The Monstars, 2015 Edition
Shane McNichol is the founder, editor, and writer at PalestraBack.com. He has also contributed to SALTMoney.org and ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter @OnTheShaneTrain.
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