I’m a huge NBA Basketball fan! So, in 1996, when Warner Bros. released the movie Space Jam, featuring our beloved Looney Toons characters alongside NBA great Michael Jordan, I was completely sold on its premise. Sadly, the film was not as subversive or edgy as you’d come to expect from a Warner Bros. cartoon, but it did deliver some great moments featuring human actors (and Michael Jordan) interacting with animated characters. Almost 20 years later, Yahoo!, ESPN, and College Humor teamed up to bring you a 30 for 30 documentary parody based on the movie Space Jam.
ESPN’s 30 for 30 is a documentary series that teams up world-class directors with important sporting events and figures. The series is highly entertaining and informative, and the documentaries are made in such a way that you don’t have to like or understand sports to enjoy the series. You just have to enjoy engaging film-making and storytelling. The parody is hilarious, as it points out the absurdity of Looney Toons playing basketball for the fate of the planet. It features former NBA players Kurt Rambis, Greg Anthony, Mark Madsen, and Doug Gottlieb, along with sports reporters Larry Burnett, Monte Markham, Timothy Goodwin, Gerald James, and Dennis Delsing.
A Space Jam parody makes complete sense considering the film’s star Michael Jordan and when the film was released in relation to his career. When Warner Bros. made Space Jam in 1996, Jordan had recently announced a comeback after retiring from the NBA in 1993. Between 1993 and 1996, he took up the game of baseball and played with the double-a Minor League team the Birmingham Barons (although he did spend some time with the triple-a Scottsdale Scorpions). Even in retirement, Michael Jordan was still the most popular basketball player in the world, so a movie career seemed like the next logical step.
The premise of Space Jam was simple. Invading aliens called the Nerdlucks kidnap the Looney Toons so they could be amusement park attractions in an alien theme park called Moron Mountain. To stop the Nerdlucks, Bugs Bunny challenges the invaders to a game of basketball for the safety of Earth. After the Nerdlucks steal the talent of NBA superstars Patrick Ewing, Larry Johnson, Charles Barkley, Muggsy Bogues, and Shawn Bradley, Bugs recruits Jordan (and Bill Murray) to the Tune Squad to face off against the alien MonStars.
The movie is bonkers! It featured the best of the Looney Toons (at the time), trying to recapture some of their old glory. At the time, Disney was on the top of animation game and Warner Bros. was starting to become less and less of a rival animation studio. Although Space Jam was a hit, it was merely an okay movie. Michael Jordan isn’t a very good actor, but luckily the film doesn’t really call upon him to deliver Shakespeare. Jordan also has enough charisma for a solid on-screen presence to completely sell the film.
Space Jam grossed $230.4 million in 1996, but a sequel was never made because Michael Jordan re-united with the Chicago Bulls to win three more championships in the late ’90s. The animated movie also gave us R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly,” so I think that’s a win!