Early 2018 brought rumors of a long awaited sequel to Warner Brothers’ iconic 1996 cinematic masterpiece “Space Jam” staring basketball demigod Michael Jordan and the incomparable Looney Tunes cast. Those rumors have been confirmed recently with Warner Brothers stating the sequel is in the works and will star today’s biggest name in sports entertainment LeBron James, set to premier in July of 2021. So far, all that is known for the plot is that James will be teaming up with Bugs Bunny and the Looney Tunes. These are simply the facts.
Before we get into questions of what kind of legacy this sequel will leave for the “Space Jam” and Looney Tunes franchises, I think we first ought to ask “does LeBron James deserve a Space Jam?” Yes we can argue career stats, but I think the biggest indicator is the man’s hands. When you look at James’ hands, you see a lifetime of practice, discipline, dexterity, finesse. But what you don’t see is six championship rings. That may seem like a low blow, but I’m not trying to attack the man’s character. Jordan went to the NBA Finals six times and came home with the championship each time. Though James has gone to the NBA Finals six times as well, his hand only carries three championship rings. A tremendous accomplishment in its own right but when framed in terms of “Space Jam”, James’ failure to clinch half of his championship opportunities prove he is a subpar substitution for Jordan in the event of a Space Jam.
For those unfamiliar, the film “Space Jam” documents the events leading up to the single greatest basketball game ever played. A retired Michael Jordan is abducted by the Looney Tunes who force him out of retirement to help them defeat the invading Monstars in an all-or-nothing game of basketball for the fate of cartoon universe. Jordan as captain of the team must polish a group of ragtag Looney Tunes characters featuring Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, etc. to beat a team of aliens who absorbed the athletic talent of Earth’s best basketballers. We can rest assured knowing Jordan is fully capable of leading a team to victory in a do-or-die situation, but James I’m not so sure about.
LeBron James career proves he is not as capable as Jordan at leading a ragtag team of misfits against a team of the NBA’s best talent. If he were posed with a Space Jam situation, I would have no faith in James to save the world. He couldn’t bring a team of misfits together to beat the Monstars, he couldn’t bring a team of professional basketball players to beat Golden State Warriors. James lacks the same type of last second, physics breaking intensity necessary to stretch your arm over half the court and dunk while being fouled by three Monstars at once.
You may be arguing, “There’s no one in the NBA right now who has won every time they’ve been to finals, so by your logic no one is capable of being a viable candidate for a “Space Jam” sequel?”
Which begs the question, do we need a “Space Jam” sequel? “Space Jam” wasn’t a movie, it was a generation, and I don’t think this generation is “Space Jam.” The 90s are defined by its explosion of animation technology, bergening mainstream hip-hop, and celebrity iconography. “Space Jam” synthesized the mid-90s into a neat 90 minute core sample of the decade. The contemporary generation doesn’t have the same kind of appreciation for Looney Tunes, the animation novelty has diminished; I don’t think “Space Jam 2” will resonate with modern audiences the same way the original did because the concept of “Space Jam” is to preserve 90s nostalgia.
Maybe we should appreciate the singular “Space Jam” for the phenomena that it was for its time. It was the perfect combination of larger-than-life celebrities, classic cartoons, novel animation technologies, and pop-culture. We can appreciate its memory, or we can bury it in the pet cemetery. We can resurrect it, but at what cost?