Sequels are a big part of Hollywood. But for every amazing sequel like The Godfather Part II comes 10 horrendous flops that somehow got the go-ahead — we’re looking at you, Speed 2: Cruise Control. Each week, Poor Scholars pitches a movie sequel that will (likely) never be made. This week, Poor Scholars’ Troy Phillips concocts a sequel for the Michael Jordan-starring basketball flick: Space Jam.
The Original: Space Jam was one of the most memorable sports movies of the nineties despite being a PG rated cartoon with a thinly veiled PED reference. (But hey, that was alright in those times!) The appeal of the movie was very simple. Put Michael Jordan in the midst of his run of six championships on the floor with America’s most lovable animated team, the Looney Tunes, and pit them against a despicable band of aliens-turned-Monstars in a comically overblown game of basketball. Although Mike and Bugs’ squad is played up as the underdog and gets beaten handily in the first half, they manage to stage a furious comeback down the stretch and secure the ‘W’ on a game-winning half court dunk by Number 23. Cue the celebrations, R Kelly belting out “I Believe I Can Fly”, and a feeling of satisfaction for viewers of all ages.
The Sequel: Space Jam 2
Tagline: “Never disrespect a classic.”
Plot: The film starts with Michael shooting a round of golf with old friends Bill Murray, Wayne Knight (Stan) and Larry Bird to celebrate Mike’s 50th birthday. Bird tees off while Mike, Stan and Bill stand talking at the edge of the tee box. After realizing they are playing the same hole where Michael first got sucked into the world of the Looney Tunes back in the day, Bill starts reminiscing about the game and how much they enjoyed themselves. Bill and Stan ask Mike if he has ever visited Bugs and the crew in the last 17 years, but Mike says that he prefers to let bygones be bygones and hasn’t paid any visits to his old friends.
Larry Legend nails a beauty down the middle of the fairway and the group hops into a matte black golf cart complete with Jumpman insignia. Predictably, Bill and Stan’s shots have fallen well short of their Hall of Fame counterparts, who both sit comfortably on the fairway. Larry and Mike drop off the less athletic half of their foursome in their respective places, chide Stan for netting less than 50 yards on his drive, and then complete the rest of the trek to the spot where their own balls lie, coincidentally less than ten feet apart. As he sizes up the ball, Larry reminds Michael that he never did tell him the story behind his disappearance in ’96, but Mike shrugs him off and sets up for his own approach. Mike lofts a beautiful ball onto the green, content that he should be able to birdie the hole. Larry continues diagnosing his shot and eventually Jordan grows tired, telling the Celtic great to get a move on. Bird tells Mike to screw off (this is PG-rated, after all), prompting Mike to put the pedal to the medal and leaves the slowpoke Bird in his wake, where he can now feel free to over-analyze for as long as he wants. Stan and and Bill can be observed in the distance, hacking away at their balls in a way that would make Charles Barkley cringe.
As Mike gets close to his ball, he notices that it has a distinct vibrating quality and won’t lie still on the grass. Suddenly, it takes a physics-defying jump into the cup, and Michael can only shake his head and chuckle as he awaits Bugs Bunny’s impending arrival. Sure enough, a rabbit head pops out of the hole, offering up a cordial “Where you been, Doc?”. The two slowly begin catching up on old times. Eventually, Bugs gets to the point and wants to know if Michael would ever want to play a game of pickup ball with the other Toons, for old times’ sake. Michael politely declines, telling Bugs that his playing days are over. Bugs says that Mike is still welcome in Looney Tune land anytime, but is obviously disappointed as he vanishes below the earth. Michael realizes that Larry’s ball should have rolled up sometime during the conversation and turns to find him standing slack-jawed at the end of the green. Michael smiles and casually waves off the incident, telling Larry that it was, “Just an old friend.”
(Editor’s Note: If we really wanna make this scene realistic, while gunning for a PG-13 rating, a cigarette will fall from Larry Bird’s mouth as he mouths some variety of the f-word.)
The scene cuts to the group having drinks in the clubhouse as Stan announces everyone’s scores for the day. Michael has edged Larry by three strokes, mainly because Bird mysteriously four putted a hole in the middle of the round. (Editor’s Note: Thousands of dollars would be exchanged during this score scene.) Bill shakes his head in disbelief as he sees a LeBron James highlight reel on TV, showcasing another of the King’s consecutive 30-point performances. Steven A. Smith appears on-screen and is asked to compare LeBron’s current dominance to MJ in his prime. Without hesitation, Steven A. loudly proclaims that at this moment, nobody could beat LeBron James on the hardwood, past or present. All of Jordan’s buddies immediately refute Smith’s point and start hurling insults at his past credentials and the inflated state of today’s NBA. Michael nods along with the group, but appears noticeably withdrawn for the rest of the afternoon.
Later that night, Michael sits down on the couch and turns on ESPN, where the Heat have just cruised to another win behind a 50 point, 12 assist performance by Bron Bron. The analysts gush over James’ performance for a minute, and Jordan is about to change the channel when the feed cuts to LeBron’s post game press conference. LeBron is clearly in great spirits after the win, and seems more transparent than normal. After a few simple questions, a reporter brings the main debate back to the table; who is the more dominant basketball player, LeBron James or Michael Jordan? LeBron says that he’s tired of lying to everyone and is going to set the record straight. Yes, LeBron James is the greatest basketball player of all time. Yes, he is better than Michael Jordan. Next question. Mike turns off the TV, chucks the remote across the room, and storms out into the night. There is work to be done.
Michael pulls up to the golf course and sneaks up to the portal hole, where he lays down and calls for Bugs. After a few seconds, Bugs Bunny pops up and can hardly contain his excitement now that Michael has returned. Mike asks Bugs if a trip to Looney Tune Land give him back the body that he had during his first visit back in the 90s. Yes, Bugs tells him, consuming a bottle of Michael’s Secret Stuff will allow him to revert back to his former self as long as he stays in Looney Tune Land. Michael appears satisfied and tells Bugs to come along with him on an errand; there’s one more game to play. Bugs starts to ask more questions but Michael gets up and starts walking away, his face set in pure competitive determination.
Michael and Bugs waste no time and catches a private flight to Miami and head to the Heat practice facility after a few hours of rest. Michael tells Bugs to wait outside and then bursts through a set of doors leading to the court, where the Heat are fully engrossed in a scrimmage. The doors are loud enough to get the attention of the players, who turn to see Mike standing tall in the doorway, looking fit to kill. Chris Bosh turns around and gets so scared that he jumps and yells “Oh, damn!”. (You can say that once in PG movies, I think) Jordan calls LeBron’s name ferociously and motions for him to come outside. LeBron, ever the picture of confidence, strolls out without a second thought. The camera cuts to a wide-eyed Chris Bosh one more time before leaving the gym.
Jordan lays out the details of the game to LeBron, who tries to balance respect, confidence and confusion. After realizing how ridiculous his plan must sound, Jordan brings a smiling Bugs out from around a corner. “He’s telling the truth, Mr. James!” Bugs proclaims, and LeBron goes through a few more moments of disbelief before finally agreeing to the showdown. After all, it’s the only vaguely possible way that the two will ever get to play on equal ground and put their talk into action.
LeBron is tasked to go out and assemble a team with the specifications that Michael laid out during the impromptu meeting; five animated characters including one female, a fat friend, and a famous friend. While Mike and his crew get back into playing shape, LeBron scouts current cartoon stars from across television to fill out his squad. With a meager crop of candidates, he eventually selects Spongebob, Homer Simpson, Peter Griffin, Dora and Wilt from Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends. He also brings along Jay-Z to fill the fame requirement and Fat Joe as his fat friend. Instantly, the Tunes get fired up when they see the group that LeBron is bringing to the court. The Looney Tunes think that today’s cartoon characters are classless and a bad example for children, so they now also have a vested interest in destroying King’s Ransom, as LeBron’s team has taken to calling themselves. A week later, everyone is ready and the stadium is prepped for the most loaded showdown in the history of cartoon hoops.
Before the game, Jordan is ready to deliver an inspirational speech to the team, but saves his breath after the Tunes show that they’re already plenty fired up. The Tasmanian Devil is whirling around in angry circles as Daffy Duck and Lola Bunny take turns pushing each other to get amped up. Michael decides to clear his head by getting out of the locker room for a few minutes. He walks out into the hallway and sees LeBron, sitting alone in a chair dressed King’s Ransom attire. LeBron turns to Mike, nods quietly, and trains his gaze towards the ground. After a few seconds, LeBron tells Jordan that no matter who wins he will enjoy taking part in the greatest game that no one will ever see. Jordan responds and says that he will see, and when the game is over LeBron can find him in the same spot to apologize for thinking he was the best player of all time. Both players turn and head out towards the floor, knowing that the talk has run its’ course and there’s nothing left to do but win the game.
LeBron out jumps MJ to win the tip-off , but everything else goes in Michael’s favor during the first quarter as the Toons jump out to a 35 to 18 lead after the first quarter. The Looney Toons are like a well oiled machine, finding the open man and hitting shots from everywhere on the floor. Between quarters, LeBron can be seen gathering King’s Ransom into a huddle to talk strategy, but Michael senses weakness when he sees his opponents laughing as LeBron smiles his way through the speech. Jordan makes a last-minute decision to put some of the reserves into the game, including Stan and Bill. The Tunes’ lack of focus turns out to be exactly what King’s Ransom needs as they get their act together in a hurry. Dora hits threes from everywhere around the arc and Wilt cannot be contained in the post by the smaller Looney Tune defenders. LeBron is happy to play the role of distributor and lock down defender, dishing eight assists and holding Mike to only one bucket in the second quarter. The teams go to the half with King’s Ransom up 45 to 41 and the Tunes reeling.
In the locker room, Michael is disgusted with the effort, as is the rest of the team. No one can say a word, much less strategize about how to improve in the second half. Suddenly, Michael decides to try a different tactic and plays a fatherly role as he calms the others down and tries to make the best of their situation. At the end of the speech, Daffy yells out, “this is supposed to be fun, fellas! Oh, and lady.” The team heads out with a looser mindset for the second half, collaborating and motivating one another as they head out to the floor.
The second half is played almost dead even on both sides of the ball, and with two minutes remaining the score sits locked at 87 points apiece. LeBron takes the ball down the floor, eyeing Michael in his defensive stance. LeBron fakes left and then crashes inside at full speed, rising up two steps inside the free throw line to throw down a monstrous dunk. Jordan takes the inbound and bides his time, looking for an opening until he finally decides to pass to an open Lola, who hits a three from the corner. Both teams miss on their next possessions, and the Tunes are still clinging to a one point advantage with 35 seconds remaining. LeBron runs the floor in a flash, fakes towards the rim, and fades back for an open three. The ball looks true, but bangs off the back rim and is corralled by Michael, who sees that there are still 27 seconds on the clock and he will have to make another shot to ice the game. Unfazed, Jordan dribbles out most of the clock and sets up for his look at the left elbow, delivering a subtle push to LeBron’s midsection as he rises up to take the shot that has become so natural over the years.
What he doesn’t account for is LeBron’s unreal wingspan, and so LeBron is able to rise up and send the ball back over Michael’s head with four seconds on the clock. The ball bounces once at mid court, but is quickly thereafter gobbled up by a streaking LeBron James as he heads toward the open basket. Jordan is a bit slow to react, but maintains a pace two steps behind LeBron as chase moves closer to the hoop. With one and a half seconds remaining, LeBron rises up from a step behind the free throw line, appearing to have plenty of time and distance to pull off the jam. Somehow, Jordan closes the rest of the gap and rises up from a half step behind LeBron, virtually juxtaposed as they soar through the lane, arms extended. Jordan floats a shade higher than LeBron, and makes a last-ditch stretch towards the ball as LeBron starts to bring it down in a furious tomahawk. Michael is able to scrape the ball just enough with his fingertips to make it slip from LeBron’s grasp, and as he tries to regain control Michael moves his palm through LeBron’s hands and pins the ball against the backboard.
The thud can be heard from around the stadium, which sits in awe for a good five seconds before breaking out into uproarious applause. Bugs comes up from behind Michael and wraps him in a powerful embrace, almost knocking them both to the floor in the process. After another minute of celebration, Jordan finds James standing over by his bench, lost in the highly detailed, highly critical post game evaluation process that runs through the mind of true champions. LeBron turns around and sees Michael, hand extended to show his appreciation for a great performance. No apologies are given, no words are spoken. None are needed. This is basketball at its’ greatest, and elite always respects elite.