Columns, Sports

Shaw ’13: Down the deep rabbit hole of intergalactic competition

By
Sports Columnist
Friday, March 1, 2013

A few weeks ago, “His Airness” and “Sir Charles” reached new milestones in their careers. Michael Jordan proved he was still the best Michael on his own underachieving team, while Charles Barkley finally got his total cholesterol under 300. Oh, and they also both turned 50. “But with advances in modern science and (their) high level of income, it’s not crazy to think (I) can live to be 245, maybe 300,” in the words of Ricky Bobby. So in honor of these two greats fighting Father Time, I’ve decided to break down their greatest Hall of Fame performances. That’s right — “Space Jam.”

Originally a series of collaborative Looney Tune and Nike commercials (actual dialogue: “Get your Hanes on, lace up your Nikes, grab your Wheaties and your Gatorade, and we’ll pick up a Big Mac…”), “Space Jam” has become a revisionist history of M.J.’s return to the league after his first retirement. I hope that, when America is excavated 2,000 years from now, our future conquerors will know Michael only returned to basketball because his struggle to prevent the enslavement of an animated civilization reignited his basketball passion.

For the uninformed, “Space Jam” tells the story of Danny DeVito’s animal spirit, Mr. Swackhammer, who runs a failing amusement franchise called Moron Mountain in the film. Because it’s the mid-90s and the Xbox hadn’t been invented yet, DeVito decides the only way to bring entertainment to Moron Mountain is to kidnap Bugs Bunny and co. and force them to tell the same jokes on repeat forever (looking at you, Brown Noser). To lure the lovable cartoons, he dispatches a squad of tiny aliens packing serious heat and absolutely no IQ. (The blue one would fit right in at Brown — he is clearly on way too many drugs for a children’s movie.)

Here’s where things get interesting. Like any chill bro, Bugs takes advantage of these dimwits and challenges the small-statured invaders to a game of basketball with the Tune’s freedom on the line. This leads to the aliens stealing the talent of Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Muggsy Bogues, Larry Johnson and Shawn Bradley. There are only three reasons for the inclusion of Bradley over Hakeem Olajuwon. One: the aliens needed an irrational confidence token white guy. Two: the blue alien was too high to realize what was happening at the time. Three: Hakeem was too busy naming and having tea parties with his championship rings to participate in a movie about Michael Jordan coming back to steal his dreams.

The creation of the Monstars and the self-dubbed “Mean Team” forces the Tunes to interrupt possibly the greatest golf trio of all time — M.J., “Larry Legend” and Bill Murray — and enlist Michael’s help. I believe Bird was missing too many vertebrate at this point to even participate in a literally Kevin Garnett “Anything-Is-Possibleeeeee!!!” Tune game.

After a series of training montages and the death of the innocence of Jordan’s children after they witness Bugs and Daffy Duck robbing their home for Mike’s gym gear, the Tune Squad finally makes it to the hardcourt. The team actually boasts incredible talent, featuring starting guards Tasmanian Devil and Michael Jordan and forwards Daffy Duck, Lola Bunny and pointguard Bugs. The Monstars run up the score early as both teams use game plans based entirely on NBA Jam — dunks on dunks on dunks. The tide changes when the Tunes find “Michael’s Secret Stuff” and, believing the tap water to be steroids (maybe it was sourced from a Miami clinic), far too enthusiastically consume the illegal performance enhancer, which nicely sets up the ultimate “You’ve had it in you all along!” feel-good moment. Seeing the Tune’s renewed confidence — in an act that’s just Michael being Michael and in no way foreshadowing Jordan’s future issues with gambling — Michael somehow finds a way to up the stakes beyond the enslavement of an entire civilization by trading himself for the NBA talent.

Of course the real star of the game turns out to be referee Marvin the Martian, as the number of uncalled fouls would make even Tim Donaghy blush. I’m willing to accept that the animators essentially foreshadowed this year’s All-Star game featuring loud dunks and absolutely zero defense, but I’m pretty sure crushing an opponent’s skeletal structure and hooking up explosives to the basket violates at least one of Naismith’s rules. Surprisingly, the use of motor scooters in-game is perfectly legal. Somewhere along the line, Bill Murray shows up because he’s friends with the producer, gets confused for Dan Aykroyd and joins Club Trillion — one minute played followed by nine zeroes in other statistics — while Michael becomes compelled by the power of Christ, extending his arm about 30 feet to slam the game-winning dunk. I actually take back what I said about the explosives — the only unrealistic thing about this movie was that there wasn’t a foul called on every single one of M.J.’s possessions.

Back in the real world, Charles loses a pick-up game against a group of five-foot tall girls, but the real highlight is the shrink questioning Patrick Ewing’s impotence in a children’s movie. Just as the bumbling NBA stars are about to give up, Mike returns with everyone’s talent, and no one lives happily-ever-after except for Jordan.

And that, my friends, is how you distort history into a mushroom-fueled, psychedelic basketball nightmare. I believe I can fly!

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