Like every conversation started between Vinny Ginardi and Greg Kaplan, this one began with a reference to The Wire. If you’ve come to know Vinny like we do over the last year and a half we’ve been working for this blog (has it really been that long?), you would know that one of his favorite characters is Wallace. In fact, one of the most memorable scenes from the entire series is when D’Angelo confronts Stringer about Wallace’s possible murder.
Naturally, when Greg re-discovered an older Wallace playing a meaningful role in his new favorite show Parenthood, it sent the two friends into a tailspin. From there, Vinny reminded Greg that the actor that plays Wallace is named Michael Jordan, which then prompted Vinny to reveal to Greg that he read an inspirational quote from basketball’s Michael Jordan to his young basketball team. Of course, Greg, being as mature as he is, said if he was quoting MJ, he wouldn’t be able to do it without mentioning his gambling problems and ear piercings. Vinny took it a step further, saying that the fiery assistant coach and possibly drunk Kaplan would say that MJ’s top three moments, in no particular order, are the flu game, the game-winner against Byron Russell and his halftime speech in Space Jam.
And that, my friends, is how we wound up here. Now that the two lead writers know more about Michael Jordan and his playing style thanks to The Book of Basketball and other tales of MJ’s career, their memories of Space Jam are a little…warped. For the sake of this article, we will start with halftime of the big game against the Monstars…
Jordan’s Halftime Speech
VG: First of all, as Greg and I discussed, this seems to be an accurate representation of late 1990s athletics. This is like Barry Bonds, only the exact opposite. While Bonds and everyone else claim they didn’t “knowingly” take performance enhancers, the Tune Squad jumps for joy at the sight of PEDs (even if it ends up being just water).
Anyway, there is just no way, in a do-or-die game that Michael Jordan would be so nice to his teammates if they were down big at half time. Let me repeat: No. Way. According to Bleacher Report, this is what Jordan once said to teammate Horace Grant: “You’re an idiot. You’ve screwed up every play we ever ran. You’re too stupid to even remember the plays. We ought to get rid of you.” And that quote is the rule, not the exception. Jordan constantly ripped on teammates throughout his career, so to see him attempt to give this encouraging halftime speech to his teammates is completely unrealistic. Kind of like Manti Te’o's girlfriend. Hey, now!
GK: Once Porky Pig brings up the idea of forfeiting, real-life MJ would’ve had him on a kabob faster than you can say “Th-th-th-th-th-th-th-that’s all, folks” (see what I did there?). Vinny’s absolutely right. Equipment would’ve been thrown. Accusations about character’s sexualities would’ve been made. Poor Newman would’ve been verbally undressed so badly that he probably would’ve lost 20 pounds in the process. Michael Jordan does not lose. Which is ironic, of course. Since he is the man in charge of the Charlotte Bobcats…
Jordan’s Selection of the Toon Squad
GK: So, let’s theoretically say that Jordan would’ve agreed to play this game in the first place (we’re getting there). As hyper-competitive as this man was throughout his playing career and even into his post-basketball life, there is absolutely not a chance in hell that Jordan would adopt the “everyone can play” philosophy. Jordan would’ve put these toon rookies through the most rigorous audition process that even Herb Brooks would’ve asked him to knock it off.
Of the players that appeared in the game for the Toon Squad, my assumption of what players Jordan would’ve been OK with being on the roster would be Bugs Bunny (his cartoon-ish Scottie Pippen), Lola (reluctantly, but he’d see no other talent available that could keep up with him) and Taz (rumor has it that the creators of the Looney Tunes based Taz directly off of Charles Oakley, another rumor has it that I totally made that up). That’s really it. In fact, Jordan probably would’ve preferred to only play with those three players and be a man short than bring someone like Tweety Bird on the court. And if Tweety Bird got hurt in the game? Jordan is only helping them up while saying something like “shake it off, bitch, I’m playing with the f-ing flu”.
VG: What’s the most realistic aspect of Space Jam? The fact that Jordan ups the odds with Mister Swackhammer, agreeing to become a slave (slavery? PEDs? Man, this movie hit so many big themes) on Moron Mountain if the Toon Squad loses the game. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Jordan went on strike until that segment was added to the script. It’s well documented that MJ had a serious gambling problem, often betting on cards, golf, or anything he could. What makes it unrealistic is that Jordan didn’t bet on the game earlier or even throw a few (thousand) dollars on his golf outing with Larry Legend, Bill Murray and Wayne Knight. Jordan didn’t just want to beat his opponents; he wanted to destroy them and take their pride too.
Finding Out the Monstars Took the NBA’s Talent
GK: This is the main premise of the movie, and it is flawed beyond belief. We’ve established that Jordan loved to win at any cost throughout this post, and this is kind of the climax of that. When the Monstars come up to Jordan and say, “Listen, bub. We’ve swiped the powers of Patrick Ewing, Charles Barkley, Larry Johnson, Shawn Bradley and Muggsy Bogues. What are you going to do about it to get them back, huh?”
Real-life Jordan would’ve slapped them. Seriously, he would’ve slapped them and then said, “Why the hell did you take the talents from three stiffs? Can’t you guys do anything right?” He would’ve then proceeded to force the Monstars to go back to the league and take Karl Malone’s, Gary Payton’s and Shawn Kemp’s ability and immediately announce his return to the NBA. In fact, he may even go a step further and convince the Monstars to grab up two more little cronies and have a deep bench with Reggie Miller’s and Shaq’s abilities, too. Jordan would’ve loved all of this because he would’ve won seven more rings instead of just three when he returned to the NBA.
In what world is Michael Jordan helping his opponents get better? The dude loved winning. He didn’t give two licks about who the hell he was beating in the process. He never cared about making anyone better except himself and his teammates, as long as it helped him win. He wouldn’t let a group of aliens trash talk him into playing a glorified pick-up game in which he had nothing to gain, but everything to lose. This wouldn’t happen. He’s Michael F-ing Jordan.