For those of you who aren’t aware, Space Jam (1996) is an American classic when it comes to the film industry. Essentially, the plot centers around Swackhammer, a cartoon character that owns an amusement park, forming a group of minions that challenge the Looney Tunes to a competition. That competition is a game of basketball in which Michael Jordan plays with the Looney Tunes against the minions, who have taken the basketball talents of famous NBA players and now go by the name “The Monstars”. The point of all of this is that earlier this month, ESPN tweeted out a photo of several different NBA accolades, such as MVP and All-NBA, that the players who had their talents stolen by the Monstars had, and compared them to the current Warriors team with the addition of Boogie. What we’re going to do here is determine whether or not it would be practical for the production company that is making the sequel to Space Jam to just have the Warriors play the villain rather than pay an animation team to recreate the Monstars.
(Image courtesy of @espn on Twitter)
The first thing we need to examine is the validity of the Monstars’ achievements by looking at what real NBA players won those awards. The players that had their basketball talents stolen in the movie are Muggsy Bogues, Patrick Ewing, Charles Barkley, Shawn Bradley, and Larry Johnson. Going one-by-one down the list of these players, we can determine whether the numbers ESPN mentioned in the above picture truly enlighten everybody to the whole truth.
First up, we have Muggsy Bogues, the guy that most people who don’t watch a ton of basketball probably refer to as “that really short guy who, at first glance, looks like he won some type of radio contest or is related to the team owner and that’s how he’s on the team”. Muggsy is quite possibly the weakest link when it comes to the awards part of ESPN’s comparison. He was never an MVP, never an All-Star, and never made All-Defense (meaning he doesn’t qualify for All-NBA or Defensive Player of the Year). He literally contributes nothing to the stat line, basically making the statement “The Warriors are a little bit better than 80% of the Monstars” true. Also, in a game against the Warriors, Bogues would be matched up against Steph, arguably the greatest shooter to ever play the game. There’s not really much left to say about Muggsy after that, other than the fact that he probably has a top 15 NBA name of all time.
Next, we turn to Shawn Bradley. Let’s be honest; Shawn Bradley was only in Space Jam because kids like to see freakishly tall basketball players, and Bradley fit that role perfectly at 7’6″ tall. Bradley was by no means a standout NBA player with a particularly exceptional career. In the 1995-1996 season, Bradley had his career high in rebounding per game, averaging 8.8 rebounds per game that year. To put that into perspective, Dennis Rodman is 11 inches shorter than Bradley and his career high in the same stat was 18.7 rebounds per game in the 1991-1992 NBA season. That’s absolutely ridiculous and sounds like it came straight out of a video game, but the same could be said of the entire Space Jam plot. In addition to his rebounding, Bradley joins Muggsy at the “I contributed absolutely nothing to the numbers that ESPN mentioned” table. The most impressive awards of Shawn Bradley’s career were All-Rookie Second Team in 1991 and NBA Blocks Leader in 1997. Reevaluating the statement made earlier, we can now say “the Warriors are a little bit better than 60% of the Monstars”.
We move on to Larry Johnson next. Larry is the first player we’ve come to that actually makes an impact on the statistical argument that ESPN has brought forth. Larry Johnson was an All-Star twice and made All-NBA Second Team once in his career. The weird thing about his situation is that he’s the third best player on the Monstars, but if he were on the Warriors, he’d probably be the equivalent of like Iguodala, an inconsistent starter. I guess that’s probably more of a testament to how good the current Warriors roster is. If we keep the trend going and factor in Johnson’s achievements, then we can now say something like “the Warriors are a little bit better than like 45% of the Monstars”.
What we are left with now is the fact that the current Warriors are basically only slightly more accomplished than Patrick Ewing and Charles Barkley (ironically, two guys considered to be two of the greatest players to never win a championship). I guess the point of all this is that people have generally arrived at one of two conclusions. The general public has either forgotten the plot of Space Jam and the fact that Michael Jordan wasn’t playing against the greatest team of all time simply because he was surrounded by a bunch of cartoons, or they have subconsciously diminished the incredible star power of the Golden State Warriors in an effort to bridge the gap between generations of the NBA. ESPN’s tweet about these numbers guides people in the completely wrong direction. It hypes up the Monstars team and says, “look, the Warriors are even better than this fictional dominant team”. The reality of the situation is that the Monstars was basically assembled from 2 or 3 guys that are the same caliber as the Warriors’ starters and then a couple of generic, fill-in-the-blank guys. The most impressive part of this whole narrative is that the players consisting of the Golden State starting lineup are all either in their prime, or on the cusp of their prime. Steph is 30 years old, Durant is 29, Klay and Draymond are 28, and Cousins is 27. These guys are only going to continue to build up and maintain their numbers for the next five to seven years. By that time, the question won’t be “Are the Warriors better than the Monstars?”, but instead it will be “Was any team that the Warriors beat in the Finals better than the Monstars?”. All of that being said, the Golden State Warriors could absolutely, whole-heartedly, and undoubtedly not play the villains in a Space Jam sequel. They couldn’t even lose to a fictional combination of players, and nobody wants to see them win in a movie, the one place where some member of an independent third-party could control if they lost or not.