Does anyone want to play basketball with LeBron James? Well, yes, obviously. What a foolish question. Sure, Kyrie Irving, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard and now Jimmy Butler seem like they don't, but that's four people out of almost 7.5 billion human beings on the planet Earth. Give me a Lakers jersey, and I'll suit up. The question we should be asking is: Who wants to act with LeBron James?
After years of rumors, Space Jam 2 looks to finally be inching toward reality. James' SpringHill Entertainment production company has hired Creed and Black Panther director Ryan Coogler to produce. Terence Nance of HBO's Random Acts of Flyness has been tapped to direct the sequel to the 1996 Michael Jordan/Looney Tunes collaboration. As much as some would have preferred a gritty reboot starring a stone-faced Tim Duncan and directed by the guy who did Taken, no other basketball player of the last 20 years has been as suited for this project as King James.
The original Space Jam saw Jordan coaxed out of his retirement and baseball excursion to defend the planet from the invading Monstars, aided by Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig and Bill Murray. But aside from that intergalactic menagerie of characters, Space Jam was populated by a who's who of NBA stars past and present: Patrick Ewing, Charles Barkley, Shawn Bradley, Larry Johnson, Larry Bird and others. If you were Jordan's friend, chances were good you'd get a call to be in the film. Sorry, Isiah Thomas. Maybe you should have shaken the dude's hand.
Despite James' nice-guy reputation and philanthropy, every time a big-name star doesn't choose to join the Lakers, questions pop up about whether LeBron is a suitable teammate. Images of Kevin Love standing around the three-point line, twiddling his thumbs until James rifles a pass to him dance in our heads. "He's a suffocating presence," the critics shout. "No one wants to play with a ball-dominant player like that." Will that translate to the big screen? Is James as much of a general in front of the camera as he is on the hardwood? Will Lance Stephenson show up to blow in a Monstar's ear? Who will answer the King's call, and who won't? Does LeBron even need the Looney Tunes to win a basketball game? Should MJ make a cameo? Let's discuss.
Which NBA Players Should Be in Space Jam 2?
While Jordan populated the original Space Jam with his friends, few of his Bulls teammates made much of an impression. Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, Steve Kerr, Luc Longley and Bill Wennington had small, uncredited appearances in the film, per IMDB. Far bigger roles were given to Jordan buddies like Barkley and Bird. Even stranger, a major subplot revolved around the Los Angeles Lakers, which meant speaking parts for Vlade Divac, Cedric Ceballos and coach Del Harris. Was that because producer Ivan Reitman saw some untapped potential in the acting ability of Divac when he wasn't on a smoke break? Were the Lakers easy to get because filming was in L.A.? Who knows, but it's hard to imagine the Lakers—at least anyone who doesn't get traded between now and the 2019 offseason—won't play some sort of role in the new film, given LeBron's new NBA home and production company are in Tinseltown.
But as for the more prominent roles, Banana Boat crew members Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade would have to be considered near-locks. If the movie doesn't start with James, Wade, CP3 and Melo on the water, sipping a fine merlot and chowing down on sea bass, I'll be personally offended. Ninety percent of this film needs to be in-jokes for NBA Twitter, otherwise it'll be a colossal missed opportunity.
LeBron Jr. will definitely play himself, as will Gabrielle Union as Dwyane Wade's wife. One must assume that Kevin Hart will appear in the Bill Murray role, cracking jokes and putting on a jersey at a crucial moment in the game. There also needs to be an Inside the NBA halftime show in the middle of the movie, just so we can see Shaq yell "barbecue chicken alert" as Bupkus the Monstar dominates in the post.
In that vein, Academy Award winner Kobe Bryant (put that on the poster, please) would be a logical addition to do an in-movie episode of Detail, in which he breaks down LeBron's performance against the Monstars as it happens. Not only does James have to beat a team of superpowered aliens, he also has to thwart the Detail curse. Good luck.
If it were up to me (and it is not, unless Coogler wants me to do a pass on the script), this time, Mr. Swackhammer and the Nerdlucks will steal the basketball abilities of LeBron's closest friends in the world in order to defeat the Tune Squad. Imagine a Monstar with the scoring ability of D-Wade, the court vision and leadership of CP3 and the massive, cap-busting contract of Carmelo Anthony. That's compelling stuff.
Also, in lieu of Danny DeVito, Mr. Swackhammer should be voiced by LaVar Ball.
Who Won't Be in Space Jam 2?
Kyrie Irving. If history is any guide, he'll probably be working on a competing live-action/animation hybrid film starring the Minions.
I will also go out on a limb and say Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant and the rest of the Warriors will either make brief cameos where they're locked in some intergalactic superjail or they simply won't be in the movie at all. Maybe KD joins LeBron's real team one day, but that's probably a Lakers fan pipe dream. If this were real life, Warriors GM Bob Myers would sign the Monstars for the league minimum.
For brevity's sake, here's a list of some other people who will not be in Space Jam 2:
Any player signed with Adidas
Who Will Be on Bron's Tune Squad?
Let's not invent any new Looney Tunes just for this movie. The classic characters will be sufficient. On that note, I honestly think Lola Bunny—the sexualized love interest for Bugs—will not make the cut. Her presence in the film has not aged well and is way too mature for a kid's movie in 2018. I'm still not sure how she played basketball in cutoff jean shorts, but I also don't know how a cartoon pig could learn to dribble a ball, either. Maybe we'll get a more well-rounded, developed version of Lola this time. With the success of this most recent WNBA season, it seems like the time to emphasize the strength of the women's game. Let's get A'ja Wilson or Breanna Stewart in the movie, please.
Who Will Be The Villain?
With LaVar Ball leading the new-look Monstars into battle, you might think the villain situation is handled. This is 2018, though, which means it is necessary to have a shocking second-act twist to get people talking. More important, we need to set up at least five sequels. In the original Space Jam, Jordan had to be convinced to leave baseball and come back to hoops to save the world. It played off of the real-life story of MJ's hiatus from the NBA. The same should be true of LeBron's version of Space Jam.
What is the most compelling aspect of LeBron's NBA narrative? His inability to win as many titles as Jordan.
Instead of the original's use of sports radio host Jim Rome, the new film could have Skip Bayless ranting about how LeBron will never equal Michael, that LeBron can't beat the Monstars without more shooters and wing defense, and that there is only one true GOAT.
The Tune Squad wins a close game, despite an especially great episode of Detail explaining Marvin the Martian's lack of off-ball movement. It's a happy ending, except for one thing: Onto the court steps a CGI de-aged MJ from 1996. The Monstars want a rematch and they've cloned Jordan and made him evil. In the sequel, LeBron has to beat not only some aliens, but also the specter of Jordan's greatness itself.
Space Jam 3: There Can Be Only One.
If that doesn't give you chills, you might be dead.