After years of rumors and months of buildup, Space Jam: A New Legacy is finally here. And it's just as wild as you'd expect. There's LeBron James in the role of Michael Jordan from the original. There are other NBA stars. There are Looney Tunes characters. There are Warner Bros.-galaxy characters you'll surely recognize.
And there are plenty of hidden references to things that longtime followers of the NBA and of James' career will catch. Here are some of the best hidden references in the film.
The central plot of the movie is the conflict between LeBron's desire for his son, Dominic (not one of his real-life sons, Bronny and Bryce, obviously), to follow in his footsteps as a basketball star and Dom's passion for video game programming. In an awkward early attempt at father-son bonding, Dom shows LeBron the basketball game he created (which later gets stolen and used as the basis for the game LeBron and the Looney Tunes have to play to save the world).
And "Dom Ball" is basically NBA Jam. There are simulations of real-life NBA stars like Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard and Klay Thompson, but their games are played up to cartoonish degrees and have all manner of other visual effects. Anyone who's spent time in an arcade will think it looks familiar.
Bugs Bunny joins "The Shop"
As LeBron is getting used to his cartoon form, one of the first things Bugs Bunny does to make him feel comfortable is give him a fresh cut. Don't miss the latest episode of The Shop: Uninterrupted, streaming on HBO Max.
The return of LeBron as Robin
A couple of times in the film, LeBron pokes fun at some of the tired criticisms he's faced in his career. When he and Bugs travel to the DC Comics universe, they wind up in the Batmobile, with Bugs as Batman and LeBron as Robin. How many hours did talking-head shows spend debating whether LeBron was "Batman or Robin" earlier in his career? He hasn't forgotten.
Later on, during the pivotal Tune Squad vs. Goon Squad showdown, LeBron's cartoon teammates are encouraging him to think outside the box. He isn't having it: "There's only one basketball." Anyone who watched any of the debate shows around the time of The Decision will remember that line from any discussion about how he and Dwyane Wade would be able to play together.
Foreshadowing LeBron's future?
When antagonist Al-G Rhythm kidnaps Dom, he makes an attempt to get in his good graces by pointing out how his father doesn't appreciate his talent for coding.
"He left," he says. "It's kind of his M.O. He left Cleveland, Miami, Cleveland again. Look out Lakers, am I right?"
In real life, James is under contract for the next two seasons. Presumably, he won't retire then. Will he end his career with a team other than the Lakers? Probably not. But if he does, you heard it here first.
A shot at Shaq?
As LeBron and Bugs begin to brainstorm their roster of characters from the Warner Bros. universe, James' first choice is Superman. "I could have used him on the Cavs," he says.
But LeBron did have Superman with him in Cleveland for one year, albeit a late-career version of Shaquille O'Neal who wasn't nearly what they hoped he'd be when they traded for him to be James' co-star. James left for Miami that summer.
Chronos waves goodbye
Most of the Goon Squad members are only given a line or two, but the most fleshed-out one is Damian Lillard's "Chronos," who can stop time with his watch. (Get it? Like "Dame Time"?) It's supposed to be a Back to the Future homage, but it mostly brings to mind the 2002 Nickelodeon film Clockstoppers.
Anyway, during the game, Chronos "waves" goodbye to the Tune Squad after scoring. Paul George can relate.
The Flying Death Machine
The most iconic image from James' four years in Miami is Dwyane Wade with his arms outstretched after throwing a lob to a trailing James for a dunk. Do LeBron and Lola Bunny recreate that shot during the game? You'd better believe they do.
There are also a couple of references to James' chasedown block on Andre Iguodala in the 2016 Finals, but it's not actually shown.
Bobby Knight coaching the Goon Squad
As the Tune Squad begin to chip away at their 1,000-point halftime deficit, Goon Squad coach Al-G Rhythm begins to lose his cool. At one point, he throws a chair at the referee. James never played college basketball, but that isn't stopping him from throwing in a Bobby Knight homage.
"That's all, folks"
There are several pointed references throughout the film to Porky Pig's catchphrase, "That's all, folks." That's been a staple in the Looney Tunes canon for decades, but it crossed over into LeBron world when Anthony Davis, who is in the film, wore it on a shirt to his final game as a member of the New Orleans Pelicans.
By that point, it was well known that James, Davis and their mutual agent Rich Paul had been trying to engineer a trade of Davis to the Lakers, which they were ultimately successful in doing that offseason. Davis insisted that the choice of shirt wasn't a shot at the fans in New Orleans.
Maybe he was telling the truth and was simply doing some years-early viral marketing for this film, creating a callback in the minds of savvy fans.
Taco Tuesday with Bugs
If James had been successful in his 2019 attempt to trademark the phrase "Taco Tuesday," you can bet it would have been a lot more prevalent in the film. They might have even built an entire plot line around it. They still throw one in for good measure at the very end, when Bugs invites himself over to the James family house for dinner.