Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James has never been shy about the ghost of Michael Jordan that he is chasing as he adds onto one of Jordan’s most iconic aspects of his legacy by stepping into his Airness’s shoes as the lead of “Space Jam: A New Legacy.”
While the plot has some similarities, such as a high-stakes basketball game with the legendary Looney Tunes, LeBron adds a fun, new chapter to the legacy of the original “Space Jam,” which inspired millions to pick up a basketball including some of today’s NBA stars.
As movie theatres open up again and fans return to stadiums, “Space Jam: A New Legacy” represents a metaphorical return to fun as a love letter to movies and the NBA with countless references throughout. One of the primary messages of the movie is how it’s important to know the fundamentals of basketball, but that basketball should be played with fun and style as well to keep its child-like essence alive.
The soundtrack of the original Space Jam was a massive success and this movie looks to replicate that with its own soundtrack featuring some of today’s biggest stars. With his own production company and having also curated the NBA 2K19 soundtrack, it’s no secret James is a big fan of music and movies, which are on full display throughout.
One can’t help but think of the original Space Jam while watching this movie as the similarities and differences illuminate on what it took for Jordan and James to achieve their astronomical levels of greatness. The Looney Tunes are the biggest factor in hitting home the message of having fun, while the largest difference in the two films is how much “Space Jam: A New Legacy” focuses on communicating a powerful message of family and self-acceptance, which is true to who LeBron is and what he preaches.
The original Space Jam begins with a scene of a young Jordan shooting hoops in 1973 with his dad, which was 23 years earlier than 1996 when the film was released. This film starts off with an identical setup in that regard as we go back to 1998, 23 years before 2021 with a 12-year-old LeBron ready to go play basketball.
However, this is where the differences between Jordan and James begin to rear their heads as the former’s father was instrumental in his legacy while the latter has made it no secret he was raised by a single mother as his father wasn’t around. This only inspired LeBron to be a better father, further hitting home the theme of the importance of family.
Young LeBron’s mom prepares him for a basketball game over the ’90s backdrop of, “Ghetto Superstar,” before dapping him with a handshake as we learn where LeBron’s iconic handshakes came from. He walks into the gym as friends practice around while he plays a Looney Tunes game on his Gameboy.
James’ coach, likely based on the instrumental coach that helped raise him in real life, calls him out for focusing on video games instead of basketball before LeBron misses a game-winner. His coach puts major pressure on him that LeBron lost focus because of the video games and that could affect his ability to become one of the all-time greats as young LeBron throws out his Gameboy.
The song, “See Me Fly,” by Chance the Rapper, John Legend and Symba begins to play as we are taken through a sequence of Lebron’s career highlights similar to the legendary opening of the first Space Jam with highlights of Jordan’s career over the theme song. We’re taken through a journey not just of LeBron’s career, but of basketball over the last 18 years in a sequence that will make all NBA fans smile.
The sequence begins with James in high school before being drafted as we travel through some of his signature career moments like the buzzer-beater against Orlando in the playoffs, his dunk on Jason Terry, the classic chase down block from the 2016 Finals and even his social justice efforts saying he won’t shut up and dribble. The edits are masterful as the ball lights up and glows with animations like a superhero in an Avengers movie.
Lakers fans can rejoice in the sequence at the end as it shows Lebron joining the Lakers, has a shot of Kobe and LeBron at the Olympics, the team celebrating their championship in the Disney bubble and the titles even come in on a shot of his first dunk with the Lakers. From this point on the movie begins to take on a more original tone.
LeBron’s oldest son in the movie is obsessed with basketball (sound familiar?) whereas his younger son enjoys the fun of basketball, but has built his own video game at 12. James immediately comes out telling his youngest son basketball should be all work and no play as the stage set for LeBron’s own growth and for him and his son to reconnect.
LeBron showed off his acting chops in 2015’s “Trainwreck,” but he once again shows off his acting chops throughout the movie switching with ease between fun LeBron and serious LeBron. Don Cheadle has a phenomenal heel turn as the movie’s villain Al-G Rhythm.
Rhythm, a villain who switches between human and digitized, takes LeBron and his son hostage in the Warner Brothers Serververse, separating LeBron from his son letting LeBron know that he’ll need to beat him in a game of basketball to save his son. Rhythm sends LeBron to Tune World as LeBron becomes animated and connects with Bugs Bunny to reassemble the Tune squad.
Multiple cartoon references ensue as it may be tough to get the image of cartoon LeBron in Harry Potter glasses and robes out of your head the next time he dominates the court. However, in this movie, James dominates the court with the new Tune Squad as Rhythm turns the Tunes into 3D with animation that could rival Pixar.
In this high-stakes basketball, LeBron plays the real-life version of his son’s video game, “Dom Ball,” where you can get style points for ridiculous scores as his son leads the Goon Squad. The Goon Squad features super-powered versions of multiple NBA and WNBA stars with self-explanatory nicknames such Klay Thompson playing Wet-Fire, Lakers superstar Anthony Davis playing the Brow (A.K.A. the flyest guy on the squad), Damian Lillard playing Chronos (a play on Dame Time), Diana Taruasi as White Mamba and Nneka Ogwumike as Arachnneka.
Rhythm attempts to manipulate Dom so that LeBron doesn’t believe in him whereas James really just doesn’t seem to understand him. Rhythm also uses Dom’s program to bring all the Warner Brothers characters and LeBron’s family into the movie with everyone having to remain in the Serververse if the Tune Squad doesn’t win.
Some of these characters include The Joker, Batman, Scooby-Doo, Fred Flinstone, George Jetson, Voldemort and Pennywise (who LeBron dressed as for Halloween). They even bring in Ernie Johnson of TNT and Lil Rel for commentary.
At one point, the TNT theme song even plays with many other basketball references such as Lola Bunny, who takes on a figure of women’s empowerment and is the best baller on the Tune Squad besides LeBron, yelling “Iverson” before a slick crossover and lob to LeBron. Lola also dishes James an alley-oop lob before he finishes a massive through the legs slam dunk.
The original Space Jam became incredibly inspiring to people as Jordan and Bugs Bunny fired up the Tune Squad by turning a water bottle into, “Michael’s Secret Stuff,” using the placebo effect to make the tunes realize they just needed to believe in themselves. This new Space Jam movie also has an iconic locker room scene as the Tunes are down with a hilarious Michael Jordan reference.
It also truly hammers home the message of fun as LeBron realizes how hard he’s been on the tunes before encouraging them to have fun and be themselves, as he needs to do with his son. The Tunes come out reenergized for the second half with LeBron making his puffed-out video bomb face.
Hijinks ensue with falling pianos, falling safes and more cartoon excess. If you want fun, look no further than a scene in the second half where Porky Pig turns into the rapper “Notorious P.I.G.” and decimates a rap battle with some fire lines as the Tunes gain major style points on the scoreboard.
In the second half, LeBron and his son begin to reunite as he finally understands his son, encouraging him to be himself. The speech he gives his son includes some lines we can all learn from, but him telling his son, “you’re teaching me,” is the ultimate sign of what the movie is about as a father and son reconnect.
The metaphors to how James had to change as a leader on the court and became a more beloved teammate that elevates others by letting them be themselves are clear. If you want to know how the game ends you’ll have to check out the movie.
If you’re looking for the greatest movie ever made, you might not find it here. If you’re expecting an incredibly fun time with the Looney Tunes and a heartwarming message you might watch this version of Space Jam for a long time to come. Overall, “Space Jam: A New Legacy” is a win for the legacy of the original, movie-lovers, basketball lovers and LeBron James.
Space Jam is now in theaters and streaming on HBO Max.
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