Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

How the Monstars Could Have Won in Space Jam

Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

In 1993, the basketball landscape was dramatically changed when Michael Jordan retired from the game. Compounding the shock of his departure was the fact the he eventually got sucked through a golf hole and transported to an animated alternate dimension where he inspired a squad of Warner Bros.-licensed cartoon characters to victory over a team of aliens (the Nerdlucks) who had stolen the talents of five earthbound basketball stars. By beating the Monstars 78-77, Michael Jordan and the Tune Squad won their freedom, as they were playing for the right to not be held prisoner in an intergalactic theme park. These events are shown in the critically acclaimed 1996 documentary Space Jam.

With rumors floating around of a Space Jam sequel starring LeBron James, the Monstars would be well served to approach this second opportunity with smarter planning. Naturally, they should look at that original defeat, as history tends to repeat itself.

Considering they were leading 66-18 at half, one can’t help but think the Monstars let this crucial game slip away. What could they have done to prevent such a meltdown? The most effective fix would have to have been implemented before the game even started: they should’ve stolen the talent of better NBA players.

Of all the basketball players in the universe, the Nerdlucks stole the talents of Patrick Ewing, Charles Barkley, Larry Johnson, Muggsy Bogues, and Shawn Bradley. Beyond not establishing a bench, the aliens eschewed a standard lineup for one with two slow, plodding centers and no wings. Even more inexplicable was that, of the two centers chosen, one was Shawn Bradley, “The Stormin’ Mormon,” who averaged a paltry 8.1 points per game during his less than stellar NBA career. Considering this was the most important game of the Monstars' lives, their preparation and scouting were unbelievably lackadaisical. In a one-point game, this was the difference.

Were they to start over, they likely wouldn’t have chosen any of those players, and here’s why.

Monstars Were Statistically Unimpressive

Who the Monstars went to for interior defense. // Getty Images

According to the Harvard College Sports Analysis Collective, who compiled stats for the Space Jam game, two Monstars combined to score 71 of their 77 points: Pound (the alien with Charles Barkley’s talent) and Bupkus (the alien with Patrick Ewing’s). In case you were wondering, the Nerdluck who had stolen Shawn Bradley’s talent tallied 0 points, 0 rebounds, 0 assists, 0 steals, and 0 blocks (despite being nearly 10 feet tall).

Assuming the events took place after 1993 but before 1995, the ’94-’95 NBA season is our best indicator of player performance at the time of the Tune Squad-Monstars game. According to Basketball-Reference.com’s advance stats, the Nerdlucks didn’t steal the talent of a single player in the top five when it came to VORP ("Value Over Replacement Player"), PER (“Player Efficiency Rating”), or Win Shares Per 48 Minutes.

Factoring all those advanced metrics, the best starting five the Monstars could have chosen would likely have been:

C: David Robinson (8.1 VORP, .273 WS/48, 29.1 PER)
PF: Karl Malone (6.1 VORP, .212 WS/48, 25.1 PER)
SF: Scottie Pippen (7.4 VORP, .188 WS/48, 22.6 PER)
SG: Clyde Drexler (5.9 VORP, .206 WS/48, 22.4 PER)
PG: John Stockton (5.4 VORP, .233 WS/48, 23.3 PER)

(You can argue for Hakeem Olajuwon over Robinson—it's hard not to.)

By using those Win Shares per 48 minutes (the "average number of wins produced by a player per 48 minutes"—check this out for a more in-depth analysis), we can extrapolate that team's performance if they played all 82 games of an NBA regular season without missing a single minute and figure out total wins produced. 

What about fatigue, you ask? These are alien monsters, so that argument is absurd. You are being absurd.

By taking their WS/48 and multiplying it by 3936 (the total number of minutes an NBA team will play in a season), the above team would have won 90 games out of a possible 82. Pretty good.

The actual Monstars line-up of Ewing (.157 WS/48), Barkley (.214 WS/48), Johnson (.126 WS/48), Bogues (.157 WS/48), and Bradley (.071 WS/48) would have won 60 games in that same NBA season. They wouldn't have even had the best record in the league in '94-'95, as the San Antonio Spurs (who had no alien monsters) won 62 games. Why wouldn't the Monstars go with a team that would win eight more games than was even possible?

Given that this was the mid-‘90s, advanced metrics were little-used or understood, even for a species of aliens like the Nerdlucks who had mastered inter-dimensional and inter-planetary travel. Even so, the superior team I selected more than passes the eye test, so they have no excuse.

The Jordan Problem

Getty Images

As the best player in history, Michael Jordan was always going to pose a problem for the Monstars. In Space Jam, he went 22-22, scoring 44 points (including the game-winning three-point dunk at the buzzer). No one is stopping Jordan, but you could definitely do a better job slowing him down. Here are some options.

Scottie Pippen

Pippen is making the Monstars based on overall stats alone, but as one of the best wing defenders of all time, he is a no-brainer when it comes to guarding Jordan. Even more importantly, however, is his intimate knowledge of Jordan's game. It's always said that no one guarded MJ better than Pippen did during Bulls practices, and beside his innate athleticism and skill set, Scottie knew all his teammate's tendencies. The only issue is falling into the trope of a brainwashed friend being reminded of his true allegiances at the most inopportune moment. Scottie, it's me, Michael. You remember, don't you? We won all those championships together, buddy. I know you're in there. I just know it!

Big risk.

Gary Payton

Stockton is the statistical choice for the Monstars point guard, but if they wanted to muck Jordan's game up, they should have considered Seattle Supersonics PG Gary Payton. Although his famous finals matchup with Jordan didn't happen until after the events of Space Jam, The Glove had already shown himself to be a ferocious defender. (In that finals against the Bulls, Payton helped hold Jordan to under 30 points in five of the six games the teams played, the best-ever defense of Jordan in any finals series. Unlike against the Monstars, Michael Jordan did not post a perfect field goal percentage.)

Mitch Richmond

If you can't stop Jordan from scoring, you might as well make him work on the defensive end. Michael Jordan surprisingly listed Richmond as the most difficult shooting guard he had to defend during his career. Whether this was just a case of the notoriously prickly Jordan refusing to give more heralded opponents credit is up in the air, but either way, Richmond surely would've been a better selection for the Monstars than Shawn Bradley.

A Stronger Players' Union

Making a mockery of the game. // Warner Bros.

Besides choosing better players, the Monstars could have benefited from a CBA that took into account and prevented the types of shenanigans the Tune Squad would try to pull. As the Harvard College Sports Analysis Collective points out, the only missed field goal came from the Monstar with Patrick Ewing's talent (naturally), and it occurred after Wile E. Coyote (up until that point, an ineffective bench player) rigged the hoop with explosives. Banning or regulating such ACME devices should have been a non-negotiable part of the union's collective bargaining strategy, and they messed up big time by letting it slide. Without it, the Tune Squad would have lost 79-78. That's all, folks.

Shout! Factory
10 Surprising Facts About Mr. Mom
Shout! Factory
Shout! Factory

John Hughes penned the script for 1983's Mr. Mom, a comedy about a family man named Jack Butler (Micheal Keaton) who loses his job. To ensure their three kids are taken care of, his wife, Caroline (Teri Garr), goes back to work—leaving Jack to fight off a vacuum cleaner and learn why it's never a good idea to feed chili to a baby.

In 1982, Keaton turned in a star-making role in Ron Howard’s Night Shift, but Mr. Mom marked the first time he headlined a movie, and it launched his career. Hughes had written National Lampoon's Vacation, which—oddly enough—was released in theaters the weekend after Mr. Mom. But Hughes himself was still a relative unknown, as it would be another year before he entered the teen flick phase of his career, which would make him iconic.

In the meantime, Mr. Mom hit home for a lot of viewers, as the economy was on the downturn and more and more women were entering (or reentering) the workforce. But some people think that the movie's ending—which sees the couple revert to traditional gender roles—sidelined the movie's message. Still, on the 35th anniversary of its release, Mr. Mom remains an ahead-of-its-time comedy classic.


Mr. Mom producer Lauren Shuler Donner came across a funny article John Hughes had written for National Lampoon. Based on that, she contacted him and the two became friends. “One day, he was telling me that his wife had gone down to Arizona and he was in charge of the two boys and he didn’t know what he was doing,” Donner told IGN. “It was hilarious! I was on the floor laughing. He said, ‘Do you think this would make a good movie?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, this is really funny.’ So he said, ‘Well, I have about 80 pages in a drawer. Would you look at it?’ So I looked at it and I said, ‘This is great! Let’s do it!’ We kind of developed it ourselves.” In the book Movie Moguls Speak, Donner mentioned how Hughes “had never been to a grocery store, he had never operated a vacuum cleaner. John was so ignorant, that in his ignorance, he was hilarious.”

The players involved with the movie told Donner and Hughes they thought it should be a TV movie. Hughes had a TV deal with Aaron Spelling, who came aboard to executive produce. “Then the players involved were upset because John was writing out of Chicago instead of L.A.,” Donner said in Movie Moguls Speak. “They fired John and brought in a group of TV writers. In the end, John and I were muscled out. It was a good movie, but if you ever read John’s original script for Mr. Mom, it’s far better.”


Stan Dragoti ended up directing the film, but only after Hughes turned it down, because he preferred to make his movies in Chicago, not Hollywood. “I don’t like being around the people in the movie business,” Hughes told Roger Ebert. “In Hollywood, you spend all of your time having lunch and making deals. Everybody is trying to shoot you down. I like to get my actors out here where we can make our movies in privacy.” Hughes remained in Chicago and filmed his directorial debut, Sixteen Candles, there.


In 1982’s Night Shift, Keaton’s character works at a morgue and starts a prostitution ring with co-worker Henry Winkler. Donner had an agent friend, Laurie Perlman, who represented the not-yet-famous actor. She contacted Donner and pitched Keaton to her. “’Look, I represent this guy who is really funny. Would you meet with him?’" Donner recalled of the conversation. "So I met with him. Usually I don’t like to do this unless we’re casting, but I met with him because she was my friend. And then she said, ‘You have to see this movie Night Shift that he’s in.’ So I went to see Night Shift, and midway through I couldn’t wait to get out of that theater to give Mr. Mom to Michael Keaton. Fortunately, he liked it."

Keaton told Grantland that he turned down one of the main roles in Splash to play Jack Butler. “I just remember at the time thinking I wanted to get away from what I’d just done on Night Shift,” he said. “I thought if I do it again, I might get myself stuck. So then Mr. Mom came along. So I said no [to Splash] so I could set up this framework right away where I could do different things.”


Teri Garr, Michael Keaton, Taliesin Jaffe, Frederick Koehler, and Martin Mull in Mr. Mom (1983)
Shout! Factory

In 1983, more women stayed at home than worked, so it was a novelty for a man to be a stay-at-home dad. Today, an estimated 1.4 million men are stay-at-home dads, and 7 million men are their children's primary caregiver. “Mr. Mom became part of the vernacular,” Donner told Newsweek. “Mr. Mom represented a segment of men who were at home dealing with the kids who, up until then, really hadn’t been heard from. That’s what really told me about the power of film, because it spoke for a lot of men. It also helped women, because I think that women sometimes, if you’re a housewife, you’re not really appreciated for what you do. This sort of made women feel better about what they did because they knew that men were understanding it.”


More than 30 years after the film’s release, stay-at-home dads feel the term “Mr. Mom” should die. The National At-Home Dad Network launched a campaign to terminate the phrase and instead have people refer to men as “Dad.” In 2014 Lake Superior State University voted to banish “Mr. Mom” from the lexicon.

“At least, the pop-culture image of the inept dad who wouldn’t know a diaper genie from a garbage disposal has begun to fade,” wrote The Wall Street Journal, after declaring “Mr. Mom is dead.”


The movie redefined gender roles, but when the producers pitched the premise to Garr, they hid the plot reversal. “They just told me it was about a guy who does the work that a woman does, because it’s so easy,” she told The A.V. Club. “And I went, ‘Oh, yeah. Ha ha.’ It’s so easy. All the women I know who stay home and take care of their kids, they go, ‘Oh yeah, this is easy.’ Hmm.”


The quote everyone remembers from the movie comes from Jack, holding a chainsaw, standing next to Ron Richardson (Martin Mull) and discussing what kind of wiring Jack will use in renovating the house: “220, 221, whatever it takes,” Jack says.

“We’re doing the scene and it was okay,” Keaton told Esquire. “And I remember saying to the prop guy, ‘Go find me a chainsaw.’ When he comes back with it, he says, ‘You wanna wear these?’ And he holds up some goggles. I go, ‘Yeah.’ You know, they make me look crazy. And when Martin shows up, I know I should look under control, I’m not sweating it. I’m a dude. So we’re standing there, Martin pulls me aside and says, ‘You know what you ought to say? When I ask about the wiring, you oughta just deadpan: ‘220, 221.’ I died. It was perfect. I may have added ‘whatever it takes.’ But it was his.”

“That was a little ad-lib that we just threw in, but every carpenter or construction person I’ve ever worked with, they’re always quoting that line from Mr. Mom,” Mull told The A.V. Club.


Mr. Mom only opened on 126 screens on July 22, 1983, but managed to gross $947,197 during its opening weekend. Once the film went wide a month later to 1235 screens, it hit number one at the box office and spent five weeks at the top. By the end of its run, the film had grossed just shy of $65 million, making it the ninth highest-grossing film of 1983 (just between Staying Alive and Risky Business). National Lampoon’s Vacation, Hughes’s other film that summer, came out July 29 and ended its theatrical run with $61,399,552 (at its height, it showed on 1248 screens). Vacation finished the year in 11th place.


During a 1986 interview with Seventeen magazine, Molly Ringwald asked the writer-director why he never showed teen sex in Sixteen Candles or The Breakfast Club. “In Sixteen Candles, I figured it would only be gratuitous to show Samantha and Jake in anything more than a kiss,” he said. “The kiss is the most beautiful moment. I was really amused when someone once called me a ‘purveyor of horny sex comedies.’ He listed The Breakfast Club and Mr. Mom in parentheses. I thought, ‘What kind of sex?’ Yes, in Mr. Mom there’s a baby in a bathtub and you see its bare butt.”


In the beginning, producers wanted Mr. Mom to be a TV movie, not a feature film. But a year after the film came out in theaters, ABC produced a TV movie called Mr. Mom, with the same characters and premise. Barry Van Dyke played Jack and Rebecca York played Caroline. A People magazine review of the movie stated: “They and their three kids are immediately likable … But it goes downhill from there as the script lobotomizes all its characters. Here’s a textbook case in how TV takes a cute idea—and a script that does have some good lines—and leeches the wit out of it.”

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
The 10 Wildest Movie Plot Twists
Laura Harring in Mulholland Drive (2001)
Laura Harring in Mulholland Drive (2001)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

An ending often makes or breaks a movie. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as having the rug pulled out from under you, particularly in a thriller. But too many flicks that try to shock can’t stick the landing—they’re outlandish and illogical, or signal where the plot is headed. Not all of these films are entirely successful, but they have one important attribute in common: From the classic to the cultishly beloved, they involve hard-to-predict twists that really do blow viewers’ minds, then linger there for days, if not life. (Warning: Massive spoilers below.)

1. PSYCHO (1960)

Alfred Hitchcock often constructed his movies like neat games that manipulated the audience. The Master of Suspense delved headfirst into horror with Psycho, which follows a secretary (Janet Leigh) who sneaks off with $40,000 and hides in a motel. The ensuing jolt depends on Leigh’s fame at the time: No one expected the ostensible star and protagonist to die in a gory (for the time) shower butchering only a third of the way into the running time. Hitchcock outdid that feat with the last-act revelation that Anthony Perkins’s supremely creepy Norman Bates is embodying his dead mother.


No, not the botched Tim Burton remake that tweaked the original movie’s famous reveal in a way that left everyone scratching their heads. The Charlton Heston-starring sci-fi gem continues to stupefy anyone who comes into its orbit. Heston, of course, plays an astronaut who travels to a strange land where advanced apes lord over human slaves. It becomes clear once he finds the decrepit remains of the Statue of Liberty that he’s in fact on a future Earth. The anti-violence message, especially during the political tumult of 1968, shook people up as much as the time warp.

3. DEEP RED (1975)

It’s not rare for a horror movie to flip the script when it comes to unmasking its killer, but it’s much rarer that such a film causes a viewer to question their own perception of the world around them. Such is the case for Deep Red, Italian director Dario Argento’s (Suspiria) slasher masterpiece. A pianist living in Rome (David Hemmings) comes upon the murder of a woman in her apartment and teams up with a female reporter to find the person responsible. Argento’s whodunit is filled to the brim with gorgeous photography, ghastly sights, and delirious twists. But best of all is the final sequence, in which the pianist retraces his steps to discover that the killer had been hiding in plain sight all along. Rewind to the beginning and you’ll discover that you caught an unknowing glimpse, too.


Sleepaway Camp is notorious among horror fans for a number of reasons: the bizarre, stilted acting and dialogue; hilariously amateurish special effects; and ‘80s-to-their-core fashions. But it’s best known for the mind-bending ending, which—full disclosure—reads as possibly transphobic today, though it’s really hard to say what writer-director Robert Hiltzik had in mind. Years after a boating accident that leaves one of two siblings dead, Angela is raised by her aunt and sent to a summer camp with her cousin, where a killer wreaks havoc. In the lurid climax, we see that moody Angela is not only the murderer—she’s actually a boy. Her aunt, who always wanted a daughter, raised her as if she were her late brother. The final animalistic shot prompts as many gasps as cackles.


The Usual Suspects has left everyone who watches it breathless by the time they get to the fakeout conclusion. Roger "Verbal" Kint (Kevin Spacey), a criminal with cerebral palsy, regales an interrogator in the stories of his exploits with a band of fellow crooks, seen in flashback. Hovering over this is the mysterious villainous figure Keyser Söze. It’s not until Verbal leaves and jumps into a car that customs agent David Kujan realizes that the man fabricated details, tricking the law and the viewer into his fake reality, and is in fact the fabled Söze.

6. PRIMAL FEAR (1996)

No courtroom movie can surpass Primal Fear’s discombobulating effect. Richard Gere’s defense attorney becomes strongly convinced that his altar boy client Aaron (Edward Norton) didn’t commit the murder of an archbishop with which he’s charged. The meek, stuttering Aaron has sudden violent outbursts in which he becomes "Roy" and is diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder, leading to a not guilty ruling. Gere’s lawyer visits Aaron about the news, and as he’s leaving, a wonderfully maniacal Norton reveals that he faked the multiple personalities.

7. FIGHT CLUB (1999)

Edward Norton is no stranger to taking on extremely disparate personalities in his roles, from Primal Fear to American History X. The unassuming actor can quickly turn vicious, which led to ideal casting for Fight Club, director David Fincher’s adaptation of the Chuck Palahniuk novel. Fincher cleverly keeps the audience in the dark about the connections between Norton’s timid, unnamed narrator and Brad Pitt’s hunky, aggressive Tyler Durden. After the two start the titular bruising group, the plot significantly increases the stakes, with the club turning into a sort of anarchist terrorist organization. The narrator eventually comes to grips with the fact that he is Tyler and has caused all the destruction around him.


Early in his career, M. Night Shyamalan was frequently (perhaps a little too frequently) compared to Hitchcock for his ability to ratchet up tension while misdirecting his audience. He hasn’t always earned stellar reviews since, but The Sixth Sense remains deservedly legendary for its final twist. At the end of the ghost story, in which little Haley Joel Osment can see dead people, it turns out that the psychologist (Bruce Willis) who’s been working with the boy is no longer living himself, the result of a gunshot wound witnessed in the opening sequence.

9. THE OTHERS (2001)

The Sixth Sense’s climax was spooky, but not nearly as unnerving as Nicole Kidman’s similarly themed ghost movie The Others, released just a couple years later. Kidman gives a superb performance in the elegantly styled film from the Spanish writer-director Alejandro Amenábar, playing a mother in a country house after World War II protecting her photosensitive children from light and, eventually, dead spirits occupying the place. Only by the end does it become clear that she’s in denial about the fact that she’s a ghost, having killed her children in a psychotic break before committing suicide. It’s a bleak capper to a genuinely haunting yarn.


David Lynch’s surrealist movies may follow dream logic, but that doesn’t mean their plots can’t be readily discerned. Mulholland Drive is his most striking work precisely because, in spite of its more wacko moments, it adds up to a coherent, tragic story. The mystery starts innocently enough with the dark-haired Rita (Laura Elena Harring) waking up with amnesia from a car accident in Los Angeles and piecing together her identity alongside the plucky aspiring actress Betty (Naomi Watts). It takes a blue box to unlock the secret that Betty is in fact Diane, who is in love with and envious of Camilla (also played by Harring) and has concocted a fantasy version of their lives. The real Diane arranges for Camilla to be killed, leading to her intense guilt and suicide. Only Lynch can go from Nancy Drew to nihilism so swiftly and deftly.


More from mental floss studios