CLOSE
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.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Henson Company
arrow
Pop Culture
Jim Henson's Labyrinth Is Being Adapted Into a Stage Musical
Henson Company
Henson Company

More than 30 years after its cinematic debut, Labyrinth could be hitting the stage. In an interview with Forbes, Jim Henson's son and Henson Company CEO Brian Henson shared plans to transform the cult classic into a live musical.

While the new musical would be missing David Bowie in his starring role as Jareth the Goblin King, it would hopefully feature the soundtrack Bowie helped write. Brian Henson says there isn't a set timeline for the project yet, but the stage adaptation of the original film is already in the works.

As for a location, Henson told Forbes he envisions it running, "Not necessarily [on] Broadway, it could be for London's West End, but it will be a stage show, a big theatrical version. It’s very exciting."

Labyrinth premiered in 1986 to measly box office earnings and tepid reviews, but Jim Henson's fairytale has since grown into a phenomenon beloved by nostalgic '80s kids and younger generations alike. In the same Forbes interview, Brian Henson also confirmed the 2017 news that a long-anticipated Labyrinth sequel is apparently in development. Though he couldn't give any specifics, Henson confirmed that, "we are still excited about it but the process moves very slowly and very carefully. We're still excited about the idea of a sequel, we are working on something, but nothing that's close enough to say it's about to be in pre-production or anything like that."

While fans eagerly await those projects to come out, they can get their fix when the film returns to theaters across the U.S. on April 29, May 1, and May 2. Don't forget to wear your best Labyrinth swag to the event.

[h/t Forbes]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
John P. Johnson, HBO
arrow
entertainment
10 Wild Facts About Westworld
John P. Johnson, HBO
John P. Johnson, HBO

The hit HBO show about an android farm girl finding sentience in a fake version of the old West set in a sci-fi future is back for a second season. So grab your magnifying glass, study up on Lewis Carroll and Shakespeare, and get ready for your brain to turn to scrambled eggs. 

The first season saw Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) and her robotic compatriots strive to escape bondage as the puppet playthings of a bored society that kills and brutalizes them every day, then repairs them each night to repeat the process for paying customers. The Maze. The Man in Black. The mysteries lurking in cold storage and cantinas. Wood described the first season as a prequel, which means the show can really get on the dusty trail now. 

Before you board the train and head back into the park, here are 10 wild facts about the cerebral, sci-fi hit. (Just beware of season one spoilers!)

1. IT’S NOT THE FIRST TV ADAPTATION OF THE MOVIE.

Though Westworld, the 1973 film written and directed by Michael Crichton, was a hit, its 1976 sequel Futureworld was a flop. Still, the name and concept had enough cachet for CBS to move forward with a television concept in 1980. Beyond Westworld featured Delos head of security John Moore (Jim McMullan) battling against the villainous mad scientist Simon Quaid (James Wainwright), who wants to use the park’s robots to, what else, take over the whole world. It would be a little like if the HBO show focused largely on Luke Hemsworth’s Ashley Stubbs, which just might be the spinoff the world is waiting for.

2. THE ORIGINAL GUNSLINGER HAS A CAMEO.

Ed Harris and Eddie Rouse in 'Westworld'
JOHN P. JOHNSON, HBO

The HBO series pays homage to the original film in a variety of ways, including echoing elements from the score to create that dread-inducing soundscape. It also tipped its ten-gallon hat to Yul Brynner’s relentless gunslinger from the original film by including him in the storage basement with the rest of the creaky old models.

3. QUENTIN TARANTINO, ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, AND MANY OTHERS COULD HAVE REBOOTED IT.

Speaking of Brynner’s steely, murderous resolve: His performance as the robo-cowboy was one of the foundations for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s turn as the Terminator. Nearly 20 years later, in 2002, Schwarzenegger signed on to produce and star in a reboot of the sci-fi film from which he took his early acting cues. Schwarzenegger never took over the role from Brynner because he served as Governor of California instead, and the reboot languished in development hell.

Warner Bros. tried to get Quentin Tarantino on board, but he passed. They also signed The Cell director Tarsem Singh (whose old West would have been unbelievably lush and colorful, no doubt), but it fell through. A few years later, J.J. Abrams—who had met with Crichton about a reboot back in 1996—pitched eventual co-creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy on doing it as a television series. HBO bought it, and the violent delights finally made it to our screens.

4. IT COSTS $40,000 A DAY TO VISIT THE PARK. (AND THAT’S THE CHEAP PACKAGE.)

Thandie Newton and Angela Sarafyan in 'Westworld'
HBO

In season one, Logan (Ben Barnes) revealed that he’s spending $40,000 a day to experience Westworld. That’s in line with the 1973 movie, where park visitors spent $1000 a day, which lands near $38,000 once adjusted for inflation. Then again, we’re talking about 2052 dollars, so it might still be pricey, but not exorbitant in 2018 terms. But a clever Redditor spotted that $40,000 is the minimum you’d pay; according to the show’s website, the Gold Package will set you back $200,000 a day.

5. BEN BARNES BROKE HIS FOOT AND DIDN’T TELL ANYONE.

Once Upon a Time’s Eion Bailey was originally cast as Logan but had to quit due to a scheduling conflict, so Ben Barnes stepped in … then he broke his foot. The actor hid the injury for fear he’d lose the job, which is why he added a limp as a character detail. “I’m sort of hobbling along with this kind of cowboy-ish limp, which I then tried to maintain for the next year just so I could pretend it was a character choice,” Barnes said. “But really I had a very purple foot … So walking was the hardest part of shooting this for me.”

6. THE CO-CREATORS RICKROLLED FANS OBSESSED WITH UNCOVERING SPOILERS.

Eagle-eyed fans (particularly on Reddit) uncovered just about every major spoiler from the first season early on, which is why Nolan and Joy promised a spoiler video for anyone who wanted to know the entire plot of season two ahead of its premiere. They delivered, but instead of show secrets, the 25-minute video only offered a classy rendition of Rick Astley’s internet-infamous “Never Gonna Give You Up,” sung by Evan Rachel Wood with Angela Sarafyan on piano, followed by 20 minutes of a dog. It was a pitch-perfect response to a fanbase desperate for answers.

7. IT FEATURES AN ANCIENT GREEK EASTER EGG.

Amid the alternative rock tunes hammered out on the player piano and hat tips to classic western films, Westworld also referenced something from 5th century BCE Greece. Westworld, which is run by Delos Incorporated, is designed so that guests cannot die. Delos is also the name of the island where ancient Greeks made it illegal for anyone to die (or be born for that matter) on religious grounds. That’s not the only bit of wordplay with Greek either: Sweetwater’s main ruffian, Hector Escaton (Rodrigo Santoro), gets his last name from the Greek eschaton, meaning the final event in the divine design of the world. Fitting for a potentially sentient robot helping to bring about humanity’s destruction.

8. JIMMI SIMPSON FIGURED OUT HIS CHARACTER’S TWIST BECAUSE OF HIS EYEBROWS.

Evan Rachel Wood and Jimmi Simpson in 'Westworld'
HBO

In season one, the show’s many secrets were kept even from the main cast until the time they absolutely needed to know. Jimmi Simpson, who plays timid theme park neophyte William, had a hunch something was funny with his role because of a cosmetic change.

“I was with an amazing makeup artist, Christian, and he was looking at my face too much,” Simpson told Vanity Fair. “He had me in his chair, and he was just looking at my face, and then he said something about my eyebrows. ‘Would you be cool if we just took a couple hairs out of your eyebrows, made them not quite as arched?’” Guessing that they were making him look more like The Man in Black, Simpson said something to Joy, and she confirmed his hunch. “She looked kind of surprised I’d worked it out,” he said.

9. THE PLAYER PIANO MAY BE AN ALLUSION TO KURT VONNEGUT.

One of the show’s most iconic elements is its soundtrack of alternative rock songs from the likes of Radiohead, The Cure, and Soundgarden redone in a jaunty, old West style. In addition to adding a creepy sonic flavor to the sadistic vacation, they also may wink toward Kurt Vonnegut’s first novel, Player Piano, which deals with a dystopia of automation where machines do everything for humans, leading to an entrenched class struggle. The show’s resonant elements are clear, but Westworld also mentions that the world outside the theme park is one where there’s no unemployment and humans have little purpose. Like The Man In Black (Ed Harris), the protagonist of Player Piano also longs for real stakes in the struggle of life.

10. THERE ARE TWO JESSE JAMES CONNECTIONS.

Anthony Hopkins and Jeffrey Wright in 'Westworld'
HBO

Anthony Hopkins’s character Dr. Robert Ford is an invention for the new series, and he shares a name with the man who assassinated infamous outlaw Jesse James (a fact you may remember from the aptly named movie The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford). The final episode of the first season flips the allusion when Ford is shot in the back of the head, which is exactly how the real-life Ford killed James.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios