It’s time to jam again! I know you will all agree that one of the true seminal classics of the 90s was the deep and highly intellectual Space Jam. Well after years of rumours and speculation it has finally been announced that Lebron James will be starring in the sequel, with the director of four of the seven Fast and Furious movies in Justin Lin behind the camera. So in honour of this monumental announcement (ok, I’ll stop with the hyperbole now) it’s time to talk casting. Because while Lebron is clearly filling the Michael Jordan role, there’s a lot more up in the air. Namely, who the Monstars will take control of.
This is a topic that I’ve discussed at length with one of my close friends well before the sequel was announced, and as a fan of both basketball and entertainment this could be the most important part of the movie to me. In the first movie the aliens took on the talent and attributes of Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Larry Johnson, Mugsy Bogues and Shawn Bradley. And presuming we see a similar scenario (and I hope the talent stealing does come back, as it was a fun way to incorporate more of the NBA into the movie even if the acting is laughably bad) we need to pick five new guys to fill the shoes as on court antagonists for Lebron and his band of looney team-mates.
In trying to build a Monstars 2.0, I’ve kept a couple of things in mind. The first is obviously the player’s skill. Who stands out as supremely talented in the current NBA? That’s pretty easy. But then who would also bring personality and style to the team? The original team was built up of a few different personalities, and they all looked fairly distinctive. Barkley’s Monstar was a bit tubby and brash, Mugsey’s was small and hyperactive while Bradley was lanky and chill. These guys are going to serve as antagonists, so they have to bring something to the table. And if it follows in the footsteps of the first Space Jam, we’ll probably also see the real guys a bit, so picking people who will bring something to the movie on screen is also important. If they can make us laugh in the little skits they appear in through the movie, then that’s a bonus worth considering. So below I’ve picked my starting five for the Monstars 2.0, as well as some other possible inclusions.
This one is a pretty easy choice. He’s already interacted with the Looney Tunes in ads before (some even thought he might even get James’ spot for Space Jam 2 while it was still just a rumour) and Blake is probably the most experienced ‘actor’ the NBA has at their disposal next to James. Again we’re not expecting any DiCaprio-esque performances here, but having someone who has some semblance of a clue will be beneficial. And when it comes to how he plays on the court, his explosive style will translate to the animated game. In the original the Monstar team was all about the dunks, and one only has to look at some of the emasculating dunks Griffin has thrown down on poor unsuspecting souls in the NBA to know we’d be in the for the same come Space Jam 2. I’d consider Blake a shoe-in.
If you’re talking about talent, there really isn’t anyone else in the game right now with the hype that Curry has. Reigning two time MVP (ok it hasn’t officially been announced yet, but he’s winning it again this season) and if you were looking for talent to steal, Curry’s offensive ability stands out and then some. We’ve also started to see a bit more personality from him in recent years. His supreme on court confidence, whether it’s not needing to watch if his three point shot will hit or that shimmy dance he does when he’s on fire, it’s all the mark of a man who knows he’s the best player on the court at any given time. We didn’t really see a Curry type in the original, but having the Curry Monstar shoot full court jumpers (Shintaro Midorima style) would be a nice change to the dunk heavy formula of the first.
It’s easy to see how much NBA basketball has changed since Space Jam came out just based off of the fact the original only had one small/guard on the team. Kyrie’s streetball style will translate well on screen, breaking Tune Squad ankles left and right with mean crossovers and weaving through traffic with ease. It also helps that he’s got experience on camera with his Uncle Drew Pepsi commercials. There’d also be a potentially interesting subplot (if the movie actually wanted to bother with subplots) considering Lebron and Kyrie are team-mates on the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Ok so this might be a bit of a homer pick, but I think Boogie would make a great addition to the team. The original Monstars played a lot of bully ball, and Cousins could fill that role rather well. His strong offensive game utilises his size, and in a league that is getting away from that physical 90s style Cousins is something of a hybrid throwback to that era while still retaining the outside touch of the modern big man. He can easily fill the roll of pushing the Looney Tunes around and sending them to the bench with injuries, and we already know his bulk will translate well. He also has a bit of a whiny personality that will help differentiate him from the others – he can be complaining on court for some added humour – and I think Cousins could have a bit of fun as himself trying to regain his talent after it’s stolen. The Monstars need at least one physical guy, and Boogie is a great pick for that role.
Kawhi Leonard/Anthony Davis:
Ok so I nearly picked a starting five, but I’m genuinely torn between the Pelican’s Anthony Davis and the Spur’s Kawhi Leonard. Both of these guys fill a similar role in my mind when designing the team, and I honestly can’t pick between them. The original only had three Monstars actually score, so it’d be fun to have a guy on the team who is there as a ‘lock down defender’ and cause Lebron grief. Both of these guys are known as elite defenders (Leonard is the current Defensive Player of the year after all) and neither would lose out on screen time if they didn’t score that much. They’re also quieter guys, which is fine with some louder personalities already picked. Their wingspan could make for some great visual imagery as they block the lights from the camera’s vision and literally swamp James and deny him any pass or driving chance. Both would bring something to the Monstar’s look as well: Davis with his iconic unibrow and Kawhi’s dreads would both look cool. These two are pretty interchangeable for how I picture it going down, so it could come down to whoever is willing, or who the NBA wants to push in the mainstream (which I feel is still Anthony Davis despite his team’s disappointing season).
If Kyrie doesn’t get the spot as the second guard, look no further than Oklahoma City’s fashion icon and crazy point guard. Westbrook could be highly entertaining as he struggles with his lost talent, and his hyper aggressive and loud on court style would work great as a Monstar. I actually feel he would work a little better than Irving in the role (Curry’s Monstar could pull off some of the fancy dribbles in place of Kyrie) but I really like the potential of one of Bron’s team-mates being targeted by the Monstars which was ultimately what made me pick Irving. But either works great, and you can easily make a case for Westbrook’s play style and on court demeanor working better for the team . I also considered Harden for the visual translation (that beard on a Monstar!) but they don’t call fouls in the Space Jam, so half of his game is gone right there. Plus he seems the least interesting of the three as an on screen personality.
I know this might seem like a somewhat left field choice given he’s not quite at the level of the others listed, but there’s a lot of value to a Jeremy Lin appearance in Space Jam 2 – and I’m not just talking about the hair his Monstar would have to rock. Putting it bluntly, Hollywood is paying attention to the global market nowadays, and China is priority number one. That country maybe single handedly guaranteed another 3 Transformers movies because of its popularity over there. In case you didn’t notice, China has a lot of people at its disposal to go see movies, and Jeremy Lin’s Chinese/Taiwanese heritage could help sell a lot of tickets over there. Beyond just a money factor though, he’s also had plenty of experience in front of the camera and is a genuinely funny guy which is great for the movie. He’s also one of the more recognisable names even in America after ‘Linsanity’ took over the mainstream for a month. It could easily be explained that Linsanity made it as far as Moron Mountain and that’s why he gets targeted along with the others.
I really didn’t want to include Dwight – despite being a fan of the bigger guys (that came out wrong…). Dwight annoys me… BUT as my friend pointed out he does fit the bill of what they might be looking for in potential players. Not only is he one of the better known players in the league, but his style of play will translate well into Monstar form. He’s big, he can defend and he can fill that dominant big man role that Ewing’s character had in the first. He’s also got a goofy personality that could work. I’m not a fan of his, but it’d be remiss of me not to include him here. Don’t be surprised if you see Dwight filling the role I’ve laid out for Demarcus Cousins.
Speaking of Ewing, Porzingis is the new sensation for Ewing’s old team: the New York Knicks. The big 7’3 Latvian would be the biggest guy on the court, but he’s no stiff. He’s got a fluid game and capable of making the highlight reel, but more importantly he’s a young guy I can see the NBA wanting to further push into the mainstream. Space Jam would be a great opportunity for any of the rookies and sophomores, and while Karl Anthony Towns is by far the best player in that class, Porzingis has a lot going for him. He’d look just like Shawn Bradley’s character out there, and he might even be more useful on the court for the sequel. His heritage might not draw in the box office cash like Lin would, but you’ll keep New York City happy, and at the end of the day isn’t that what’s most important?
Chris Paul/Carmello Anthony:
I’ve combined these two here because I’d be including them for the same reasons – they’re close friends of Lebron. And depending on how much say King James has on the production you might see his friends getting starring roles. That’s not a knock on their talent that they aren’t being picked otherwise, but they’re both a bit older and don’t necessarily carry the long term investment value that some of these younger guys offer for the NBA. But don’t be surprised if you see one of these two – or even both – sharing the big screen with James.
You could ask why I didn’t include Lebron’s best friend Dwayne Wade in the above topic, and that’s simply because I’d like to see him involved in another way. I’ve had my share of ideas for how the movie could play out, but I’d like to see Wade called in by Lebron to help guide the Tune Squad to victory as a coach or hell, a cheerleader. It’d be a good way to get a close friend of Lebron’s involved without giving up one of the Monstar spots to an NBA veteran. In saying that, I’d also like to see Jordan return, even if just in a cameo role. The movie is meant to be a sequel, not a straight remake, so having Jordan there to be able to call back to the original would be great. And that’s ignoring the potential merchandising of having Jordan at their disposal as well.
The most obvious omission here is Kevin Durant, the OKC superstar who has a case for being the best in the league. But he doesn’t (seem to) have a lot of personality, and visually he’d fill a similar role to Leonard or Davis. And honestly if I’m the NBA picking guys to get involved, I’m wanting to highlight the new faces of the league to the masses. And while Durant isn’t old, I think investing in a Davis or Leonard yields more long term value. Paul George or Curry’s running man Draymond Green could also get a call up, and in an NBA that is shying away from the enforcer type Andrew Bogut could help provide that physical presence instead of a Boogie Cousins (Australian biases aside…). Andre Drummond is another big guy who could fill that gap, and has the benefit of being a young guy with a bright future ahead.
What I’m saying is, there are a lot of options for filling a modern day Monstars. And for what it’s worth, the acting might actually be a little better this time around, as a lot of these guys have had a decent amount of experience in front of a camera for more than just interviews. Then we just need to find a reason for Shaquille O’Neal to make an appearance and we’re set. Because honestly he might be the best suited NBA personality to ever appear in a movie like this. And one last thing, I’d love for Lebron to have a bit of a laugh at himself and tease jumping ship to the Monstars at half time. It’s been a running joke since 2010 and his decision to join the Miami Heat, and even just alluding to it here would win over a lot of viewers in my books. Oh, and we can also take bets on whether anyone else is more likely to be contributing a track to Space Jam 2 than Drake. You know he’ll want to be involved in one way or another.