Space Jam: A New Legacy unintentionally answers a question that has been plaguing sports fans for years. Who is the GOAT of basketball, Michael Jordan or LeBron James? (Yes, people throw out names like Bill Russell, but how many Space Jam movies has he been in?) For some it will come as no surprise, but the latest Looney Tunes movie proves MJ is the greatest basketball player of all time.
It should not be a factor, but an athlete’s likability factors into what people think of them. Fans would only begrudgingly refer to Tom Brady as the GOAT before he became willing to show his more human side in his later years. Right or wrong, personality factors into being called the greatest. It is hard to call someone the greatest of all time when you cannot stand to look a them.
No one disputes the original Space Jam is a soulless merchandising ploy – its genesis is found in Nike ads. But it is also overflowing with charm. MJ shows off the winning personality that was constantly on television commercials, Bill Murray seems to be having the time of his life, and the classic Looney Tunes were introduced to a new generation. There is a reason people still fondly look back on it all these years later.
This is not quite the case in A New Legacy. A part of this is due to the new world we live in. Large media conglomerates are the norm and everyday seems to bring the announcement of a new acquisition. Anyone surprised by the amount of cameos and tie-ins have done a great job of deluding themselves. The posters and trailers alone gave everyone a good idea of what to expect. If there were any doubts, early Harry Potter and Game of Thrones references should do away with them.
That is not a big problem, however. It is annoying and obnoxious, but we live in a day and age where Easter Eggs are expected. A New Legacy is more a product of its time than anything else. The fact the Tunes do not have the charm of the Fritz Freleng era is not detrimental either. This was the same in the first Space Jam movie, and only those that grew up with or are fans of those shorts will even notice.
The problem lies in James himself – or at least in this fictionalized version of him. There was no disputing Jordan was the best basketball player on Earth. Reminders were not necessary. A New Legacy has an inferiority complex that is constantly reminding audiences that LeBron is King James. Yes, it has been his nickname since early in his career, but it becomes a little too literal here.
Both movies are thin on story – and rightfully so. These are blockbusters about having fun and balling hard, not deep personal issues. That does not mean they cannot have heart, however. The newer film has a generic family drama subplot that is fine for filler. The original Space Jam opened with a scene with a young Jordan and his father who had passed away. There is a heart to the film that is not found in A New Legacy.
Most telling of all, is the feeling that the outcome of the big game is always in doubt. Though both games saw the villains control the first half, there was never any question that MJ would pull it out in the end. In A New Legacy, not only is the outcome in question, a supreme sacrifice is needed to win. It puts an exclamation point on who is the GOAT of all time. Now, if LeBron had Pepe LePew on his team…
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