The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Thursday August 5th

Column: 'Space Jam,' an underdog Impression


Today marks the 20th anniversary of the greatest movie of all time, and, sorry IMDb, I’m not talking about "The Shawshank Redemption." 

On Nov. 15, 1996, the half-animated classic "Space Jam" came out and my life, along with the lives of millions of others, was made better because of it. 

But, I know not everyone feels as strongly about this as I do, so when I brought up dedicating an entire day of Swerve content to the Michael Jordan film, a question that I’m no stranger to arose: “Why ‘Space Jam?’” 

When I told people "Space Jam" was my favorite movie growing up, people often wanted to know why. 

Sometimes the assumption is, “Oh, you go to UNC, so it make sense you like ‘Space Jam.’” 

But that's not true. This may be not a school-spirited thing to say, but I think I like “Space Jam” more than I like UNC.

It’s definitely not because I’m a basketball fan — the only games I ever watched before college were from the view of the Wesley Chapel Church league bench in fifth grade. 

So, in the past, whenever I’ve been asked why "Space Jam" is my favorite movie, my answer was usually something along the lines of, “It’s just a classic.” 

But, when it came time to sell the Swerve "Space Jam" theme for today’s website, I knew I had to do better than that, and truly ask myself what is it that makes me so excited about "Space Jam." 

Is it the total bop of a soundtrack? Is it the admiration I have for both Bill Murray and Danny DeVito? Or does it go deeper than that? 

Well, for starters, the half-animated film is a genius concept that the film industry tragically hasn’t picked up on yet (but if any filmmakers are interested, Tess has got you covered).  

The plot — in which Michael Jordan, the Looney Tunes and Bill Murray defeat the Monstars aliens of Moron Mountain in a last-second slam dunk — teaches countless lessons about the importance of an underdog victory. 

And I think a lot of us are in need of an underdog victory right now.

To put it bluntly, this semester has been rough — there are 13 different tabs open on my laptop as I’m writing this, and not one of them is a Tasty video. 

Research papers are hard. Projects are hard. Applying for internships I know I have a two percent chance of getting is hard. 

Know what else is hard? Taking on the Monstars after they’ve stolen Charles Barkley’s basketball skills, and you’re still just a cartoon bunny. 

But Bugs Bunny didn't give up in the face of adversity. 

Instead, he did something brave, something a lot of us need to remember do from time to time  — he asked for help.

Was asking Michael Jordan for help a long shot? Absolutely. 

And although it did take some convincing to get the MJ on his side, Bugs Bunny's risk paid off and the GOAT helped the Looney Tunes win the game and escape imprisonment on Moron Mountain.

Over the past few months, I've reached out to my friends for help — something I've always avoided at all costs — and each time I did, I've been blown away by the amount of kindness they've shown me.

So the lesson here: never underestimate how much the people in your life are willing to help you out, even if they're superstars like Michael Jordan.

Which brings me to my next lesson: the journey MJ takes in the movie.

But before I do that, I have a confession to make: This isn't my first time writing about "Space Jam." 

In high school, I wrote about it enough times that my English teacher, who had never seen "Space Jam," dedicated an entire class to watching the film, so she could finally understand what I was talking about.

At this time, I was also a completely different person than I am now. I was obsessively convinced I would be the next, female Aaron Sorkin who was gonna get out of North Carolina and somehow have my own show by the time I was 20. 

Now I realize, I was relying on pipe dreams — I was Michael Jordan, baseball player.

In "Space Jam," MJ (foolishly) thought he was done with basketball. Instead, he was pursuing a pipe dream of being a baseball player.

When Bugs Bunny initially asks for his help in defeating the Monstars, Jordan's response is, "Yeah, but I'm a baseball player now," which was also my senior quote for some reason.


Try as he might, he's just not meant to play baseball.

And, despite winning six NBA championships and being the best basketball player of all time (Lebron, who?), he's disappointed in himself for not succeeding at something he'd dreamed of for so long.  

Sad? Sort of. 

But it's also refreshing to see disappointment isn’t just felt by people like me, who are well aware that they most likely peaked in kindergarten. 

Throughout my time at college, I've slowly realized that my lifelong dream of being the next Sorkin may not come to fruition.

But, hey, Michael Jordan wasn't meant to be a baseball player.

Realizing you may not achieve things you thought you always wanted doesn't mean you won't achieve anything at all. 

Instead of focusing on not being able to play baseball, focus on the things you can do — focus on your six championship rings.

Overall, 2016 has been a messy year for a lot of people, and we're still not done with it yet.

While it looks like a lot of the odds are stacked against us in many ways, "Space Jam" has taught me something I hope I never forget — there's always time for a last second, slam-dunk, underdog victory.


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