How Michael Jordan came to star in the original Space Jam film
- Michael Jordan is a cultural trailblazer who transcended the sports world
- The success of 1996's 'Space Jam' exemplifies the enormity of his crossover popularity
- Jordan made a cameo appearance in the 2021 'Space Jam: A Legacy', starring LeBron James
Michael Jordan is not only one of the best basketball players in NBA history, but he is also a cultural trailblazer who transcended the sports world.
The success of 1996's 'Space Jam', a hybrid live-action-animated film that paired the basketball legend with famous cartoon character Bugs Bunny in a family-friendly good vs. evil confrontation, exemplifies the enormity of his crossover popularity and impact.
'Space Jam' was inspired by a Nike advertisement that aired during Super Bowl XXVI in 1992 and paired "Air Jordan" and "Hare Jordan" (Bugs) against a gang of basketball-playing thugs. In the Joe Pytka-directed ad, Jordan successfully blended himself into the crazy Loony Tunes sense of humour, and the good response prompted a follow-up campaign the next year, which featured Jordan and Bugs competing against towering aliens. Jordan's agent, David Falk, soon persuaded Warner Bros. that a feature film with the athlete and cartoon characters would be beneficial to all parties involved.
Nobody knew if this frantic operation, which included a newbie actor and cutting-edge technology, would succeed in the end. However, Pytka and the different art and animation heads kept Jordan focused on his work while the script and scene modifications progressed.
Jordan had rebuilt himself as the finest basketball player in the world and an NBA champion by the time the finished film entered theatres in November 1996. Space Jam added to his clout, grossing $230 million worldwide, spawning a blockbuster soundtrack, and generating $1.2 billion in product sales.
The success spurred immediate discussions of a sequel to Space Jam, and while Jordan was reported to be on board, he eventually decided against it.
After winning six NBA championships and amassing a net worth of $1.6 billion by April 2021, it's apparent he didn't need the pressure of being the face of a studio brand to be a huge success. Jordan did, however, make a cameo appearance in the 2021 film 'Space Jam: A Legacy', starring LeBron James.