Space Jam: What The Monstars Lineup Might Have Been If The Casting Director Was Smart

spacejam

In the year of our Stern 1996 a film was given unto us by a bird named Jordan and couple brothers named Warner. It was called Space Jam. The movie was big and it was loud and it was good (it was) and it mattered and all the children in the land with dreams and imaginations had something stirred inside them and their hearts fluttered.

Now a second is being delivered. Or was. It is not anymore. The fake news of it came during the first year of our new Lord, Lord Silver, and it was said to star the man whose powers border on cartoonish, LeBron James. And it would be called Space Jam 2 and it would have been a disaster of a calamity, a poor idea stuffed with dollar signs and bad athlete driven acting, but it would have been watched, by you and me and the rest of America, and we would sit their in the theater with our popcorn and our pop and we would laugh, either out of sincerity or irony, at what we were being subjected to.

But you would have seen it. Curiosity comes for everyone.

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Let’s look at days gone by. The first band of Monstars were only concerned with on the court entertainment. They were a bruising bunch with a gigantic front line that prided themselves on their physical play. When you’ve got Larry Johnson as your two it doesn’t matter that your point guard is 5’3″. You’re going to tower over your opponent, especially when that opponent happens to be a cartoon.

Now, one could say that Swackhammer and his merry band of aliens weren’t the greatest of scouts. You filled your lineup with two centers for crying out loud. But, hey, they almost made it work. I’m not trying to throw stones. What I do want to do, though, is focus on who the Monstars were. Why was it these five players? Why not five others? There were bigger stars than Muggsy and Bradley available to Jordan, surely.

The lineup, so you can see it in front of you, was Muggsy at the 1, the aforementioned Johnson at the 2, Barkley playing out of position at the 3, Ewing playing out of position at the 4, and the stormin Mormon Shawn Bradley at the 5.

Johnson was a relative star at this point and a real hero of the decade. Grandmamma was huge — Family Matters and all that — and he was coming into his own with the Hornets. Barkley was a mega-star by then. Ewing was, too. Muggsy was known because if you’re 5’3″ and in the league you’re going to be a hero to many. And Bradley, well, Bradley was never as terrible as he his reputation might have suggested and he was the tallest guy in the league at that point.

Certainly there’s some novelty casting going on here. If you’re taking on A-list NBA dudes you’re probably leaving Muggsy and Bradley at home, but they filled a role. A ball handling behemoth and a towering, stretchy white guy. Still, the casting could’ve been better.

Really, Gary Payton should have been in this movie. He had the personality, the game, and the star power to handle the role. And The Gloves could have been immortalized properly. Cemented in cinematic history for all eternity.  And, really, we should have a proper second guard in there. I don’t care who it is. Reggie Miller, Pippen could play the two, Grant Hill, Penny, Clyde, Make it a two guard lineup and put Stockton in there, whoever. Any of them would make more basketball sense than LJ at the 2.

I think, ideally, you put Payton in for Muggs. Then you put Penny in for LJ. You get a nice, clean two-guard front, keep the athleticism, and you also get an impressive skill set. Penny was still a huge name at that point. You could talk me into having Reggie in there, but shooting was not at all important to a species that could dunk from half-court.

At the three I think you have to go with Pippen. He was playing some of the best basketball of his career at that point, and, obviously, he had a close relationship with Jordan. Whether or not it’s true, the script could have taken on some heart with the added pressure of Jordan needing to steal back his teammates’ talent. Might give it a more personal touch. And I realize I’m fooling myself thinking Jordan cares about anything other than himself and winning, but I’m several hundred words deep into a piece I really thought about that centers around aliens stealing NBA players talent by Alex Mac-ing themselves into their bloodstream so I think we can just all agree to look the other way.

You keep Barkley and Ewing and you bump them to their natural positions. Barkley at the 4, Ewing at the 5. There’s more offensive chemistry this way and it will enable the lineup to run a proper offense, should the game get close — like it did — and find them needing to execute in the half-court.

So, the lineup, as it were would look something like this:

– Payton running the show at the one. He guarded Jordan better than anyone and knows how to run an efficient offense.

– Penny at the two. There’s of-the-moment star power there. He was neck deep into the infamous Lil’ Penny Nike campaign. And his game fit alongside Payton’s nicely. He could use his athleticism to create dunks for himself and others, and he had the athleticism to really spread the floor on either end.

– Pippen at the three. He was a perennial All-Star and probably the best two-way three man in the league. He could guard 1 through 5 and he’d proven that he was cool with taking a backseat to a star whose name isn’t Toni Kukoc. He could guard Jordan, knew him better than anyone, and would have been able to run the point forward should the need arise.

– Barkley’s at the four. His was the biggest and best mouth in the league at that point and he was only a few years removed from an MVP season. He gave Jordan everything he wanted in the ’93 Finals and his bruising game fit with the Monstars style. His comedic timing has always been impeccable and we get to keep the most underrated scene from the film. Be gone, wannabe. Be gone. Really frustrated I haven’t incorporated that phrase into my daily life.

– Ewing’s at the five. Jordan had tortured Pat so much at this point, putting Hakeem or Robinson in there might have sent Ewing spiraling into a sadness that only John Starks knows. Ewing played his position better than almost anyone in the 90’s and his inclusion meant they got to film in MSG and we got to see Patricia Heaton pre-Everybody Loves Raymond.

We’ll never get to see this lineup. Only in our dreams, when real life gets to dull to keep us awake. We can drift off and see stars and maybe an Acme anvil and here a song humming us to sleep. Hey, you, whatchu gon do.

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