Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James and retired Chicago Bulls star Michael Jordan have been compared to each other for just about the entirety of James’ existence on the national basketball stage, and with good reason: Both have a solid argument as the greatest player of all time.
James has never shied away from the comparison, memorably admitting in 2016 that he’s chasing Jordan’s ghost, and it seems he’s doing so in every way possible. James will likely never equal Jordan’s six championships, but he did pass Jordan on the NBA’s all-time scoring list this season, and he’s even paralleling the Bulls legend in a different way this summer: By filming a “Space Jam” movie after having his season end earlier than he’d like.
Jordan famously did the same after losing the Orlando Magic in his first season back following his first retirement, and he simultaneously used the summer to get back into shape with grueling pickup games on a full-size court he had built on the movie’s set.
According to Joe Vardon of The Athletic, James is following in Jordan’s footsteps there, too:
Production begins this summer on “Space Jam 2,” which stars LeBron and is set for a July 2021 release. This is not James’ first summer movie project; he filmed “Trainwreck” in 2014 and the animated film “Smallfoot” in 2017. Sources told The Athletic that a full-length basketball court would be built on the “Space Jam 2” set for LeBron to train.
And if James is going to spend his summer training while filming “Space Jam 2,” we can only hope it leads to as incredible of stories as came out of Jordan’s time filming the original movie.
Stories like this, from Keith Gibbs, who played collegiate basketball and made a career out of being an extra for basketball scenes in movies. Gibbs took part in some of the pickup games on the set of the original “Space Jam” because he was friends with the director, and, well, it sounds like Jordan didn’t hold back no matter who he was playing against (via Jason Concepcion, then of Grantland):
Did Jordan trash-talk you?
Oh yeah, nonstop. [Laughs.]
He didn’t give a shit who you were. When I was doing Space Jam, we played three days. I thought it was over. I had to go out of town. I get a phone call, they’re like, “Why aren’t you here?” I was like, “Oh, they’re still playing?” I had no idea.
I walk in, and it’s Reggie Miller, Charles Barkley, Alonzo Mourning, Charles Oakley. Grant Hill shows up. Jerry Stackhouse shows up. Now, all of a sudden it’s an NBA All-Star pickup game. Every night. I did that for about a month and a half, two months. Then the UCLA kids came in, and they had just won a national title — Ed O’Bannon and those guys. Just phenomenal. Best pickup games I’ve ever been a part of. It was unreal.
Yeah, so Jordan … I had to guard Reggie Miller and Michael Jordan in back-to-back games. It was so bad. I was friends with Chris Mills and Tracy Murray — we had been to some camps together. One play, I got switched onto Jordan, because Chris was like, “Keith, you take him.” Jordan hit a 35-footer on me. I mean, it was ridiculous: leg out, tongue out, all that stuff … hit a 35-footer on me and goes, “GET THE FUCK OFF THE COURT.”
Or this one, from J.A. Adande of ESPN, on Jordan’s legendary response to Pac-12 legend Don Maclean lighting up Jordan’s team in one game:
As MacLean changed clothes and iced his knees, Jordan came by and asked if he’d be back. MacLean had an overseas trip to conduct basketball clinics in Japan, so he couldn’t return the following week.
Jordan told him, “Thanks for coming, make sure you come back.”
”I’m thinking: That was cool for him to say that,” MacLean said. “Not thinking ...”
Jordan was plotting his revenge. When MacLean did show up a couple of weeks later, he played in the first game of the night.
”[Jordan] walks on the court, says, ‘I got MacLean,’ and did not let me touch the ball for the entire game,” MacLean said. “And I was trying. And he was not letting me touch the ball.
”Right then and there, I was like, ‘My God.’ For a pickup game in the summer that means nothing, two weeks later, he remembers that. I couldn’t believe it.”
Look, this Lakers season hasn’t offered up a ton of enjoyment, and I know James doesn’t have the same personality style that Jordan did. But can we PLEASE get some stories at some point about James dunking on extras, or holding weeks-long grudges against collegiate players for getting hot in one game, or something from this summer?
This is a “be careful what you wish for” scenario because this site will surely have enough to write about during what promises to be a crazy summer anyway, but I think we can all agree that the world would be better off if we got some insane pickup game stories involving James from the set of “Space Jam 2.”
Who knows, maybe he can even top Jordan’s best ones! If he’s going to chase Jordan’s ghost, he really should do it in all facets, including insanely competitive pickup game habits. Here are some sample headlines that would be amazing:
- LeBron James invites Isaiah Thomas to ‘Space Jam 2’ set pickup games, quickly tires of him again and trades him to the set of a CW show filming a few lots over
- LeBron James spends 10 minutes of pickup game sitting on bench trying to trade his ‘trash’ squad of production extras for Anthony Davis
- Michael B. Jordan ‘confused’ and ‘shocked’ after LeBron James lights him up for 60 points in pickup game while screaming ‘who’s the GOAT now??’ after every basket during Jordan’s visit to Black Panther director Ryan Coogler’s ‘Space Jam 2’ set
If James decides to use any of these to build “The Legend of LeBron,” that’s fine, I’d just like one percent of “Space Jam 2” revenue. Thanks in advance!