National Basketball Association
Michael Jordan, Space Jam And The Making Of A Pop Culture Icon
National Basketball Association

Michael Jordan, Space Jam And The Making Of A Pop Culture Icon

Published Jun. 30, 2017 6:28 p.m. ET

Today marks the 20th anniversary of Warner Brothers released Space Jam, a live-action and animation film starring Michael Jordan and Bugs Bunny and the Looney Tunes. Despite a horrendous movie score from Rotten Tomatoes and terrible reviews from critics, the film helped Jordan’s already iconic image reach a new height. The movie blended everything into one—major ’90s stars, a full roster of beloved cartoon characters, iconic sneakers and one of the best soundtracks ever. Jordan’s crossover appeal is unmatched and we decided to look at the impact Space Jam had on his illustrious career.

The importance of 1996

Space Jam was released during a pivotal time of Jordan’s career. After taking a year and a half off to pursue a professional baseball career, which is playfully acted throughout the film, Jordan returned to the NBA to lead the Bulls to their fourth NBA title. Space Jam was confirmation that Jordan’s star was still rising. MJ’s marketability had reached yet another plateau never matched by another athlete. He became a pop culture figure who related to all kinds of people, from rappers to actors like Will Smith to a new wave of Jordan fans who never witnessed his playing days. You can also point to Jordan’s Space Jam success as a reason for Hollywood decided to giving basketball players film opportunities, such as Ray Allen (He Got Game) and LeBron James (Train Wreck).


The Soundtrack

By the time Space Jam released, Jordan's name was already cited often in rap lyrics. He also starred in Michael Jackson’s video for “Jam”. The Space Jam soundtrack went on to sell six million records, and included R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly,” which won two Grammys, and Monica’s hit, “For You, I Will”.  And Seal also provided “Fly Like An Eagle” after winning three Grammys for “Kiss From A Rose”, which was part of the Batman Forever soundtrack. Another standout was “Hit ’Em High” from Busta Rhymes, Coolio, LL Cool J and Method Man, and who can forget the title track from Quad City DJ's?

The Sneakers

First off, Space Jam was inspired by Jordan’s commercial success with the “Hare Jordan” campaign with Bug’s Bunny. The ads were featured during the Super Bowl, and they evolved into a major motion film.

With the movie's anniversary upon us, the Air Jordan Retro XI “Space Jam” will hit stores on Dec. 11 and the hype has been building since they last released in 2009. The Air Jordan XI is considered one of the greatest Jordan’s of all-time. Shoe designer Tinker Hatfield’s masterpiece changed sneaker culture forever, with the patent leather design and its ability to crossover as a lifestyle shoe. Jordan wears them in the film during the much-anticipated game against the “Monstars”, and they have become a favorite among sneaker collectors. But while the Space Jam’s receive all of the hype, let’s not forget the other sneakers that make an appearance in the film as well, such as the Air Jordan 9 “Retro”, Air Jordan 2 “Retro”, and the Nike Air “CB34”.

The Future

Space Jam was a major reason I followed Michael Jordan growing up. Because I was young, the fandom didn't start with his championships, game, or even the sneakers. The opportunity to see Jordan play with some of the cartoon characters I grew up watching lured me in. I am sure I wasn’t the only kid to have the movie on a loop everyday.

The film laid the foundation for Jordan to connect with children who were too young to remember his early basketball accomplishments. Jordan Brand banks big on nostalgia, and what's more nostalgic than Space Jam? They'll continue that trend with the 20-year anniversary collection, which includes takes on the Jordan Super.Fly 5, Jordan CP3.X and much more to commemorate the film.  

This article originally appeared on


Get more from National Basketball Association Follow your favorites to get information about games, news and more