Space Jam is unquestionably the greatest sports movie of all-time. And Michael Jordan is a fuckin’ lunatic who was never going to lose at anything. So, when Jordan actually lost in the NBA playoffs prior to shooting Space Jam, he had Warner Brothers build a basketball court on set.
Naturally, NBA players wanted in on the action. From J.A. Andande at ESPN:
Besides the movie co-stars such as Patrick Ewing, Charles Barkley, Alonzo Mourning and Larry Johnson, there were the likes of Grant Hill, Rod Strickland, Glen Rice, Dennis Rodman, Juwan Howard, Steve Smith and Cedric Ceballos. Shaquille O’Neal came by. Magic Johnson, less than a year shy of his return to the NBA, made an appearance. Reggie Miller showed up for what turned into a clear-out-and-let-em-go-at-it game, with the trash talk flying.
Want to know just how crazy and intense these games were? And how crazy and intense Michael Jordan is?
Don’t think for a second that the neo-soul or even the low stakes of the summer diminished Jordan’s ultra-competitive fires. Don MacLean learned that the hard way.
It started when Jordan was loosely guarding MacLean, and MacLean (the all-time leading scorer in the old Pac-10 conference) got hot and scored about two-thirds of his team’s buckets to send Jordan off a loser on the final game of the night.
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.”
This is why there will never be another Jordan. He treated every game, even pickup games in the summer in the middle of Warner Brothers studios, like it was the NBA Finals. Today’s players are too busy being friends with everyone and complaining about the regular season grind.