It’s been a rough season for LeBron James. His Lakers missed the playoffs by a wide margin (this will be the first time since the 2004-05 season that James won’t appear in the postseason), and now his Space Jam 2 movie has hit a couple of snags. Snag one leads to snag two, which isn’t necessarily a bad snag, but a snag nonetheless.
As a quick refresher of the original Space Jam, aliens land on Earth in an effort to take over the planet. After sizing up the short-stacked aliens, Bugs Bunny offers up a game of basketball for the fate of the world. After the aliens drain the talent from five of the NBA’s biggest stars, humanity’s only hope is a few Looney Tunes and a retired NBA superstar turned outfielder. The heroes prevail of course, with some clever tricks and an inspirational R. Kelly song that is no longer enjoyable to listen to.
SpringHill Entertainment (founded by James and business partner Maverick Carter) worked out a deal with Warner Bros. in 2015 in order to gain rights to the Looney Tunes characters, and the rumors were officially no longer rumors. James was going to star in a vehicle of his own making as he continues to build stock beyond his basketball equity. It’s not as if James needs more recognition or money, he’s one of the most recognizable people in the world and has a lifetime contract with Nike (the details were never revealed, but in a GQ article Carter hinted that it was more than $1 billion). He’s arguably the greatest NBA player in history, but there’s life beyond basketball and James isn’t one to idle.
Space Jam 2 (for the record, I keep typing Space James and now this is all I want) is set to become SpringHill’s first major big-screen production. They’ve got two documentaries under their belt—More Than a Game and I Am a Giant—and a handful of television shows, but the leap to feature film is their next goal as James and company look beyond his athletic career.
Back to the aforementioned snags. The first is the recent development in casting, or lack thereof. One of the most fun things to think and talk about for basketball and movie fans is who the new wave of players should be. Guys like Steph Curry or James Harden quickly come to mind, but the hang-up comes in their shoe contracts. Curry is with Under Armour and Harden with Adidas. Back in 1996, shoe contracts weren’t what they are today, and Nike’s involvement with both James and the Space Jam franchise is going to prevent some of the league’s biggest stars from appearing in the film.
Now, Nike being Nike, they have a smorgasbord of contracted players in The League, but the only ones with mass appeal in regards to performance and recognition are Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Durant likely won’t be in the film because he’s also working on his own projects. In December it was reported that Apple opted to greenlight Swagger, a show based on Durant’s experiences playing AAU basketball in Maryland. Irving already made a basketball movie last summer with Uncle Drew, and has a roller coaster relationship with James going back to their days together in Cleveland, and can’t seem to decide if the Earth is flat or not (though to be fair, there was also some weird tension between the Tune Squad in the original).
In response to this setback, SpringHill made a move to rewrite the script with Ryan Coogler. Originally slated to produce, Coogler is stepping in to revamp the story with more focus on James and friends instead of his NBA cohorts. That’s not to say he’ll be the only player in the movie (James and the Sixers’ Ben Simmons have a close relationship; they share Rich Paul as an agent, have worked out together in the off-season, and SpringHill is already helping Simmons launch a television comedy about growing up in Australia), but it’s no longer going to follow in the footsteps of the original.
Enlisting Coogler to re-work the script was probably one of the easiest decisions to make. He’s one of the top talents in Hollywood and proved his range with the likes of Fruitvale Station, Creed and Creed II, and Black Panther. Why not see what he can do with LeBron James and Bugs Bunny? Perhaps Michael B. Jordan could be of some assistance and take the part of Bill Murray.
When things don’t go according to plan on the court, James has the uncanny ability to take over and shift into a higher gear that no one else has. Things don’t quite work that way when it comes to crafting and producing a film, but adapting to the situation is still a necessity. James and Carter have both proven to be purposely thoughtful in order to avoid portentous calamities that often befall those entering a new venture. A slated release date of 2021 allows time for changes without rushing or delaying the expected release. It also gives time for the TuneSquad to get back into basketball shape after an eventual 25-year layoff.
Why Warner Bros. Hasn’t Found LeBron James’ ‘Space Jam’ Team Yet [Hollywood Reporter]