How the Monstars Could Have Won in Space Jam

Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

In 1993, the basketball landscape was dramatically changed when Michael Jordan retired from the game. Compounding the shock of his departure was the fact the he eventually got sucked through a golf hole and transported to an animated alternate dimension where he inspired a squad of Warner Bros.-licensed cartoon characters to victory over a team of aliens (the Nerdlucks) who had stolen the talents of five earthbound basketball stars. By beating the Monstars 78-77, Michael Jordan and the Tune Squad won their freedom, as they were playing for the right to not be held prisoner in an intergalactic theme park. These events are shown in the critically acclaimed 1996 documentary Space Jam.

With rumors floating around of a Space Jam sequel starring LeBron James, the Monstars would be well served to approach this second opportunity with smarter planning. Naturally, they should look at that original defeat, as history tends to repeat itself.

Considering they were leading 66-18 at half, one can’t help but think the Monstars let this crucial game slip away. What could they have done to prevent such a meltdown? The most effective fix would have to have been implemented before the game even started: they should’ve stolen the talent of better NBA players.

Of all the basketball players in the universe, the Nerdlucks stole the talents of Patrick Ewing, Charles Barkley, Larry Johnson, Muggsy Bogues, and Shawn Bradley. Beyond not establishing a bench, the aliens eschewed a standard lineup for one with two slow, plodding centers and no wings. Even more inexplicable was that, of the two centers chosen, one was Shawn Bradley, “The Stormin’ Mormon,” who averaged a paltry 8.1 points per game during his less than stellar NBA career. Considering this was the most important game of the Monstars' lives, their preparation and scouting were unbelievably lackadaisical. In a one-point game, this was the difference.

Were they to start over, they likely wouldn’t have chosen any of those players, and here’s why.

Monstars Were Statistically Unimpressive

Who the Monstars went to for interior defense. // Getty Images

According to the Harvard College Sports Analysis Collective, who compiled stats for the Space Jam game, two Monstars combined to score 71 of their 77 points: Pound (the alien with Charles Barkley’s talent) and Bupkus (the alien with Patrick Ewing’s). In case you were wondering, the Nerdluck who had stolen Shawn Bradley’s talent tallied 0 points, 0 rebounds, 0 assists, 0 steals, and 0 blocks (despite being nearly 10 feet tall).

Assuming the events took place after 1993 but before 1995, the ’94-’95 NBA season is our best indicator of player performance at the time of the Tune Squad-Monstars game. According to’s advance stats, the Nerdlucks didn’t steal the talent of a single player in the top five when it came to VORP ("Value Over Replacement Player"), PER (“Player Efficiency Rating”), or Win Shares Per 48 Minutes.

Factoring all those advanced metrics, the best starting five the Monstars could have chosen would likely have been:

C: David Robinson (8.1 VORP, .273 WS/48, 29.1 PER)
PF: Karl Malone (6.1 VORP, .212 WS/48, 25.1 PER)
SF: Scottie Pippen (7.4 VORP, .188 WS/48, 22.6 PER)
SG: Clyde Drexler (5.9 VORP, .206 WS/48, 22.4 PER)
PG: John Stockton (5.4 VORP, .233 WS/48, 23.3 PER)

(You can argue for Hakeem Olajuwon over Robinson—it's hard not to.)

By using those Win Shares per 48 minutes (the "average number of wins produced by a player per 48 minutes"—check this out for a more in-depth analysis), we can extrapolate that team's performance if they played all 82 games of an NBA regular season without missing a single minute and figure out total wins produced. 

What about fatigue, you ask? These are alien monsters, so that argument is absurd. You are being absurd.

By taking their WS/48 and multiplying it by 3936 (the total number of minutes an NBA team will play in a season), the above team would have won 90 games out of a possible 82. Pretty good.

The actual Monstars line-up of Ewing (.157 WS/48), Barkley (.214 WS/48), Johnson (.126 WS/48), Bogues (.157 WS/48), and Bradley (.071 WS/48) would have won 60 games in that same NBA season. They wouldn't have even had the best record in the league in '94-'95, as the San Antonio Spurs (who had no alien monsters) won 62 games. Why wouldn't the Monstars go with a team that would win eight more games than was even possible?

Given that this was the mid-‘90s, advanced metrics were little-used or understood, even for a species of aliens like the Nerdlucks who had mastered inter-dimensional and inter-planetary travel. Even so, the superior team I selected more than passes the eye test, so they have no excuse.

The Jordan Problem

Getty Images

As the best player in history, Michael Jordan was always going to pose a problem for the Monstars. In Space Jam, he went 22-22, scoring 44 points (including the game-winning three-point dunk at the buzzer). No one is stopping Jordan, but you could definitely do a better job slowing him down. Here are some options.

Scottie Pippen

Pippen is making the Monstars based on overall stats alone, but as one of the best wing defenders of all time, he is a no-brainer when it comes to guarding Jordan. Even more importantly, however, is his intimate knowledge of Jordan's game. It's always said that no one guarded MJ better than Pippen did during Bulls practices, and beside his innate athleticism and skill set, Scottie knew all his teammate's tendencies. The only issue is falling into the trope of a brainwashed friend being reminded of his true allegiances at the most inopportune moment. Scottie, it's me, Michael. You remember, don't you? We won all those championships together, buddy. I know you're in there. I just know it!

Big risk.

Gary Payton

Stockton is the statistical choice for the Monstars point guard, but if they wanted to muck Jordan's game up, they should have considered Seattle Supersonics PG Gary Payton. Although his famous finals matchup with Jordan didn't happen until after the events of Space Jam, The Glove had already shown himself to be a ferocious defender. (In that finals against the Bulls, Payton helped hold Jordan to under 30 points in five of the six games the teams played, the best-ever defense of Jordan in any finals series. Unlike against the Monstars, Michael Jordan did not post a perfect field goal percentage.)

Mitch Richmond

If you can't stop Jordan from scoring, you might as well make him work on the defensive end. Michael Jordan surprisingly listed Richmond as the most difficult shooting guard he had to defend during his career. Whether this was just a case of the notoriously prickly Jordan refusing to give more heralded opponents credit is up in the air, but either way, Richmond surely would've been a better selection for the Monstars than Shawn Bradley.

A Stronger Players' Union

Making a mockery of the game. // Warner Bros.

Besides choosing better players, the Monstars could have benefited from a CBA that took into account and prevented the types of shenanigans the Tune Squad would try to pull. As the Harvard College Sports Analysis Collective points out, the only missed field goal came from the Monstar with Patrick Ewing's talent (naturally), and it occurred after Wile E. Coyote (up until that point, an ineffective bench player) rigged the hoop with explosives. Banning or regulating such ACME devices should have been a non-negotiable part of the union's collective bargaining strategy, and they messed up big time by letting it slide. Without it, the Tune Squad would have lost 79-78. That's all, folks.

14 Retro Gifts for Millennials

Ravi Palwe, Unsplash
Ravi Palwe, Unsplash

Millennials were born between 1981 and 1996, which means the pop culture they grew up with is officially retro. No matter what generation you belong to, consider these gifts when shopping for the Millennials in your life this holiday season.

1. Reptar Funko Pop!; $29


This vinyl Reptar figurine from Funko is as cool as anything you’d find in the rugrats’ toy box. The monster dinosaur has been redesigned in classic Pop! style, making it a perfect desk or shelf accessory for the grown-up Nickelodeon fan. It also glows in the dark, which should appeal to anyone’s inner child.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Dragon Ball Z Slippers; $20

Hot Topic

You don’t need to change out of your pajamas to feel like a Super Saiyan. These slippers are emblazoned with the same kanji Goku wears on his gi in Dragon Ball Z: one for training under King Kai and one for training with Master Roshi. And with a soft sherpa lining, the footwear feels as good as it looks.

Buy it: Hot Topic

3. The Pokémon Cookbook; $15

Hop Topic

What do you eat after a long day of training and catching Pokémon? Any dish in The Pokémon Cookbook is a great option. This book features more than 35 recipes inspired by creatures from the Pokémon franchise, including Poké Ball sushi rolls and mashed Meowth potatoes.

Buy it: Hot Topic

4. Lisa Frank Activity Book; $5

Urban Outfitters

Millennials will never be too old for Lisa Frank, especially when the artist’s playful designs come in a relaxing activity book. Watercolor brings the rainbow characters in this collection to life. Just gather some painting supplies and put on a podcast for a relaxing, nostalgia-fueled afternoon.

Buy it: Urban Outfitters

5. Shoebox Tape Recorder with USB; $28


The days of recording mix tapes don’t have to be over. This device looks and functions just like tape recorders from the pre-smartphone era. And with a USB port as well as a line-in jack and built-in mic, users can easily import their digital music collection onto retro cassette tapes.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Days of the Week Scrunchie Set; $12

Urban Outfitters

Millennials can be upset that a trend from their youth is old enough to be cool again, or they can embrace it. This scrunchie set is for anyone happy to see the return of the hair accessory. The soft knit ponytail holders come in a set of five—one for each day of the school (or work) week.

Buy it: Urban Outfitters

7. D&D Graphic T-shirt; $38-$48

80s Tees

The perfect gift for the Dungeon Master in your life, this graphic tee is modeled after the cover of the classic Dungeons & Dragons rule book. It’s available in sizes small through 3XL.

Buy it: 80s Tees

8. Chuck E. Cheese T-shirt; $36-$58

80s Tees

Few Millennials survived childhood without experiencing at least one birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese. This retro T-shirt sports the brand’s original name: Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theatre. It may be the next-best gift for a Chuck E. Cheese fan behind a decommissioned animatronic.

Buy it: 80s Tees

9. The Nightmare Before Christmas Picnic Blanket Bag; $40

Shop Disney

Fans of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas will recognize the iconic scene on the front of this messenger bag. Unfold it and the bag becomes a blanket fit for a moonlit picnic among the pumpkins. The bottom side is waterproof and the top layer is made of soft fleece.

Buy it: Shop Disney

10. Toy Story Alien Socks; $15

Shop Disney

You don’t need to be skilled at the claw machine to take home a pair of these socks. Decorated with the aliens from Toy Story, they’re made from soft-knit fabric and are big enough to fit adult feet.

Buy it: Shop Disney

11. Goosebumps Board Game; $24


Fans that read every book in R.L. Stine’s series growing up can now play the Goosebumps board game. In this game, based on the Goosebumps movie, players take on the role of their favorite monster from the series and race to the typewriter at the end of the trail of manuscripts.

Buy it: Amazon

12. Tamagotchi Mini; $19


If you know someone who killed their Tamagotchi in the '90s, give them another chance to show off their digital pet-care skills. This Tamagotchi is a smaller, simplified version of the original game. It doubles as a keychain, so owners have no excuse to forget to feed their pet.

Buy it: Amazon

13. SNES Classic; $275


The SNES Classic is much easier to find now than when it first came out, and it's still just as entertaining for retro video game fans. This mini console comes preloaded with 21 Nintendo games, including Super Mario Kart and Street Fighter II.

Buy it: Amazon

14. Planters Cheez Balls; $24


Planters revived its Cheez Balls in 2018 after pulling them from shelves nearly a decade earlier. To Millennials unaware of that fact, this gift could be their dream come true. The throwback snack even comes in the classic canister fans remember.

Buy it: Amazon

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America’s Most Popular Horror Movie Villains, Mapped

No matter how you feel about scary movies, it's hard to avoid them around Halloween. This is the time of year when the faces of cinema's classic horror villains seem to pop up in every store window and television set you see. Depending on where you live, certain horror icons may be especially hard to ignore. Check out the map below to find out the most popular scary movie villain in your state.

To make the map, chose 15 classic horror movie antagonists and looked at regional Google Trends data for each name from the past year. Frankenstein's Monster from 1931's Frankenstein dominates most of the country, with 11 states including Pennsylvania and Arizona searching for the character. Ghostface from 1996's Scream ranked second with eight states. Chucky from Child's Play (1988), the Xenomorph from the Alien franchise, and Norman Bates from Psycho (1960) also rank high on the list.

Not every Halloween term Americans are searching for is horror-related. Some of the more wholesome seasonal queries that appear in Google's data include candy, crafts, and maze. But for every Google user searching for family-friendly fall activities, there are plenty looking up horror movies and monsters as well. Here's what people are Googling in your state for Halloween.