Space Jam has been a streaming success story in recent weeks, having slam dunked its way into Netflix’s most-watched movie category. While that’s partly because Space Jam is one of the best family movies of all time — and a lot of parents are stuck at home right now watching movies with their kids — the indefinite suspension of NBA games due to the COVID-19 epidemic might also have something to do with the film’s popularity. Basketball fans want to see some games, and watching Michael Jordan and the Looney Tunes ball against some aliens is the next best thing right now.
However, another reason for Space Jam’s current popularity might be because it’s disturbingly topical. You could even call it a prophetic movie as the film’s story mirrors the current NBA situation amid the coronavirus pandemic. In the movie, the villainous aliens steal the talent of the NBA’s best players, which results in the basketball stars feeling out of sorts. Afterward, the season is called off because it’s suspected that the affected players have been struck by a mysterious illness, and the league doesn’t want it to spread.
There’s even a scene that shows Los Angeles Lakers players refusing to enter the locker room because they don’t want to be exposed to the germs of Charles Barkley and Patrick Ewing, both of whom are among the select group of players whose talents have been stolen by the monstrous aliens. Watching the scene in today’s cultural climate, where people are wearing face masks and avoiding each other like the plague, the scene in question develops a new meaning.
During the scene, the Lakers coach at the time, Del Harris, points out that players around the country are experiencing similar woes, which results in Anthony Miller noting that bacteria travels faster than “the speed of light.” With countless coronavirus cases being reported worldwide every single day at the moment, Miller’s statement in the movie has never felt more real.
Of course, Space Jam’s modern resonance is even stronger, considering that several NBA players and personnel recently tested positive for the virus. The affected talents include two unnamed Lakers players, along with big names like Kevin Durant, Marcus Smart, Rudy Gobert, and others.
The scene in the movie where the NBA’s commissioner gives a press conference announcing that the league will be suspended until they can be sure that the players don’t have to worry about their health and safety almost parallels the initial announcement of Gobert testing positive for COVID-19. Following the revelation, his colleagues and opponents were ordered to self-quarantine until they were tested for the virus and cleared.
Space Jam ended happily ever after, with Jordan and the Looney Tunes gang saving the day and forcing the aliens to give the players their abilities back. While the NBA stars are expected to make a full recovery, and the league will return to normal eventually, the coronavirus isn’t as simple as a tidy Hollywood ending. No one could have predicted that a couple of scenes in the movie would boast so much significance 24 years later, but these are strange times indeed.