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Inside Lebron's Space Jam sequel

Illustration by Alexander Wells

Will & Grace creator David Kohan joins ESPN The Magazine's screenplay series with a story about how Lebron James saved a movie that didn't need saving.

FADE IN

INT. SPACE JAM 2 MOVIE SET -- DAY

Inside a soundstage we see a basketball court crowded with movie crew members, cameras, lights, etc. At the center of it all is LEBRON JAMES surrounded by his teammates, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig and Elmer Fudd. Actually, it's just bored, dispirited, nonunion human stand-ins wearing name placards. The real Looney Tunes haven't been on set in three days. There are rumors that LeBron has rewritten all their lines. There are rumors of a STRIKE.

A DIRECTOR sits in a chair next to one of the cameras. He calls out:

DIRECTOR
OK, hold the work, everybody! We're going to shoot this one.

The 2ND A.C. moves in front of LeBron and the stand-ins to mark the scene with a clapper.

2ND A.C.
Space Jam 2, Scene 12, camera mark!

He claps and exits.

DIRECTOR
Camera ...

The camera PUSHES IN to LeBron as he sits dejectedly on the bench with his teammates.

LEBRON
OK, action!

DIRECTOR
LeBron, we discussed this. I'm supposed to say (off LeBron's death stare) ... but you got this, you know what you're doing. LeBron returns to his teammates.

LEBRON
Guys, we're going to need more help if we're going to have any chance against the Monstars. What free agents are available this summer?

PORKY PIG STAND-IN
(Summoning great emphasis) Well, there's K-K-K-K-K-K-K-K-K-K-

DAFFY DUCK STAND-IN
Kevin Durant?

PORKY PIG STAND-IN
Yes, and K-K-K-K-K-K-K-K-K-K-K-K-

ELMER FUDD STAND-IN
Kway Thompson?

PORKY PIG STAND-IN
Yes, and K-K-K-K-K-K-K-K-K-K-K-K-

BUGS BUNNY STAND-IN
Kemba Walker?

PORKY PIG STAND-IN
Yes, and K-K-K-K-K-K-K-K-K-K-K-K-

DAFFY DUCK STAND-IN
Kyrie--

LEBRON
Man, cut!

DIRECTOR
LeBron, we discussed this. I'm supposed to say (off LeBron's death stare) ... but you got this, you know what you're doing.

LEBRON
Is my agent here? Rich Paul, are you on the set?

DIRECTOR
Everybody take five!

RICH PAUL runs up to be with LeBron. Everyone exits, leaving LeBron and Rich alone to talk.

LEBRON
How do you think it's going so far?

RICH
It was pretty funny when--

LEBRON
'Cause I think it's terrible.

RICH
Absolutely. I didn't mean funny "ha-ha," I meant funny "terrible." You know, like, man, world hunger, it's, like ... it's funny.

LEBRON
I think we need to get rid of my entire supporting cast and get one guy who's great. Can we get Jack-Jack from The Incredibles?

RICH
You want to trade your entire supporting cast for Jack-Jack, who's under contract to Pixar?

LEBRON
Is that a bad idea?

RICH
Well, yes--

LEBRON
'Cause I love it.

RICH
Me too! I didn't mean yes "yes." I meant yes "no." Like, "Do I wish you'd retire and let me run the agency by myself? Pssssh, yes." Meaning no.

LEBRON
Start with a lowball offer to Pixar: Fudd, D-Duck and the craft services lady. But just know that we're willing to trade every Looney Tune to get Jack-Jack.

RICH
Got it.

LEBRON
And obviously, keep this on the down low. If for some reason this deal doesn't go through and the Looney Tunes find out, it could get seriously awkward.

CUT TO:

EXT. MOVIE THEATER -- EVENING

CHYRON: "1 Year Later"

Ballyhooing spotlights help illuminate the marquee that reads "TONIGHT: SPACE JAM 2 PREMIERE"

CUT TO:

INT. MOVIE THEATER

The theater is packed. There are a number of famous people from the NBA and several cartoon characters in the audience. LeBron stands onstage at a dais, delivering his introductory remarks into a microphone.

LEBRON
... firing a director is never easy. And it's especially difficult when your first choice to replace him turns you down. And your second choice. And your third, fourth, fifth and sixth. But I think you'll agree when you see this film that Frank Vogel did an amazing job ...

ANGLE ON: Doc Rivers and Steve Ballmer are in the audience, engaged in conversation with Rob Pelinka.

ROB PELINKA
... and Kubrick says to me, "I'm enjoying retirement, but I'll do it for you, Rob. Set up that meeting with Kobe." So that's happening next week.

STEVE BALLMER
Stanley Kubrick?

ROB PELINKA
I call him Stan, or Kubes, or Kuberty, or Kubic Hair, but yeah.

DOC RIVERS
He died in '99.

ROB PELINKA
(Long beat) I stand by my story.

ANGLE ON: LeBron continues.

LEBRON
... you know, when I first signed on to be a part of the Space Jam franchise, I thought my presence alone would attract stars and ensure success. But it hasn't been so easy. Things happen. Sometimes a studio head quits without telling anyone, sometimes you're surrounded by really expensive cameras that can't shoot. But before we start the movie, I want to quickly introduce my supporting cast. Shoutout to the big man, my partner Jack-Jack! Jack-Jack, where are you?

LeBron shields his eyes from the glare of the lights and scans the crowd for Jack-Jack.

ANGLE ON: Jack-Jack stands up at his seat, waves in acknowledgment of the applause. As the rest of the cast is introduced, they stand and wave.

LEBRON (CONT'D)
And give it up for Buck Cluck from Chicken Little ... Duke Weaselton from Zootopia ... Roquefort from The Aristocats ... and JaVale McGee!

ANGLE ON: JaVale McGee stands up.

ANGLE ON: Doc Rivers and Steve Ballmer.

DOC RIVERS
(Whispering to Ballmer) LeBron and Jack-Jack and a bunch of scrubs?! How is this going to work?

ANGLE ON: LeBron continues.

LEBRON
... so without further ado, I give you Space Jam 2!

The lights dim, the curtain rises. On the screen we see the projected title "Space Jam 2 starring LeBron James."

CUT TO:

INT. BACKSTAGE -- A LITTLE LATER

The crew is backstage. They seem concerned. LeBron clocks this and finds Rich Paul.

LEBRON
Rich, what's up?

RICH
I got some bad news, man. Jack-Jack just got injured.

LEBRON
In the theater?

RICH
On screen. Right after the opening credits.

LEBRON
What? How is that possible? We shot the movie. He was perfectly healthy throughout the filming.

RICH
I know, right? Look, we knew he was injury-prone. We took a gamble bringing him onto this film.

LEBRON
But the film was shot! How could he get injured on a film that's already been shot and during which he was perfectly healthy?

RICH
He feels bad about it, man. Dude's just fragile. He's out for the rest of the movie.

LEBRON
That literally makes no sense! (Stares into the camera while making his meme face from the JR Smith incident)

RICH
Hey. Playing KD for 12 straight minutes in Game 5 made no sense, but it happened.

LEBRON
We gambled everything to get Jack-Jack on this movie. It has to be a hit or my legacy is tainted! Do you understand that!?!

RICH
Yes, so I have an idea.

LEBRON
What is it?

RICH
We blame everything on Jeanie Buss and Rob Pelinka, go to the Marvel people and see if we can set up a superhero movie starring you.

LEBRON
What's the story?

RICH
New York City is a post-apocalyptic hellscape thanks to the leadership of an incompetent and indifferent overlord named James Dolan. The people are in a state of abject despair. One day a little girl looks up to the sky to see a caped beacon of hope, a giant K emblazoned across his chest.

LEBRON
... Like, for "King"?

RICH
Ye--

LEBRON
'Cause I think it should be an L.

RICH
That's what I meant. You know, like, K as in "JK, I really mean L."

LEBRON
(Soothed) I'm listening ...

Rich continues talking as he and LeBron walk out the exit of the theater, AND WE:

FADE TO BLACK.