In 1996, an epic battle took place on a hardwood court in Looney Tune Land. The very soul of Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player and marketing force in human history, hung in the balance.
The home Tune Squad was a ragtag group of Warner Brothers cartoon characters best known for witty quips and slapstick violence. The visiting Monstars were comprised of five extraterrestrials who, in violation of the competition’s terms, had stolen the talent of Jordan’s friends and rivals.
What happened on the court that day echoes in the annals of history; witnesses even insist Jordan’s winning shot defied the laws of physics. What no one seems to mention is that the game should never have reached that point.
Ignoring the fact that they were screwed over by a first-half scoreboard malfunction, opportunistic score keeping and the undefined physical laws of Looney Tune Land, the Monstars scouting department was absolute trash.
They had the opportunity to meet the Tune Squad when they agreed to the original terms of the game, and knew that no matter whose talent they stole, they would have a size advantage.
Still, they chose to steal only Muggsy Bogues' talent as far as guards go, and I would say they chose him more for the novelty of his size than his actual skill as a basketball player.
They rounded out their starting five with four frontcourt players' talent: Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Larry Johnson and Shawn Bradley.
That squad has NO shooting, which means their spacing is a mess. And, in case I forgot to mention, they chose Shawn "The Human Poster" Bradley out of an entire world filled with better basketball players.
Even Joe Dumars thinks that roster doesn't make sense, and it absolutely cost them Michael Jordan's eternal servitude on Moron Mountain. Still, that is the roster the Monstars chose to work with.
Since the NBA general manager position is a revolving door of familiar faces, I am going to assume Mister Swackhammer, the boss the Monstars sent into orbit, got a second chance at building his team.
Also, since NBA general managers never learn from their mistakes, especially when they come within an impossible distended arm of the ultimate prize, I assume he would model the new team on the original Monstars.
After establishing some guidelines, I'm going to take a stab at how that team might look in 2014.
First, like the original Space Jam roster, the best player in the world (Michael Jordan in 1996, LeBron James in 2014) is off the table for the Monstars. They get their pick of the rest of the league, so it's only fair that the Tunes get the alpha dog.
Second, the Monstars' talent pool is limited to current NBA players who have been in the league for four or more years, since the least senior talent victim on the '96 team was Larry Johnson, who had just completed his fourth season when the original matchup took place.
This means no Giannis Antetokounmpo or Anthony Davis, who would be kind of unfair since they're aliens to begin with.
Third, current players will match up with their past counterparts, but since we're talking about (mostly) stars with (occasionally) highly individualized personalities, this will be very rough and open to interpretation.
Fourth, I'm going with the same general position choices as the original Monstars: one center, one Goofy White Center, one guard and two swingmen. (I'm designating Barkley as a swingman because he was very undersized, and picking someone for the Barkley spot is almost impossible even without rigid positional definitions.)
So, without further ado, I give you the 2014 Moron Mountain Monstars:
Center: Dwight Howard
There's really only one superstar center in the NBA right now, and that's Dwight Howard.
Luckily, the Patrick Ewing parallels extend beyond position: both were hotly anticipated, number one overall draft picks. Both have been caught up in compromising sexual situations, been highly scrutinized (fairly or unfairly) for their relative lack of post-season success, and both were well known as defensive forces before injuries slowed them down.
Dwight would love the publicity of having his talent stolen, since he wants everyone to think he's cool and funny, even though he's not. The real treat here would be seeing the exaggerated version of his huge shoulders and tiny head on an alien behemoth. That alone would be worth the price of admission.
Goofy White Center: Pau Gasol
Gasol is Spanish, and since the guidelines prohibit me from putting Darko Milicic here (GOD DAMMIT, I wish I could), the spot goes to him because he looks way more like an ostrich than even Chris Bosh, whose nickname is Boshtrich.
Gasol's goofiness makes him a natural fit, but what sets him apart from other potential Goofy White Centers, like his brother Marc or lumbering Omer Asik (come on, America, where have all our Goofy White Centers gone?), is the fact that he's washed up. Therefore, he's liable to be posterized by anyone on any given night.
There is no Shawn Bradley in the league anymore to tempt people with pure height, lack of athletic ability and general Caucasity, but Gasol's status as a former second-tier superstar makes him a very enticing target, indeed, and that's what you look for in a Goofy White Center.
Swingman 1: Paul George
Paul George gets the Larry Johnson spot as the young, hyper-athletic swingman on the ascent. When the "Space Jam" game was played, Johnson was coming off his second All-Star game, and was a few years removed from winning the Naismith Award as the top college player in the nation.
He starred on the massively popular, mid-90s Charlotte Hornets with Bogues and Alonzo Mourning and in a hit series of commercials for Converse.
George recently more than held his own against James in the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals, then looked like an MVP candidate for the first half of the 2014 season before regressing a bit.
He also starred on the punchline-filled 2014 Pacers, along with Roy Hibbert and Lance Stephenson, and in a highly publicized Gatorade commercial after graphically snapping his leg (also highly publicized).
I don't think there's a Johnson-George parallel regarding George getting cat-fished or trying to bribe a baby mama into an abortion, but I think George should remember that people don't forget.
Basically, in this scenario, Paul George is lame Larry Johnson.
Swingman 2: Blake Griffin
This was the toughest call. Who could possibly fill the position of Sir Charles himself, Chuck Barkley, the Round Mound of Rebound?
The answer is no one, obviously. Chuck is one of our greatest living humans, but the Monstars still have to fill the roster spot, and the battle came down to three players: Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant and Griffin.
Durant is closer to Chuck's level at the height of his powers as a player, and he, like Barkley, has a very distinct body type (Round Mound vs. String Bean).
Melo, until recently, never really cared about keeping his physique at a fitness level above "doughy" or playing defense. He spent years toiling on understocked teams before forcing his way to a situation he liked better in a blockbuster trade.
Blake, as evidenced by his Kia commercials and other public appearances, has an eye for the spotlight, and is an undersized power forward who is funny, well-spoken and terrifying on the fast break.
Ultimately, this decision came down to two crucial factors: 1) The Monstars couldn't not have a player from either the New York or Los Angeles market; 2) the Monstars scouting department is trash, and general manager an idiot.
So, they would never pick someone like Durant or Carmelo, who could spread the court and provide much-needed three-point shooting over someone who can jump over a crappy car in a dunk contest.
The spot goes to Blake.
Guard: Rajon Rondo
The Bogues spot would ideally go to a comically undersized guard who still produces at an extremely high level, but since Nate Robinson is a bench guy and Ty Lawson and Kyle Lowry aren't quite undersized, the spot goes to Rondo.
In Rondo, he lucks into one of the top point guards in the league, though true to Monstars form, he can't shoot a lick and, in that sense, is a floor-spacing nightmare.
I actually think this edition of the team would be favored around -6.5 to beat the Tune Squad. They get an upgrade at the Goofy White Center spot (from the huge negative of Bradley to the slight positive of Gasol), which probably puts them over the top.
Like I said multiple times, spacing and shooting would be nightmarish, but George and Gasol at least give them a little bit of breathing room. Watching Monstar Rondo throw lobs to Monstar Blake, or Monstar Paul George get extorted by a Monstar prostitute, would, without a doubt, be a lot of fun.
This collection of players is distinctive looking enough that the team picture would probably replace Bob Marley as the most cliched dorm-room poster for stoners within three to four years.
Could LeBron raise the rest of the Tunes to a high enough level, defy enough laws of physics and get enough help from Bill Murray to push the Tunes over the top?
Or will his detractors have one more big game to point to where Jordan would have done what he couldn't? We'll have to hope for a one game for LeBron's soul wager to find out.
Or another NBa2K mod. Either one works.