As everyone celebrates the 20th anniversary of Space Jam, this might be the perfect time to take a second look at NBA legend Michael Jordan’s other borderline science fiction crossover: the video for Michael Jackson’s song “Jam.” Was this the secret Space Jam prequel hiding in plain sight?
Initially released as a single in 1992, the song “Jam” opens Michael Jackson’s 1993 album Dangerous with a bang. Well, actually, it opens with the sound of crashing glass. And because Michael Jordan is integral to our understanding of the song, we can totally read this breaking glass sound effect as an homage to Michael Jordan famously smashing the backboard of a basketball hoop during an exhibition game in 1985. But the breaking glass also — retroactively — is where the sci-fi universe of Space Jam was probably created.
The video for “Jam” is where the proto-Space Jam connections are on full display. Famously, the music video features the two M.J.’s: Michael Jackson and Michael Jordan. They square off in a game of b-ball, and also, a half-hearted dance battle. On an abandoned basketball court, Michael Jordan whispers to Michael Jackson, “Show me how to dance.” The results are mostly cheesy and embarrassing, but the parallel universe ethereal basketball concept seems like the spiritual predecessor to Space Jam.
Plus, Michael Jackson was no stranger to hanging out with cartoons in science fiction settings. His 1988 film Moonwalker not only saw him transform into a giant robot and starship, but it also featured a memorable dance-battle with a cartoon rabbit, who is decidedly not Bugs Bunny. In another Space Jam similarity, Moonwalker is like many of Jackson’s longer-than-you’d-expect music videos insofar as it contained a lot of celebrities in pseudo cameos, most notably Joe Pesci. Between the music video for “Jam” and the entirety of Moonwalker, it seems like Space Jam could have been Michael Jackson’s idea. In short: The concept is just ludicrous enough to work.
It’s certainly okay to love the title song “Space Jam” by the Quad City DJ’s, but it’s an inferior song to Jackson’s “Jam” in almost every single way. Plus, the talent on “Jam” (other than Michael Jackson and Michael Jordan) includes Kris Kross, Naughty By Nature, and Heavy D. Again, this feels like Quad City DJ’s couldn’t have really existed without “Jam” breaking open the boundaries to this alternate dimension in the first place.
During the 1992 NBA season, Jackson’s “Jam” was featured heavily at Chicago Bulls games and in promotions. But, four years later, sadly, “Jam” was nowhere on the Space Jam soundtrack, despite the fact that it totally should have been. Because no matter how you look at it, the goofy sci-fi equation for creating Space Jam looks something like this: