Compiling The Absurd Box Score For Space Jam; Or, Shawn Bradley Sucked Against Cartoons, Too

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This is Regressing, a numbers-minded column by our clever friends at the Harvard College Sports Analysis Collective. Over the next few days, they'll be applying rigorous statistical analysis to some of the finest basketball movies in the history of cinema (and also Hoosiers). Today: Space Jam by the numbers.

By now, we're all familiar with the story: In 1994, an alien spacecraft lands in a minor league ballpark in rural Alabama, delivering Birmingham Barons outfielder Michael Jordan just in time for the first pitch. Though team officials are initially upset about the booster-jet inflicted damage to the field, their shock melts away when the magnitude of what Jordan accomplished during his brief disappearance becomes apparent — the salvation of the Looney Tunes universe via basketball game, as documented in the 1996 film Space Jam.

Our concern here is with the game itself, which pitted Jordan and his cartoon friends against a team of alien invaders who'd stolen the abilities of Patrick Ewing, Charles Barkley, Larry Johnson, Muggsy Bogues, and — don't ask me why — Shawn Bradley. Freedom was on the line. A Monstars victory would mean a life of servitude for the Tunes in Moron Mountain, the theme park on the Monstars' home planet.


You can watch every possession in the video above; the box score is below. A quick recap: The Monstars, behind a vicious defense and a quick-strike transition offense featuring the unprecedented three-point-line dunk, seize early control and take a 66-18 lead into the half. Pound (Barkley) and Bupkus (Ewing) are dominant. Things look grim for MJ, Bugs, and crew.

But the Tunes uncork a 48-2 run in the second half to pull within two points late in the fourth quarter. The dearth of offensive production by the Monstars during this stretch is puzzling. Turnovers? Did they abandon the three-point-line dunk? The answer no doubt lies on the cutting-room floor. There's an equally confusing run at the end of the game. As paramedics inflate Jordan's assistant Stan Podolak following his lone bucket, the scoreboard clearly shows the Monstars ahead 77-67 with 10 seconds remaining. Yet following his treatment and the surprise entrance of Bill Murray, the score has changed to 77-76 with no time having elapsed. Perhaps Marvin the Martian, the head official, got fed up with the Monstars' rugged defense—they injured all but four of the players on the original Tunes roster—and issued a slew of technical fouls. We'll never know. All we know is that the game ends on Jordan's dramatic, half-court arm-stretching dunk as time expires. How about that: The team with the widest appeal and most marketable superstar wins the big game by some mysterious contrivance. You might say this is ridiculous. I call it verisimilitude.


Now, the box score (I've extrapolated the totals over 48 minutes):


Michael Jordan22-220-00-0000024424
Bugs Bunny5-50-00-0030041010
Lola Bunny4-40-00-00000088
Daffy Duck2-20-00-00010344
Tasmanian Devil2-20-00-00000044
Wile E.0-00-00-00000100
Porky Pig1-10-00-00000122
Elmer Fudd1-10-00-00000022
Pepé Le Pew1-10-00-00000022
Tweety Bird0-00-00-00000000
S. Podolak1-10-00-00000020
Bill Murray0-00-00-00000000


Pound (Barkley)16-165-50-0006013737
Bang (Johnson)3-30-00-00020066
Nawt (Bogues)0-00-00-00640000
Bupkus (Ewing)15-164-40-0002003434
Blanko (Bradley)0-00-00-00000000

A few things worth noting:

• Tunes scored 132 points per 100 possessions. The Monstars scored 154. That's obviously impossible, since the team with the higher offensive efficiency is pretty much by definition the team that wins the game. The issue is selection bias — we see more successful Monstars' possessions in the movie. The other issue is that the movie doesn't make any sense.


• Jordan's usage rate is 44 percent, meaning he used 44 percent of his team's possessions. For comparison's sake, the NBA single-season record is Kobe's 39 percent in 2006. MJ is second at 38 percent. There were plenty of games in which Jordan actually exceeded that 44 percent usage rate. In Game 6 of the 1998 Finals, for instance, he checked in at 55 percent. This is probably the second-most realistic part of the movie.

• Both teams shot an extraordinary percentage from the field, due in large part to the vast majority of field goals scored by dunk. In fact, only one field goal was missed during the action in the film — Bupkus was thwarted by the initiative of one Wile E. Coyote and his timely detonation of a small cache of explosives strategically placed around the hoop.


• Michael Jordan and Stan Podolak were the only two players to record a non-dunk field goal attempt, Podolak's coming after being dog-piled and smashed to the ground by the Monstar team. The ball squirted out and found its way into the hoop; inexplicably, he did not draw a foul.

• No rebounds were recorded in the game by either team, a testament to the high levels of offensive efficiency on both sides.


• Marvin the Martian exhibited little control over the proceedings, whistling no personal fouls on either team. It's unclear whether his extraterrestrial origins biased him in favor of the alien visitors, looking the other way as the Tunes players were flattened, stomped, and dismembered, but the non-calls appeared to even out in the end (viz., dynamite).

• Bill Murray, Club Trillion member.

• Blanko, the Shawn Bradley Monstar, failed to register a single stat throughout the course of the game. Even in a world where Elmer Fudd has a 40-inch vertical, Bradley's "talent" can't muster even a shot attempt. This is the most realistic aspect of the movie.



Hoosiers | An Advanced Statistical Analysis Of Jimmy Chitwood's Basketball Performance In Hoosiers


BASEketball | It'd Take Trey Parker A Million Years To Lose, And Other Statistical Oddities Of BASEketball

The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air | Calculating The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air's Usage Rate, And What It Can Tell Us About Ball Hogs


Teen Wolf | Was Scott Howard Actually Better Than Teen Wolf? A Statistical Investigation

The Harvard College Sports Analysis Collective is a student club dedicated to quantitative analysis of sports strategy and business. Follow them on Twitter, @Harvard_Sports. If you have any comments or ideas for future columns, email them to


Video editing by Kate Shapiro.