Compiling The Absurd Box Score For Space Jam

This is Part 2 of our movie series.
Part 1: Hoosiers

By Andrew Mooney

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.

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.

Tunes Squad

Michael Jordan 22-22 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 2 44 24
Bugs Bunny 5-5 0-0 0-0 0 3 0 0 4 10 10
Lola Bunny 4-4 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 8 8
Daffy Duck 2-2 0-0 0-0 0 0 1 0 3 4 4
Tasmanian Devil 2-2 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 4 4
Sylvester 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0
Wile E. 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0
Porky Pig 1-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 1 2 2
Elmer Fudd 1-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 2 2
Pepé Le Pew 1-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 2 2
Foghorn 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0
Tweety Bird 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
S. Podolak 1-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0
Bill Murray 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Totals 39-39 0-0 0-0 0 3 1 0 15 78 56


Pound (Barkley) 16-16 5-5 0-0 0 0 6 0 1 37 37
Bang (Johnson) 3-3 0-0 0-0 0 0 2 0 0 6 6
Nawt (Bogues) 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 6 4 0 0 0 0
Bupkus (Ewing) 15-16 4-4 0-0 0 0 2 0 0 34 34
Blanko (Bradley) 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Totals 34-35 9-9 0-0 0 6 14 0 1 77 77

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. He did have plenty of games where he 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.

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91 Responses to Compiling The Absurd Box Score For Space Jam

  1. Pingback: What Did The Box Score In Space Jam Look Like? –

  2. Martin Dunham says:

    Best part is where the Tunes make a Dream Team-esque run to get back in the game by making no steals, forcing no turnovers, blocking no shots, and the Monstars miss only 1 shot.

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  4. Tony B. says:

    When did Bupkus miss his shot?

    Because there is a missed shot, shouldn’t the Tunes be credited with a team rebound?

    • Mike S. says:

      If you pay careful attention, you’ll notice that Bupkus never actually attempts to shoot the ball, thus no rebound. As I’m sure you no, a player leaving their feet does not constitute a shot attempt (jump and pass, up and down, etc.). It should be recorded as a turnover however.

  5. Martin Dunham says:

    “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.” -above

    But I think Tony is right, I think that missed FG’s/FT’s have to add up and equal rebounds, which is why they award team rebounds. I know of an old statisticians manual from the 1980s online if you would like me to post it for the definition.

    • Jeff says:

      If you had ever seen the movie, or even thought about the situation, you would’ve realized that the explosives caused the ball to either disintegrate or be blown out of bounds. Either case would lead to neither team being credited with a rebound. You could save your time looking at rule books and consider the possibilities.

  6. Harmy G says:

    Were Pound and Bupkus dunking it from the 3-point line?

  7. Using a ringer is against the spirit of the game.

  8. TJ says:

    I have taken issue to Buffalo Wild Wings stupid commercial. It was so overplayed during NCAA Tournament. If you are going to have that much presence, get your shit together.

    1. The score is 20-27. Dudes says, “the only thing that would make this better would be overtime.”
    2. Thanks to a creative groundskeeper, the team with 20 points returns the kick off.
    3. When he returns kick announcer says, “we are heading into overtime.” But, score is now only 26-27.
    4. When kicker is about to kick, announcer says, “for the win.” When it would only tie it.
    5. When kicker goes for extra point, the sprinkler hits him, and he misses. Not for the win, no overtime, and team who returns kick loses.


    • NuckFuggets says:

      I think it’s because that was in actual OT and they made him miss the kick to keep the game going in OT. That’s how I viewed it.

    • HPD says:

      So, you don’t have a problem with the whole sprinkler thing, with the heads perfectly positioned in the path of the runner and the grounds keeper knowing the right button for each one … But you have a problem with their math?

    • Palumbo says:

      If you watch closer, the touchdown was in the fourth quarter, him saying “we’re going into overtime” was just the assumption the PAT would be made. The kicker wasn’t going for the extra point, it was an actual field goal, and it was taking place in overtime, not directly after the touchdown. Therefore, it would have actually been for the win. Missing it kept overtime going, as NuckFuggets said. Thus, making you the asshole for your failed complaint. lol

  9. Thomas Kostielney says:

    Jordan jumped from half court to dunk it at the end, that would be a 3 pt. shot. Other than that, awesome work.

    • Andrew Mooney says:

      But the official scorer only gave him two points; when he took off, the score was 77-76, and the score after the dunk was 78-77. Remember, Marvin wasn’t on his A-game that day.

    • Hobbes Tiger says:

      Maybe in the NBA. This isn’t the NBA.

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  13. jake says:

    It seems that Jordan’s final shot should have been a 3 pointer, even though it was a dunk, since despite his stretchy arm his feet were far behind the three point line.

  14. HPD says:

    Shawn Bradley … #2 draft pick, yeah? What’s the collective salary behind the crew that made that call?

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  20. Charles says:

    How dare u ruin this for me

  21. tomcook11 says:

    that wasn’t a cartoon version of shawn bradley, that was actually just shawn bradley. clearly, cast for his already alien-esque looking face.

  22. Claudia says:

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  23. Nick says:

    As for those who are debating the meaning that the broadcaster of the buffalo wild wings commercial announced that the final field goal shown would be for the win, I am here to put those arguments to rest. If you look closely, you will see that just prior to the kick, the scoreboard is displayed at the bottom of your screen. This reveals that the kick took place on 2nd and goal with 3:19left in OVERTIME. Why the coach of Detroit would make this decision is baffling and even more so when you consider how the broadcaster said that the shown field goal the kick is “Forr the win!” The producers of this advertisement are clever, yet their commercial lacks key points of detail and some common sense . I agree with the comment left by Palumbo, but used what he and several others did not observe when anylizing this advertisement.

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  30. D says:

    Doesn’t Pepe Le Pew get a tip in bucket that is a kiss?

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  69. Hobbes Tiger says:

    But when you compile the stats, don’t forget that we didn’t see every possession in the movie. Your stats may not be accurate.

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