4 References to the Original Space Jam in Space Jam: A New Legacy You Might Have Missed

As someone who loves when a sequel finds a way to subtly reference its predecessor, I really enjoyed the way Space Jam: A New Legacy made those important connections. Even the most casual of Space Jam fans can find something to love about the new film and its reverence for the source material. From the inclusion of the first film's villains to a hilarious cameo from a Michael Jordan, Space Jam: A New Legacy did just what it needed to do to crush any and all expectations. Ahead are the four biggest connections you might've missed between the 1996 and 2021 films.

Bugs and Lola Bunny Make Cheeky References to the First Film
Warner Bros.

Bugs and Lola Bunny Make Cheeky References to the First Film

Despite never outright discussing the events of the first film, both Lola and Bugs Bunny make a sly reference. When LeBron first arrives to Tune World and lets Bugs know he's in trouble, the cartoon says, "That's familiar," with a cheeky look towards the audience before explaining the plot of the first film to a T. Later, as Bugs and LeBron try to convince Lola to join their team, Bugs mentions that this might be her only chance to play with a professional basketball player. Like Bugs, she replies, "Been there done that."

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The Opposing Team Gets Their Powers From Real Basketball Stars

Had it not been for Charles Barkley, Shawn Bradley, Patrick Ewing, Larry Johnson, and Muggsy Bogues, the Nerdlucks would've never become the formidable Monstars the Tune Squad battles in Space Jam. Rather than stealing the basketball talents of Klay Thompson, Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard, Diana Taurasi, and Nneka Ogwumike, the Goon Squad utilizes the virtual scans of the players from Dom Ball. Al-G then upgrades them from regular NBA and WNBA stars to goons with superpowers reminiscent of their sports monikers.

A Michael Jordan Makes an Appearance at Halftime
Everett Collection

A Michael Jordan Makes an Appearance at Halftime

Notice how I said, "A Michael Jordan," and not just "Michael Jordan." That's because Michael Jordan, star of the 1996 original, doesn't actually make an appearance in the sequel. Instead, while the Looney Tunes are arguing about what they need to beat the Goon Squad, Sylvester tells the team that he found Michael Jordan in the audience. However, it's just actor Michael B. Jordan rather than the basketball superstar. The actor does his best to give the group a Friday Night Lights pep talk, saying, "Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose," but the Looney Tunes make him leave. Another reference to the original happens during the halftime scene, where Bugs looks like he's about to bust out some "secret stuff" as he did in the original.

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The Nerdlucks Attend the Dom Ball Showdown

Out of all the film's connections to Space Jam, I probably got the most joy from the Nerdlucks' surprise appearance. Knowing that Space Jam: A New Legacy had been considered a stand-alone follow-up versus a direct sequel, I didn't have high hopes that these weird little aliens would be present. Did they say or do anything particularly noteworthy? No, but they did cheer on the Tune Squad, which shows that their character growth from the first film stuck.