Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Space Jam

A Reel Leadership Article

In only what could be described as a truly ’90s move, Warner Brothers decided to create the movie Space Jam. Space Jam combines live-action acting with animation. It’s like Who Framed Roger Rabbit? but stranger.

Swackhammer (Danny DeVito) sees the Looney Tune characters as the perfect crew for his amusement park planet Moron Mountain. He dispatches an alien crew to seize the Looney Tune characters and bring them to the amusement park. Bugsy Bunny (Billy West) sizes up the competition and realizes he can trick them.

The Nerdlucks and Michael Jordan facing off in Space Jame

Bugs Bunny figures out a plan to beat them. He sees their diminutive size and thinks “We can beat them at basketball! Let’s challenge them to a game.”

Sadly, Bugs Bunny’s plan isn’t foolproof. The alien crew has a way to win. And they’re going to go for the win.

Space Jam is definitely an interesting film. It’s more than enjoyable though I can’t say it’s a great American film.

If you haven’t seen Space Jam yet, you can watch it on-demand at Amazon Prime Video.

What I can tell you is that you can walk away a better leader after watching Space Jam. There are multiple leadership lessons in Space Jam. Let’s dive into them!

Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Space Jam

1. Help your team members grow:

A young Michael Jordan (Brandon Hammond) is found outside shooting hoops. His father, James Jordan (Thom Barry), exits from their home and asks the young Michael what he’s doing outside after midnight. The young Michael Jordan tells his father he couldn’t sleep so he was shooting hoops.

James tells his son there were people in the house who couldn’t sleep because of the noise Michael was making. However, he told Michael he could take one more shot. Then another. And another. James allowed Michael to shoot until he missed.

I think James knew something here. The more practice Michael was able to get, the better basketball player he would become. James’ encouragement here would help him become the NBA star he eventually would.

You and I, we have an opportunity like James did. We have the opportunity to help our team members to grow. We do this by encouraging them to keep practicing.  Their practice will lead to more skill and expertise.

When you see your team members practicing and honing their skills, encourage them to continue. Give them praise and affirmation as they continue to improve.

2. Dream big:

Michael Jordan had huge dreams. He wanted to play for North Carolina’s basketball team. This team was impressive at the time. They were the best of the best.

His dreams drove him to continue to practice and improve. His dreams eventually led him to North Carolina and then into the NBA.

Dreaming is a crucial part of leadership. The leader has to be a dreamer. By dreaming, the leader can help picture a bigger and brighter future for the organization they lead.

Be a dreamer today. Dream big. Bigger than you have ever dreamed before.

3. Adapt to new situations:

You probably remember the song Whoomp, There It Is by Miami-based Tag Team. The song goes “Whoomp, there it is.” It was a popular song in the ’90s.

For Space Jam, the song was adapted for the situation. Whoomp, There It Is became Hoop, There It Is. The lyrics were adapted to fit the theme of basketball.

Check out the song below.

Leaders and organizations have to be willing to adapt. They cannot hold onto old ideas that are no longer applicable to today’s world.

This may mean using technology to allow team members to work from home. You may have to have flexible office hours. Or you may need to look at shorter working days.

Times are changing. Leaders must change and adapt to these times.

4. Michael Jordan (as himself):

I think I’m going to become a professional baseball player.

Michael Jordan was retiring from the NBA. He was giving a speech. He let people know what his next plans were.

Michael Jordan wanted to become a Major League Baseball player. He had more big dreams. More importantly, he had big goals.

Leaders need to be like Michael Jordan. Not only do they need to dream big but they need to have goals for every season of their life.

Do you have a goal for this season of your leadership journey? You probably do. The next question is, do you have a goal for the next season of your life or career?

Setting goals for the next phase of your career will help you direct yourself in the right direction. You will know what you want to do next and then you can begin walking down the pathway to get you to the next goal.

5. Generosity gets reciprocated:

Michael was able to live out a portion of his dream. He did go on to play professional baseball.

In a silly scene, you discover Michael had given an autographed basketball to the opposing team’s catcher. The catcher was so excited and grateful because his son loved the basketball memorabilia.

Something else came from Michael’s generosity. The catcher reciprocated and began to tell Michael what the next pitch was going to be. He wanted to help Michael because Michael had been generous to him.

Look at your leadership journey. How have you been generous to those you lead and serve? Have you been generous?

Generosity doesn’t go unrewarded. Generosity is always reciprocated.

The reciprocation may not come in the form you think it should but it does come back around to you. Be generous.

6. Don’t be overconfident:

We all know how things go in the Looney Tune world. Elmer Fudd thinks he has Bugs Bunny dead to rights. Wile E. Coyote thinks he has the Roadrunner. On and on it goes.

In Space Jam, Elmer Fudd is about to shoot Bugs Bunny. He’s confident he has him this time. Except he doesn’t. He’s overconfident and there’s a bigger threat than the Bunny.

The aliens arrive and they deploy the exit ramp to their space ship. The ramp comes down right on Elmer Fudd.

Leaders need to be confident. They have to carry themselves in a way that says “We will get through this” or “We can figure a way to make this work.” Confidence is good. It means you believe in yourself and in your skills.

However, you have to be on the watch for overconfidence. Overconfidence tells leaders “You’re never wrong. Your next decision will be the best thing ever for the organization” or “No one is smarter than you. You’re a superstar.”

Get rid of the overconfidence. Overconfidence will turn your team sour on you. It will make others think lower of you than they should.

7. Bugs Bunny:

Okay, let’s analyze the competition.

When the aliens arrived, they were ready to take the Looney Tunes crew back to Moron Mountain. Bugs Bunny stepped in and told them they needed to have a chance to escape this fate. The aliens relented and gave them a chance.

Bugs Bunny took some of the other Looney Tune characters into a briefing. There were Daffy Duck (Dee Bradley Baker), Pepe Le Pew (Maurice LeMarche), Sylvester (Bill Farmer), Elmer Fudd, and others in the meeting.

They conferred with one another. They looked at the alien threat. And they came up with a way they believed could beat them.

What Bugs Bunny and the Looney Tune characters did was great. They saw an opportunity and knew they had to analyze the competition if they hoped to win.

Leaders, you have to do the same thing. You have to look at your competition. Size them up. See what they’re made of.

When you do this, you can figure out the best way to compete against your competition. You will learn about their strengths and weaknesses. You will size up your strengths and weaknesses. And then you can begin the attack.

8. Look for talent:

The aliens (Nerdlucks) weren’t deterred when Bugs Bunny presented the basketball challenge. They were inspired. They began to look for talent.

And talent they found.

They went to the 3D world (as it was called in Space Jam) and found basketball talent. They absorbed the talents of NBA legends. These legends included:

  • Charles Barkley
  • Shawn Bradley
  • Patrick Ewing
  • Larry Johnson
  • Muggsy Bogues

The talent of these players would allow the Nerdlucks to play basketball at the highest level. They looked for talent and got the talent.

You have to be on the lookout for great talent. Great talent will help your organization grow and thrive. They will help take it to the next level.

What does talent look like? Talent includes:

  • High competency in their role
  • Great interpersonal skills
  • Humbleness
  • Constant improvement
  • A desire to become the best

Look for these characteristics in your next talent acquisition. Finding the most talented people will be a boon to your organization.

9. Bugs Bunny:

Eh… I think we might need a little bit of help.

Bugs Bunny’s plan went sideways when the aliens absorbed the talents of the NBA players and became giants. He and the other Looney Tunes saw this and he spoke up.

The words he spoke are words every leader should be willing to say. He said they needed help.

You don’t have all of the answers. You don’t have all of the connections. And you can’t do it all.

You need help.

Be willing to admit to needing help. Then go ask for help.

10. Great leaders never lose it:

To beat the aliens, Bugs Bunny and crew went to the best basketball player to live. They went to Michael Jordan.

However, Michael Jordan hadn’t played basketball in some time. He was afraid he had lost his edge.

He asked Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck to get his equipment. He wanted his basketball shorts and his shoes. This would help him.

Once they returned with his equipment, Michael Jordan began to practice. He discovered he still retained his skills.

Great leaders have a specific set of skills that have been practiced over and over again. The skills have been driven down deep inside. These skills become like muscle memory.

You can call on your unused skills in times of need even if you haven’t used them in some time. They will return to you like you’ve used them all along.

You may lose some of the polished skills but the skills remain.

11. Michael Jordan:

Come on, guys. Keep your heads up. We’ve got a whole nother half to play.

The Looney Tunes were beaten. The Nerdlucks had stomped them. At halftime, the Nerdlucks were clearly in the lead.

Having been in previous tight spots, Michael Jordan gave a pep talk. He told the team they still have another half to play. Anything could happen. Don’t quit before it’s over.

Leading can be rough. You run into challenges no one anticipated. Or your team doesn’t perform the way you expected them to.

Don’t quit before it’s over. You still have more time on the clock. Get your team back in the game. Fix what went wrong. Keep fighting!

12. Learn the rules:

Michael Jordan didn’t know the rules of Tune Land. He didn’t know what he or the Tunes could do.

Michael saw the Tunes do some strange things late in the game. He then asked Bugs Bunny about what he saw. Bugs Bunny told him he could do the same thing. He’s in Tunes Land!

This inspired Michael Jordan to learn the new rules. He used the new rules to stretch his arm all the way to the basket from halfcourt. Using this new rule, he slammed the ball into the basket and made the winning shot.

The rules can change from organization to organization. Learn the rules of the organization you’re leading in. They might be different than what you’re used to.

You may find out you can spend more money with less authorization than previously. Or you might find out the new organization loves innovation so they give leaders the freedom to try new things. Or the organization you’re working for might want to see team members spend time with family so they give you extended time off.

You need to find out the rules of where you’re leading. Use those rules to lead better than before.

Want to see Space Jam for the first (or 100th) time? Pick it up from Amazon.

Question: If you’ve watched Space Jam, what leadership lessons did you take away from the movie? If you haven’t seen the movie, what Reel Leadership lessons from Space Jam that I shared resonated with you? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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