Before Space Jam's 1996 release, we'd never imagined that Michael Jordan would dunk on cartoon players, that Jay-Z would ghostwrite for Bugs Bunny, or that a cartoon rabbit could make us sweat. Our five-part "Space Jam20 Years Later" package grapples with all of these incomprehensible truths and many more, exploring the legacy of the worst-best film ever made. 

'Twas two days before Christmas on December 23, 2009, and sneaker connoisseurs, moms, and significant others were huddled in lines with the hopes of procuring a pair of “Space Jam” Air Jordan XIs at malls and sneaker stores across the nation. It wasn’t just a crazy day for footwear retailers and consumers; it would be a pivotal moment that would shape the direction of sneaker culture.

The 1996 film Space Jam was a fictional comeback of sorts for Michael Jordan who had hung up his Nike sneakers in 1993 after his father’s death to play baseball. The movie, in which Jordan stars alongside Bugs Bunny and the rest of the Looney Tunes squad to defeat the Monstars, was a cultural touchstone for those who grew up in the 1990s. Besides cameos from Bill Murray, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, and Patrick Ewing, the film also featured a pair of sneakers that stole the show: a mostly black Air Jordan XI with a white midsole, icy outsole, and a Concord-colored Jumpman. The shoes became a grail for collectors, and their subsequent re-release in 2009 turned regular folks into sneaker fanatics.

Today, Jordan Brand is expected to release a pair of Air Jordan XIs to coincide with the holiday season every year. But this tradition was in its infancy in 2009. The company had released the black-and-red “Playoff” XIs in a pack with the white-and-black “Taxi” Air Jordan XIIs the year before, which caused lineups and people bringing weapons to them to keep themselves safe and get these sneakers for themselves or purchase them as a last-minute gift. That hype, however, would be topped when word came out that the “Space Jams” would be coming back for the second time ever, following a retro in 2000.