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How Michael Jordan Trained ‘Like A Vampire’ While Making Space Jam

How Michael Jordan Trained ‘Like A Vampire’ While Making Space Jam

Playing basketball against Porky Pig all day, Dennis Rodman all night - with an intense two-hour workout in the middle - even Michael Jordan's fellow All-Stars couldn't believe his gruelling Space Jam routine.

Warner Bros built a basketball court and gym on set so that MJ could film six days a week, then face the NBA's best players in ultra-competitive practice games afterwards.

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"I don't know how he did it; I don't know he filmed all day and then still had the energy to play three hours," recalls NBA All-Star Reggie Miller in the latest episode of hit Netflix series The Last Dance.

"We would play until nine or 10 at night - and he still had to get weight-lifting in - then his call time was at six or seven in the morning. So I don't know how [he did it]. This dude was like a vampire, for real."

Jordan's approach was set because he needed to do more than just stay sharp. In 1995, as Space Jam was being filmed, he was still in the process of finding his feet on the court again after a stint trying his hand at professional baseball.

As Jordan himself explained: "I had spent 15 months turning my body into a baseball body. Basketball is it a little bit more shoulders, chest - so I had to reconstruct my whole body, which was hard.

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"Then when we finished [filming], which was usually around 7pm, we would invite people over and we would play pick-up games."

These lengthy pick-up games involved the cream of the NBA, including Miller, Rodman, Patrick Ewing and more. The players recall those games in the "Jordan Dome" - the facility Warner Bros constructed - as among the best they played in.

"There's no officials, you're calling your own fouls, so it's a little bit more rugged and raw," said Miller.

The insight into Jordan's work ethic and hyper-competitive nature has been a highlight of The Last Dance. But even by MJ's standards, trying to film a Hollywood blockbuster while retraining for a sport he'd spent 15 months away from was a ridiculous ask.

However the then 32-year-old found the practice games helped sharpen his skills. "Playing against the young players, they were full of energy - and I had to help excel my talent; to get my talent back," he recalls.

True to form, Jordan somehow managed to pull off both. Space Jam opened at No 1 in the US box office in 1996, while his Chicago Bulls regained their NBA crown in the same year.

Seems like the message for any elite sports stars looking to up their performance is clear: green screen with Bugs Bunny all summer, then just fit in training when you can. Everything will work out perfectly. Probably.

Topics: Space Jam, NBA, Michael Jordan

Alex Reid

Alex Reid is a writer at SPORTbible who’s previously strung words together for FourFourTwo, Boxing News, The Guardian and, yes, Cruise International (it’s about big ships, not Tom). Interests range from football and boxing to real sports like WWE and darts. He is not a cage fighter.

 

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