It plays out as a fictional account of Michael's initial retirement from and return to the NBA, this time with him being inspired by Bugs Bunny and friends. The film also marked the debut appearance of Lola Bunny. Space Jam was a box office success, opening at #1 in the U.S., and grossing over $230,000,000 worldwide.
In 1993, professional basketball player Michael Jordan announces his retirement from the NBA to follow in his father's footsteps and turns to a career in baseball. Meanwhile The Nerdlucks, a group of criminal aliens led by their boss Mr. Swackhammer, plot to capture the Looney Tunes, who really exist in a secret animated world called Looney Tune Land (hidden at the center of the Earth), and make them their newest attractions at Moron Mountain, a failing amusement park. Swackhammer believes enslaving the Tunes in this way will bring in more customers and save Moron Mountain from foreclosure.
They arrive in Tune Land, and since the aliens aren't very intelligent or tall, the Tunes bargain for their freedom by challenging the Nerdlucks to a basketball game. To ensure their victory, the Nerdlucks return to Earth and steal the talent of Patrick Ewing, Larry Johnson, Charles Barkley, Muggsy Bogues, and Shawn Bradley, who are rendered incapable of playing basketball as a result. The Nerdlucks use the stolen talent to transform into gigantic creatures—now called The Monstars—that the Looney Tunes are unable to defeat.
To help them win, the Tunes choose, abduct and recruit Michael, and he reluctantly agrees after the Monstars squash him into the shape of a basketball and bounce him around like one. A tomboyishly beautiful new arrival named Lola Bunny is added to the team thanks to her amazing talent. Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny go to Michael's house to collect what he needs to play, barely dodging his family dog Charles. Michael's publicist Stan Podolak sees Bugs and Daffy return to Tune Land and follows them, and stays to support Michael, whose team will be called the Tune Squad.
Despite Michael's leadership, the Monstars dominate the first half of the game. After sneaking into the Monstars' locker room and being detected despite hiding in a locker and scorched as a result, Stan informs the Tune Squad that the Monstars stole the talent from the NBA players. Bugs then motivates the team with a "special drink," and the Monstars' commanding lead is reduced to a significantly smaller margin. Seeing Swackhammer angry that the Monstars did not steal Michael's talent, Michael takes the chance to raise the stakes. If the Tune Squad wins, the Monstars must give the NBA players their talent back, but if they lose, then Swackhammer is to spare the Looney Tunes in exchange for Michael. He readily accepts it and Bugs tries to talk him out of it, all the while being aware of what it means if Michael is subjected to humiliation on Moron Mountain for all time.
As the game resumes, the Monstars, under orders from Swackhammer, begin playing even dirtier than before. As a result, the Looney Tunes are injured, one by one, until only Michael, Bugs, Lola and Daffy are left, leaving them short one player. Reluctantly, Michael puts Stan in the game, and though he is quickly taken out of action, the Monstars' lead is now down to one. Marvin The Martian, who is the referee, tells them that if there is no fifth player, the team will forfeit the game. At the last second, Bill Murray (who Swackhammer incorrectly identifies as Dan Aykroyd, his Ghostbusters co-star) appears in the stadium and joins the team, breaking the fourth wall along the way.
With only seconds left, Bill pulls some clever manueuvering and gets the ball to Michael. Extending his arm to superhuman lengths (since the laws of physics work differently in Tune Land), Michael makes the basket and wins the game. He helps the Monstars realize that they're bigger than Mister Swackhammer, who confronts them for losing. Fed up with their abusive boss, the Monstars tie him up to a rocket and send him to the moon. At Michael's request, they reluctantly return the stolen talent to the other players by transferring them to a basketball, which is how they stored the stolen talent earlier in the film. This reverts the Monstars back to the tiny Nerdlucks. Refusing to return to Moron Mountain, the Nerdlucks decide to stay with the Looney Tunes, who only agree if the Nerdlucks can prove themselves to be 'Looney', which they arguably complete on the spot.
Afterwards, Michael returns to Earth in the Nerdlucks' spaceship, where he makes a dramatic appearance at a baseball game to the cheers of the audience, despite being late. The next day, Michael gives the stolen talent back to the NBA players, who immediately regain their lost skills. Michael is later prompted by his rivals to return to the NBA, mirroring his real-life comeback with the Chicago Bulls.
The soundtrack sold enough albums to be certified as 6x Platinum. It also served as a high point for musical artist R. Kelly, whose song "I Believe I Can Fly" became a hit after it was featured on the film's soundtrack. Other tracks included a cover of "Fly Like an Eagle" (by Seal), "Hit 'Em High (The Monstars' Anthem)" (by B-Real, Busta Rhymes, Coolio, LL Cool J, and Method Man), "Basketball Jones" (by Chris Rock & Barry White), and "For You I Will" (by Monica). The movie's theme song was performed by the Quad City DJ's.
Space Jam received negative-to-mixed reviews from film critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 35% based on 49 reviews.
Roger Ebert gave Space Jam a "thumbs up," which his partner, Gene Siskel, also gave the film, although his zeal was more subdued. Todd McCarthy of Variety praised the film for its humor. He also praised the Looney Tunes' antics and Michael's acting. Although Janet Maslin of The New York Times criticized the film's animation, she later went on to say that the film is a "fond tribute to [the Looney Tunes characters'] past."