Pop culture is a phenomenon that gauges the popularity of certain things in the American public. Sports play a big role in this and often create memories that are associated with the times. For example, if someone blurted out a random year, there is probably someone out there who could tell you who won the Super Bowl, the World Series or the NBA Finals.
I am a child of the 90’s. Growing up, the biggest name in sports was Michael Jordan. Jordan was known for his intensity on the basketball court whether it was a slam dunk on the offensive side or a steal from the opposing team on the defensive side.
He was not only a fixture in the basketball world. In 1996, “Space Jam” was released. Jordan has retired from basketball and decided to become a baseball player where he is terrible. Meanwhile, Bugs Bunny and the Looney Tunes have bet on a basketball game between them and aliens that acquired NBA talent from several players like Charles Barkley and Shawn Bradley. They kidnap Jordan to play in the basketball game with them and defeat the aliens. It was a huge hit grossing over $90 million in the United States. I’m sure there are many people out there like me who remember the movie and love it.
One such person is Andrew Mooney of the Harvard Sports Analysis Collective. According to the organization’s website, this is an extension of Harvard College that is dedicated to the quantitative analysis of sports strategy and management. This is a club for students interested in sports statistics, business and problem solving. Mooney wrote an article about compiling the box score for “Space Jam.” This group took the time to watch the movie and wrote out a box score for the Looney Tunes versus the Monstars game. They found several inconsistencies such as there were no rebounds recorded in the game by either team. A movie that still garners such interest over a decade after it’s release proves how much of an impact “Space Jam” had.
Another athlete who has made his mark on the movie industry is Jim Brown. Brown played football as a running back for the Cleveland Browns from 1957 to 1965. He was inducted into the Professional Football Hall of Fame in 1971. Brown has starred in such movies as “The Dirty Dozen,” “Any Given Sunday,” and “Mars Attacks!” He has also guest starred on TV shows like the original “Knight Rider.”
Many people don’t realize that Jason Lee, who plays Earl on “My Name is Earl,” was a professional skateboarder in the early 90’s. He founded Stereo Skateboards with fellow skateboarder Chris Pastras. In the skateboarding video game “Tony Hawk’s Project 8,” Lee had a character made from his likeness and he did the voice for the character. Lee is now known for appearing in TV shows and movies that range from comedies like “Clerks 2” to family-friendly movies like providing the voice for Syndrome in “The Incredibles.”
There have been many memorable moments of athletes on screen. Quarterback Brett Favre was in “There’s Something About Mary” playing one of the many love interests of Cameron Diaz. Vinnie Jones played soccer from 1984-1999 for Wimbledon, Leeds United, Sheffield United, Chelsea and Queens Park. He has starred in movies such as “Swordfish” and “X-Men: The Last Stand.” He also had a memorable role as the coach in the movie “She’s The Man.”
Athletes are not only making their way into movies. They are also inspiring musicians. In Nelly Furtado’s song “Promiscuous,” she mentions Phoenix Suns point guard Steve Nash. The lyrics go “Is that the truth or are you talkin’ trash. Is your game MVP like Steve Nash?” She is making reference to Nash’s MVP awards for the 2004-2006 seasons.
Another example would be pop music singer Aaron Carter. In the late 90’s Carter was popular and had such hits as “I Want Candy” and “Aaron’s Party (Come Get It).” In 2001, Carter released “That’s How I Beat Shaq.” In the song, Carter describes how he played one-on-one with Boston Celtics Center Shaquille O’Neal. As the song develops he describes how he earned points by telling O’Neal that his shoelaces were untied and then eventually went on to beat Shaq.
With so many athletes, past and present, the only limitation to pop culture references would be a person’s imagination.