Editor's note: ESPN.com is counting down the best basketball shoes of all time. But before we reveal our list, our writers are sharing their favorite sneaker tales.
For all of the "Space Jam" nostalgia -- be it the movie re-release, the new shoes geared toward taking on Monstars or the retro-themed Air Jordan XIs -- there is one thing that can't be recaptured. It's the epic pickup games that emerged during the filming of the movie in the summer of 1995.
Michael Jordan was fresh off the sting of what would turn out to be the last playoff series loss of his career, to the Orlando Magic in the second round. Movie or no movie, he was determined to return to his place atop the NBA. So he ordered the construction of a tented hardwood basketball court on the Warner Bros. studio lot and laced up his Concords. Word got out, and an array of NBA players came through.
Besides the movie co-stars such as Patrick Ewing, Charles Barkley, Alonzo Mourning and Larry Johnson, there were the likes of Grant Hill, Rod Strickland, Glen Rice, Dennis Rodman, Juwan Howard, Steve Smith and Cedric Ceballos. Shaquille O'Neal came by. Magic Johnson, less than a year shy of his return to the NBA, made an appearance. Reggie Miller showed up for what turned into a clear-out-and-let-em-go-at-it game, with the trash talk flying.
"It was like an NBA all-star game every day," said Tracy Murray, who was coming off the third season of his 11-year pro career that summer.
Except it had regular-season intensity. So many players showed up that losing meant a two- or three-game wait to get back on the court. Veteran center Olden Polynice came by and made the mistake of thinking, "It's the summertime, they're going to be bulls----ing."
"Come to find out, they weren't bulls----ing," Polynice said.
Murray credits the cutthroat competition with priming him for a breakout season -- he made 116 more 3-pointers and his scoring average jumped by 11 points, setting him up for a nice free-agent contract that provided the bulk of the $22 million he made in his career.
For Jordan, it was the launchpad to the Bulls' record-setting 72-10 season, capped by a championship.
Maybe we should credit the singer D'Angelo as well. His first album dropped that summer, and his seductive songs wound up providing the soundtrack to the pickup games on the Warner Bros. lot.
"Michael loved that CD," Murray said.
Therefore, "Everybody hooped to D'Angelo," Murray said. "Driving up the floor ... 'Brown Sugar.'"
Don't think for a second that the neo-soul or even the low stakes of the summer diminished Jordan's ultra-competitive fires. Don MacLean learned that the hard way.
It started when Jordan was loosely guarding MacLean, and MacLean (the all-time leading scorer in the old Pac-10 conference) got hot and scored about two-thirds of his team's buckets to send Jordan off a loser on the final game of the night.
As MacLean changed clothes and iced his knees, Jordan came by and asked if he'd be back. MacLean had an overseas trip to conduct basketball clinics in Japan, so he couldn't return the following week.
Jordan told him, "Thanks for coming, make sure you come back."
"I'm thinking: That was cool for him to say that," MacLean said. "Not thinking ..."
Jordan was plotting his revenge. When MacLean did show up a couple of weeks later, he played in the first game of the night.
"[Jordan] walks on the court, says, 'I got MacLean,' and did not let me touch the ball for the entire game," MacLean said. "And I was trying. And he was not letting me touch the ball.
"Right then and there, I was like, 'My God.' For a pickup game in the summer that means nothing, two weeks later, he remembers that. I couldn't believe it."
Said Polynice: "That's the true nature of Michael Jordan. It can be two weeks, it can be two years."
And that's why, two decades later, no one who was there can forget those summer nights of hooping.