LA CROSSE, WIS — A middle-aged man at a local YMCA made a strong case to be the star of the next Space Jam movie after putting on a show for four spectators in attendance.
Eric Simonson, a 39-year old electrician and an assistant JV basketball coach, who is still mildly in shape, scored 24 points in a pick-up game at the RW Hauser YMCA in Onalaska. The 5 foot 7 inch, 165 pound Simsonson scored 12 times on fast-breaks in the final 10 minutes after the other team became so fatigued they completely stopped playing defense. The game included eight players total, the rest of whom are at least 10 years older, 100 pounds heavier, and significantly more surgically repaired than Simonson (who has only had one hernia surgery).
“My game is a combination of Muhhamed Ali and Kobe Bryant,” Simonson asserted while dripping sweat and smelling of rotting cabbage at the water fountain after the game. “I dance my opponent into exhaustion and then shoot every time I touch the ball.”
Simonson, a 1998 Bangor High School graduate and All-Conference Honorable Mention basketball player, took 73 shots and made 0 passes in the lunch-hour contest. “You miss all the shots you don’t take, so why not take them all,” Simonson boasted.
“I’m glad [Simonson] hustles because it motivates me to exercise,” Joe Reisinger, another player and 62-year-old retired plumber, said. “I can overlook the fact that he’s calling out everybody else’s fouls except his own while being the only one keeping score, but it’s the setting hard picks, diving on the floor after loose balls, and trash talking that gets under my skin. I think he thinks he’s trying-out for something.”
With 5 minutes left before the 6-year-old Tiny Hoopers were scheduled to take the YMCA court, one of the other players, who was visibly frustrated with Simonson’s intensity and prolific shot selection yelled, “Hey, Michael Jordan! This isn’t Space Jam. Fuckin’ pass the ball.”
Simonson momentarily pondered the comparison, before dismissing it.
“I see the comparisons to Jordan, but I can’t hit that turn around jumper like he can,” said Simonson. “At least not anymore anyway.”
Space Jam, considered a mostly forgettable movie from the mid-90s, featured Michael Jordan teaming up with the Looney Tunes Simonson described as “anthropomorphized wild animals with hilarious speech impediments.” Their goal in the film was to defeat a group of aliens (Monstars) who want to enslave them for their amusement park. According to Simonson, the Monstars were portrayed by noticeably inferior talent to Jordan.
“The NBA today is different than when Jordan and I played,” said Simonson. “Back in 1998, I would have led the Tune Squad to a V(ictory). My game now, at 39, translates more to be a good Monstar, probably the one depicted by Charles Barkley.”
A sequel to Space Jam set for the summer of 2021 starring current basketball star LeBron James as the lead. You can catch the next YMCA pick-up basketball game next Tuesday after pickleball for the elderly.
Reporter Jonathon H. Dong contributed to this article.