Michael Jordan spent the summer of 1995 in Los Angeles shooting Space Jam, where he worked out a deal with Warner Bros. to ensure he had a facility on the lot that he could work out at. Episode 8 of The Last Dance provided some rare video of the pickup games that featured a who’s who of NBA talent, along with Jordan, B.J. Armstrong, and Reggie Miller’s remembrances of those games.
“I said look, I need to practice, I need a facility where I can work out,” Jordan said. “‘Oh don’t worry about that. We can build you that.’ And sure enough, when we got out there, it was all set up.”
The director of Space Jam called it the “Jordan Dome,” as it was a domed in court with full gym equipment that he used to rebuild his body from a baseball body to a basketball body with trainer Tim Grover. Jordan remembers they would start shooting at 7 a.m. and he’d get a two hour break in the middle of the day where he’d do weights with Grover, then they’d film more until 7 p.m. That’s when those legendary pickup runs would happen.
“After we finished, which was usually around 7, we’d invite people over and we’d play pickup games,” Jordan remembered.
“We had the idea that if we invited the best players in the league out here, we’d get a chance to see everybody before the season started,” said B.J. Armstrong. “And then it became like a thing, everyone had to come out to Warner Bros. studios to play with Michael Jordan. And this was his opportunity to see everybody and we would do scouting reports. This is what Chris Mullin would do. This is what Reggie Miller would do.”
Reggie Miller looks back on those pickup games at the “Jordan Dome” in a similar way Magic Johnson looked back at the Dream Team practices from 1992, while also still in awe at how Jordan was able to film all day and then play late into the night.
“It was some of the best games,” Miller said. “There were no officials, so you were calling your own fouls. So it was a little more rugged and raw. I don’t know how he did it. I don’t know how he had the energy to film all day and then still play three hours. I mean we would play until like 9 or 10 at night and he still had to get weightlifting in and his call time was like at 6 or 7 in the morning. So I don’t know how, this dude was like a vampire for real.”
The footage of those games is pretty cool to see, and for Jordan, bringing in all the best young talent in the NBA — as well as some of his top veteran competition — gave him the added motivation he needed to get back into peak shape.
“Playing against the young talent, they were full of energy and I had to excel my energy and get my talents back,” Jordan recalled.
It’s the most MJ approach to an offseason, non-basketball activity possible, having the movie studio build an entire gym for him to play on and workout in so he didn’t just not lose a step while filming a movie, but actually got better at basketball in the process.