Celebrate Space Jam’s 20th anniversary, with Nigel Miguel and Nate Bellamy Jr.
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the highest-grossing basketball movie of all-time, Nigel and Nate pull back the curtain and share inside stories on the iconic Space Jam.
Nigel and Nate were vital contributors, both in-front of and behind the cameras. They also played a crucial role in the smooth running of the legendary Jordan Dome. Both gentlemen are close friends of Michael Jordan and recall some fantastic stories from on the set and discuss how the genre-bending movie came to be.
NCAA Championship finalist, NBA / CBA veteran and broadcaster, Michael Holton.
High School: Pasadena, California
Michael was a great player in high school. As a senior (1979), he averaged 27 points per game. He discusses his fondest memories of playing high school basketball. Fifteen years later – when Michael entered the coaching ranks – he’d reunite with his high school coach, George Terzian. Michael also talks about his decision to sign with the UCLA Bruins.
College: University of California Los Angeles
Years: 1979-80 – 1982-83 | Coaches: Larry Brown & Larry Farmer
Michael was a starter as a freshman and was named the Bruins’ outstanding first-year player. He recalls his initial fear of perhaps not being good enough to succeed on the next level – that fear was quickly allayed. After winning only eight of the first 14 games, the Bruins caught fire at the perfect time; steamrolling through the 1980 NCAA Tournament, all the way to the Championship Game versus the Louisville Cardinals. For perspective, here’s the list of teams that UCLA defeated and some of the big-time players Michael encountered:
In the 1980 Championship game, UCLA lost 59-54. The Cardinals were littered with future-NBA players: Darrell Griffith, Derek Smith, Rodney McCray & Jerry Eaves. Michael reflects on that amazing run to the final.
Holton’s freshman season was the senior year for Kiki VanDeWeghe – who went on to star in the NBA, notching-up seven seasons of 20-plus points per game in the 1980s – Michael talks about the importance influence of the Bruins’ junior and senior players.
As a sophomore in 1981 (outright) and junior in 1982 (tied with Ralph Jackson), Michael was named the Bruins’ Outstanding Team Player. UCLA made the second round of the 1981 NCAA Tournament, but missed the post-season in 1982. Former guests and friends of the show, Mark Eaton and Nigel Miguel, joined the Bruins around this time, too. Michael talks about the transition from (coaches) Larry Brown to Larry Farmer.
As a senior, Michael was named captain and led the team in free-throw percentage. His college career ended (1983) with a second-round exit to the Utah Utes. After reaching the title game as a freshman, Michael contrasts his feelings about exiting the tournament early (as a senior).
Michael’s opportunity to play in the NBA would have to wait one season. After Golden State waived him (October, 1983), he signed with the Coquis; the Continental Basketball Association’s (CBA) newly-minted expansion franchise. The Coquis made it to the playoffs, before bowing out to Phil Jackson’s Albany Patroons in the semi-finals.
Coaches: John MacLeod / Bobby Bowman (CBA) / Stan Albeck
In late September of 1984, Michael signed with the Phoenix Suns as a free agent – joining former Bruins teammates, Mike Sanders and Rod Foster. Holton recalls the step-up from Puerto Rico to the Suns. His Suns met the would-be NBA Champion, L.A. Lakers, in the first round (0-3) of the 1985 Playoffs. As he displayed throughout our chat, Michael has a great sense of humor, regaling his first taste of playoff basketball.
After a 0-4 start to season, Phoenix waived Holton. He returned to the CBA and played a key role – scoring 13 points – leading his CBA All-Star team to a 110-108 win over defending champs, Tampa Bay, in Florida. That was February 11, 1986. Michael details the wonderful background behind his meeting with the Chicago Bulls’ VP of Operations, Jerry Krause, moments after the aforementioned CBA game. Holton signed the first of two 10-day contracts with the Bulls – he’d later sign with the team for the rest of the season.
Michael Holton joined the Bulls franchise at a fascinating time in its history. Michael Jordan had broken his foot in just the third game of the season; he hoped to make an on-court return before season’s end. Holton’s future with the Bulls was largely dependent on Jordan’s injury rehabilitation. He shares unique insight into his early interactions with not only his new teammates, but his practice-court battles with a young Air Jordan.
We discuss the details behind this incredible promotional poster – Raging Bulls – that Michael appeared on.
When Michael was left off the Bulls’ (1986) post-season roster – to make way for Jawann Oldham – he accepted an offer to play overseas for the Great Taste Coffee Makers, in the Philippine Basketball Association. He enjoyed considerable success in a short span – including two 40-plus point games.
Michael signed as a veteran free agent with the Blazers, in August of 1986. He joined the team for its Summer League games in Los Angeles. In one of those games, he scored 37 points against his former team, the Phoenix Suns.
The Trail Blazers’ Mike Schuler, replaced the legendary Dr. Jack Ramsay. In his first season (1987) at the helm, Schuler led the Blazers to a 49-33 record – the best effort for a Portland team since the 1978 campaign – and won Coach of the Year honors.
Holton’s second season with the Blazers resulted in an even-better regular season (53-29). His responsibilities also increased significantly as he became a trusted part of the rotation. Michael discussed his increased role with the team and some of the all-time Blazer greats that he played with, including Clyde Drexler and Terry Porter.
Seasons: 1988-89 – 1989-90 | Team: Charlotte Hornets
As one of the (Blazers) players left unprotected for the (June 23, 1988) NBA Expansion Draft, Michael was picked by a new franchise – the Charlotte Hornets. He was selected sixth by the Hornets (12th overall), who alternated picks with the other new franchise – the Miami Heat. We chat about the build-up to the Hornets’ NBA debut and how the city at-large, immediately fell in love with the new franchise.
The new franchise’s amazing fans ensured that Charlotte Coliseum would be packed to the rafters. The Hornets led the league in attendance in eight of its first 10 seasons – they were in second place, the other two occasions.
Holton started at point-guard in Charlotte’s first 60 games and arguably had his best NBA season in 1989, averaging 8.3 points, 6.3 assists and one steal per game, in just over 25 minutes per contest.
Michael required back surgery prior to the start of the 1990 season. After an 8-32 start, Coach Harter was replaced by Gene Littles. He steered the team to an 11-31 finish, as the Hornets ended the season at 19-63. Holton only managed 16 games in total and didn’t return to the court until late February (1990). He talks openly about his recovery from surgery, watching from the sidelines as the team really struggled, and the franchise’s expectations of his return. Three days shy of the start to the 1991 season, Charlotte waived Michael.
Michael finished his playing career with stops in the CBA. First, with the Tulsa Fast Breakers and then, the expansion Tri-City Chinook. He reflects on how his on-court career played out, including his last attempt to make it back to the NBA.
Michael transitioned into coaching, not long after retiring as a player. Following stints in high school and two seasons with Oregon-based colleges, he returned to UCLA – this time as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator. The team enjoyed great success (1996 through 2001). Michael talks about what it was like to return to the Bruins, almost 15 years after he left the school as a player.
We also talk about Michael’s tenure as head coach at the University of Portland. He left the Pilots in 2006, after five seasons. He shares his thoughts on leading the team and highlights from the journey. NBA great, Terry Porter – Holton’s former teammate on the Blazers – was recently named head coach at the University of Portland. We briefly talk about the task ahead of Terry, as the upcoming season approaches.
These days, Michael works for the Portland Trail Blazers’ broadcasting team. Recently, he teamed up with his former (UCLA and NBA) teammate, Mike Sanders, for a camp in the Czech Republic – part of the Michael Holton Basketball Academy. He talks about the importance of giving back to the community.
I ask Michael to recall “The Game I’ll Never Forget”. Our conversation concludes with a brief discussion about the significance of the jersey numbers that Michael wore throughout his career.
People mentioned in this episode, include: Sidney Green, John Paxson, Kyle Macy & Gene Banks.
Editor’s note: sign-up for the monthly newsletter – receive exclusive details on upcoming podcast episodes and future, high-profile guests to appear on the show.
I appreciate all feedback, FB Page ‘Likes’ and iTunes ratings / reviews.
High School: William E. Grady Career and Technical, New York
As a young boy, Rolando moved from Panama to New York. We discuss his successful transition to a new country and how he managed to learn – then master – a second language, all from just the age of eight.
To this point, Rolando’s sporting love was football (soccer). After two years of struggling to find others who shared his love of the game, he began to take an interest in basketball, courtesy of his soon-to-be mentor, Ted Gustus. What followed was a transformation from “a kid who couldn’t play…a kid who was throwing the ball away”, to being named one of the city’s top high-school players. Perseverance, passion and focus was paramount. Three times (seventh, eighth and ninth grade) Blackman was cut from his high-school team, before making his breakthrough and fast becoming one of the state’s finest players.
College: Kansas State University
Years: 1977-78 – 1980-81 | Coach: Jack Hartman
We chat about Rolando’s decision to attend Kansas State University. He had upwards of 200 offers from schools across the country. For three of his four college seasons, Rolando was teammates with friend of the show, Ed Nealy. As a junior, the Wildcats made it to the NCAA Tournament, before bowing out (second round) with a two-point loss to eventual champions, the Louisville Cardinals. Individually, Blackman had a fantastic season, being named Big 8 (now Big 12) Player of the Year and 3rd-Team All-American.
Following his junior season, Rolando was invited to the Olympic trials (May, 1980) in Kentucky. Upwards of 50 nations – USA included – boycotted the (July) Games, protesting the Soviet’s invasion of Afghanistan. Whilst researching for my conversation with Rolando, I discovered that (his) Team USA participated in exhibition games – dubbed the ‘Gold Medal Series‘ – against teams of NBA stars, culminating in a match-up against the 1976, gold medal-winning U.S. Olympians. Rolando reflects on the trials, the exhibitions that followed and the moment he realized he was one of the nation’s elite players.
As a senior at Kansas State, Rolando’s buzzer-beating, second-round heroics, helped advance his Wildcats, deep into the NCAA Tournament – ultimately making a trip to the 1981 Elite Eight. It’s widely agreed that his game-winner versus Oregon State – along with U.S. Reed and John Smith’s same-day buzzer beaters – solidified the term, ‘March Madness‘.
Coaches: Dick Motta, John MacLeod & Richie Adubato
Rolando joined the expansion Dallas Mavericks, after just their first season in the NBA. They went 15-67 before he entered the scene. The team improved markedly in his first-two seasons with the Mavericks. He talks about the transition from being a college standout, to steering a fledgling team in the NBA.
I refer to my conversation with another friend of the show, Dale Ellis, when I ask Rolando to recall the franchise’s first (series) victory in the 1984 NBA Playoffs. It culminated in a crazy finish to the fifth-and-deciding first-round game versus the Seattle SuperSonics. The game was played at Moody Coliseum, due to Reunion Arena’s already-existing booking to host a WCT (tennis) tournament. Dallas won the game in overtime, not before both teams were ushered back from the dressing rooms, to play out the final second on the clock – which didn’t start, the first-time around. The game is known as ‘Moody Madness‘.
Rolando Blackman’s passion for life, is perhaps best demonstrated in the 1987 NBA All-Star Game. In the final three seconds of the fourth quarter, down two points, he drove strong to the hoop, as a contingent of Larry Bird, Julius Erving, Isiah Thomas and Michael Jordan tried to stop him. A foul was called, just before the time expired. Blackman stood alone, needing to make both free-throws, to force an overtime session. Rolando details his mindset on the final moments of regulation, the ensuing shots from the charity stripe and how he dealt with the countless distractions – most notably, Magic Johnson‘s attempts to limit Isiah’s incessant trash-talking. As you may expect, we also deep-dive into Rolando’s famous exclaim – “Confidence, Baby, confidence!” – one of the NBA’s most-memorable moments ever.
2017 marks the 30th anniversary of that game. Rolando also discusses his opinion of Tom Chambers‘ All-Star Game MVP honors. Speaking of All-Star Games, we chat about the 1986 contest, played at Dallas’ Reunion Arena. Rolando talks about being the Mavericks’ sole on-court representative.
It wouldn’t be a conversation about the 1980s Dallas Mavericks, if we didn’t cover the team’s battles against the Los Angeles Lakers. The Mavericks extended the World Champion Lakers, to seven games in the 1988 Western Conference Finals.
From 1988 through 1992, the Mavericks were coached by John MacLeod and then, Richie Adubato. The franchise began a decline that would bottom out, the year after Blackman left the team. Rolando candidly discusses the series of events which led to the franchise’s lowest era to date.
Seasons: 1992-93 – 1993-94 | Team: New York Knicks
In June of 1992, the Mavericks traded Rolando to New York. Instead of playing for Dallas’ 11-71 (1993) squad, he was a member of the mighty New York Knicks – a franchise set to seriously challenge the Chicago Bulls’ quest for a third-straight NBA title. We chat about Rolando’s move to New York and his thoughts on the trade.
The 1994 season is one of my all-time favorites. The league was in transition, with the then-retired Michael Jordan, playing baseball. The Houston Rockets and (Blackman’s) New York Knicks were poised to make the leap to the NBA’s elite. After disposing of the New Jersey Nets in the first round of the NBA Playoffs, en route to the NBA Finals, the Knicks went to seventh-and-deciding-games, in the next-three series – versus, Chicago, Indiana & Houston. Rolando shares his thoughts on the end of his NBA career, plus, talks about his decision to finish his playing days with international stints in Greece and Italy.
After retiring as player, Rolando would return to Dallas. In the early 2000s, he was a Player Development Coach for the Mavericks. These were crucial years in the development of future Hall of Famer, Dirk Nowitzki. Rolando talks about how closely he worked – and scrimmaged – with a young Dirk.
Within the decade, Rolando also coached internationally. In the 2006 season, he was an assistant coach to Avery Johnson, as the Mavericks made it to the NBA Finals. We discuss his future ambitions within the sport of basketball.
In 2000, the Mavericks retired his famous #22 jersey. Then, in 2007, Kansas State retired his #25 jersey. In 2015, Blackman was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame.
I ask Rolando – though it’s almost a certainty we’d know what he’d pick – to recall “The Game I’ll Never Forget”. Our conversation concludes with a quick chat about the significance of his jersey numbers.
High School All-American, NIT Champion, Film Producer & Actor, Nigel Miguel.
High School: Notre Dame (Sherman Oaks), California
As a child, Nigel moved from Central America to California. We talk about his role models as a youngster, before transitioning into his high-school career, where, as a senior, he led his team to a 19-5 record, en route to winning the Del Rey League Championship. He was named a 1981 McDonald’s All-American, in the famous class that included Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing and Chris Mullin. He discusses the tremendous opportunities that afforded him, including a crucial role in the USA’s gold-medal win at the 1981 Albert Schweitzer Tournament (often referred to as the Mini-Basketball World Cup, or Junior Olympics).
College: University of California Los Angeles
Years: 1981-82 – 1984-85 | Coaches: Larry Farmer & Walt Hazzard
Nigel played four seasons at UCLA. As a freshman, he was teammates with future Utah Jazz great – and friend of the show – Mark Eaton. In his sophomore season, Nigel’s Bruins made it the NCAA Tournament. He talks about the joy of making it to the tournament, coupled with the disappointment of a first-game exit.
In his junior and senior years, Nigel paired with all-time great, Reggie Miller. Prior to his last season with the team, Walt Hazzard – a player on John Wooden’s first NCAA Championship team – took the helm as UCLA coach. We discuss his lasting impact on Nigel and the team.. Miguel ended his Bruins career in style, scoring an equal game-high, 18 points, as UCLA won the 1985 NIT Championship, at the famed Madison Square Garden.
Date: June 18 | Location: New York | Pick: 62 (Round 3) | Team: New Jersey Nets
We talk about the lead-up to the draft, including team interviews that Nigel undertook, and, his one-on-one workout with the legendary Jerry West, on the court at the Great Western Forum.
CBA / NBA career | Years: 1985-86 – 1986-87
Season: 1985-86 | Team: La Crosse Catbirds
Coach: Ron Ekker
After being the last player cut from the New Jersey Nets’ training camp, Nigel signed with Wisconsin’s new CBA franchise, the La Crosse Catbirds. He talks about his fondness for that season, where he was named to the league’s All-Rookie team, averaging more than 17 points per game. Miguel was runner-up to future NBA All-Star, Michael Adams, for Rookie of the Year. The Catbirds made it to the 1986 CBA Championship series, before losing out to (former podcast guest) Ed Nealy and his Tampa Bay Thrillers.
Continued interest from the New Jersey Nets (and L.A. Lakers), led to Nigel’s return to (Nets) training camp, in anticipation of a roster spot for the 1986-87 NBA season. He talks about the seemingly-innocuous ‘tweak’ of his ankle, during a lead-up game. That quickly led to an inner-monologue: “My foot is on the ground…but I don’t feel anything”. He’d fractured his heel bone and damaged his Achilles tendon.
NBA veteran, Buck Williams, helped Nigel put his injury into context – offering suggestions on how to overcome the disappointment of having his professional career, seemingly reach an abrupt end.
Entertainment: Commercials, television, movies and more
After commencing rehabilitation for the 1987-88 NBA season, Nigel lost the desire to compete at the highest level, making a conscious decision to pursue other opportunities. His love for the entertainment industry, went as far back as high school – he attended classes with peers who had connections (family and otherwise) with the entertainment industry.
Miguel’s attorney helped connect Nigel with an agent and key members of the entertainment industry. Not long after, Dennis Hopper – recognizing the former-Bruins player – struck up a conversation with Miguel. Within an hour, Nigel was offered his first movie role, in Colors (1988). Future roles included the TV series, Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper (1992) and movies, White Men Can’t Jump (1992), Blue Chips (1994) and the iconic Space Jam (1996), where Miguel appears on-screen and off; he was Basketball Technical Advisor.
We chat about his crucial involvement in the behind-the-scenes running of the legendary Jordan Dome, where Michael Jordan took part in amazing pick-up games – including Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley, Larry Johnson, Dennis Rodman & Jack Haley – during production of the film.
Nigel also details what it was like to be Michael Jordan’s ‘body double’ for seven years.