Legendary Jordan ad man: ‘LeBron wants to be next Jordan, so he's got to do a Bugs Bunny movie’

Jun 19, 2020
PHOTO: (Left) Warner Bros. Pictures, (Right) AP

BY HIS own confession, Jim Riswold has a big mouth.

“I had a reputation to be quite difficult to work with,” the longtime creative director confessed in a wide-ranging conversation with Complex published yesterday. His outspoken quality has had him booted out of his gigs on more than one occasion. In fact, he’s been in and out of his biggest account, Nike, but the shoe and apparel giant has always asked him to come back.

In his tenure at ad agency Wieden+Kennedy, Riswold became known for his ads with Michael Jordan.

His most popular one, a spot featuring the Chicago Bulls star and Bugs Bunny, became so famous that it was spun off into its own movie. We’re talking, of course, about the “Hare Jordan” ad.

As Risworld remembers it, he thought of the ad just because he liked the Looney Tunes cartoon.

“I grew up a Bugs Bunny nut and I like to say I just did the spot because I wanted to be talking to Bugs Bunny,” he recalled.

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Warner Bros. was protective of their property, sending Riswold a laundry list of things Bugs Bunny cannot do in the ad, including the directive, “Bugs can’t be violent.”

Riswold’s reaction said it best: “What the f--k are you talking about?”

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He continued, “Bugs is violent and there was some early arguing back and forth.” Eventually, he got Warner Bros. to say yes when he threatened to do the commercial with Roger Rabbit instead.

The ad man had no clue that the commercial would become so popular. More than two decades later, he mused, “I could never ever gauge if something was going to be successful. I mean, you get lucky.”

While he went on to make another “Hare Jordan” ad after a year, Riswold never cared much for Space Jam, the full-length movie it inspired.

“For the life of me, I cannot figure out why that movie was successful,” he told Complex. His feelings may or may not have been colored by the fact that he was hired early on to work in the film's pre-production, but was kicked out of the project because he had an entirely different vision for it.

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He doesn’t care much for the announced sequel, either, starring Lakers titan — and the man long positioned by fans and pundits as the dude who comes closest to the GOAT — LeBron James.

“Good luck,” he said. “I guess LeBron wants to be the next Michael Jordan, so he's got to do a Bugs Bunny movie.”

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Space Jam: A New Legacy is set to be released in 2021. Last May 1, James revealed the official title and logo in an Instagram post. But there’s been no word about the movie since then.

Head over to Complex to read the full interview, where Riswold holds court about the legacy of his other Jordan ads, as well as the shoes they were created to sell.

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PHOTO: (Left) Warner Bros. Pictures, (Right) AP
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