The Short-Lived Cartoon That Starred Michael Jordan And Wayne Gretzky

Many would say that kids these days don't know the joy of Saturday morning cartoons. It's hard not to talk about it without sounding like an irate octogenarian, but now — thanks to their Netflix and their iPads and their YouTubes — the youth of today can watch whatever they want, whenever they want. 

But a decade or two ago, Saturday mornings used to be a sacred time for kids, a solid block of hours in front of the tube with a bowl of cereal sugary enough to cause cavities by sheer contact alone. It was a time kids looked forward to all week: Tuning in to watch the latest installment of their favorite cartoons. For many, mentioning the names of TV shows like "The Smurfs," "DuckTales," or "Animaniacs" can come with an instant jolt of nostalgia. With so many beloved classics, it's easy to forget that cartoons were aplenty — enough so that some programs found themselves benched before most people knew they even existed — even some that should've become classics, like NBC's "ProStars."

So what was "ProStars," you might ask? Well, to paraphrase the great screenwriter and producer Rod Serling: Imagine, if you will, Bo Jackson, Michael Jordan, and Wayne Gretzky joining forces to save the day each and every Saturday morning — or at least for 13 of them. But according to Vice, "ProStars" was shelved before that could ever happen.

The cartoon ProStars was a product of its time

According to Complex, "ProStars" TV debut in 1991 came during a time when giving a seemingly random parade of celebrities their own Saturday morning children's cartoons was the norm. Around the era of "ProStars," there was "The Gary Coleman Show," Louie Anderson's "Life with Louie," and even the M.C. Hammer vehicle "Hammerman." The inception of "ProStars" also came at a time when the four major North American sports leagues had talented athletes whose profiles rivaled those of the associations they played for. Among those included basketball legend Michael Jordan, the hockey icon Wayne Gretzky, and dual-sport star Bo Jackson. So, why not combine the two? 

Each episode of "ProStars" opened with a montage of highlights accompanied by a theme song. (The song itself sounds like what an AI program would write after listening to Def Leppard's "Hysteria" for several hundred hours.) The plot formula consisted of Jordan, Gretzky, and Jackson teaming up and using their various abilities to solve problems and defeat villains. This was also done with the help of Mom, a woman who gives them all kinds of crime-fighting gadgetry. 

The show, however, had one strange quirk. The three athletes didn't actually voice their characters, but they did appear in live-action interstitials, according to Vice. Unfortunately, "ProStars" was a flop and only lasted for 13 episodes — though Complex did include it on their list of the 50 greatest Saturday morning cartoons in 2018. 

ProStars didn't last long

Still, the end of "ProStars" wasn't the end of Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, or Bo Jackson in the world of entertainment. Gretzky made a cameo appearance in "D2: The Mighty Ducks" and did a guest spot in a 2016 episode of "The Simpsons" called "The Nightmare After Krustmas" (via IMDb). Meanwhile, Jackson made a more concerted effort to snag acting roles. He landed guest spots on a variety of shows throughout the 1990s, including "Married ... With Children," "Moesha," and even "Diagnosis Murder," according to his own IMDb page.

Of the three, it was Jordan who found the most success in television and film after "ProStars." He went on to star in a particular movie that received a fair bit of success, with help from the Looney Tunes. (Okay, more than a fair bit of success.) "Space Jam" is still highly beloved by fans — especially by people who grew up in the 1990s — and built upon Jordan's fame, even with people who had never sat down and watched a basketball game in their lives. It even spawned a sequel — though not quite as well-received, per Rotten Tomatoes — starring current day superstar LeBron James.