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Damian Lillard, Nneka Ogwumike, Diana Taurasi discuss filming Space Jam 2 with LeBron James

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Just like when they have played in pivotal games, Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard and Los Angeles Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike could draw up their own play.

This time, neither Lillard nor Ogwumike attempted to take a game-winning shot. As they filmed “Space Jam: A New Legacy,” the movie’s lead actor (LeBron James), other NBA players (Lillard, Anthony Davis, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green) and WNBA stars (Ogwumike, Diana Taurasi) learned they could deliver both scripted and improvised lines. So just like when star players first become teammates, they experienced some initial hiccups.

“Dame was mad because he said I was ad-libbing too much and I was speaking over his lines,” Ogwumike told USA TODAY Sports while laughing. “It was funny. In between takes, we would have a little bit of fun and banter.”

Another example of star players fighting over roles and attention? Hardly. Lillard and Ogwumike simply transferred their competitive urges from the court to the big screen. They did so while smiling and chuckling through their learning curves.

“We were stepping on top of each other and just trying to dominate that moment,” Lillard recalled to USA TODAY Sports. “We were like, ‘This is our chance in the movie to get some real acting in.’ Once I noticed she was trying to step in and take up more time, too, I started getting on her about it. But it was all fun.”

Taurasi, Ogwumike and Lillard delivered positive reviews with the finished product, which will be released nationwide on Friday nearly 25 years after Michael Jordan starred in the original. But when the NBA and WNBA stars filmed the Looney Tunes’ stand-alone sequel two summers ago, their new job required more than tightening their shorts, lacing their sneakers and playing hoops.

“We’re basketball players. We’re not actors. So there were a lot of missed lines and miscues,” Taurasi told USA TODAY Sports. “It was fun to work through the kinks and finally get a scene done that they were happy with. It took a whole day to put together a scene that might take five seconds in a movie.”

They dealt with 12-hour work days that entailed arriving early for makeup, sitting patiently in between takes and reading scripts. While Lillard spent a week of his offseason to film, Taurasi and Ogwumike worked for four days in between their WNBA schedule. Not only did that require the basketball stars to hurry up and wait without complaint, it also required them to have patience with their mistakes.

“There were times there was a particular scene that we were retaking, retaking and retaking for over an hour,” Ogwumike said.

Well, some are more experienced.

LeBron James in a scene from "Space Jam: A New Legacy."
LeBron James in a scene from "Space Jam: A New Legacy."

At the beginning of her WNBA career, Taurasi made a brief appearance as a basketball coach in the movie “Believe in Me.” Nonetheless, Taurasi still conceded feeling “very nervous” on set.

“The more you thought about it, the more you messed it up,” Taurasi said. “I definitely would rather be on the basketball court. I feel less nervous playing the game than acting the game.”

LeBron James, experienced actor?

Not so much for James. In 2015, James starred in the Amy Schumer-led comedy “Trainwreck,” which hardly describes how James’ basketball peers viewed his thespian skills in his latest flick. Instead, James’ latest accomplishment might add another wrinkle to the endless comparisons to Jordan.

“For him to come and take a role like this and basically do the sequel of the famous Michael Jordan movie, I thought that was pretty cool,” Lillard said. “We’re hearing him saying that he got a gym set up and that he’s training every morning, early in the morning. By the time we got there, sometimes he was already rolling.”

As detailed in “The Last Dance” documentary, Jordan scrimmaged with other NBA stars before and after filming. That did not happen with James and other players during the latest “Space Jam” filming. In between takes, the players simply caught up with each other, signed autographs for the crew and snuck in the occasional game of H-O-R-S-E.

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But as he did during his teams' run to four NBA championships, James made those around him better.

“We had to match his energy,” Ogwumike said. “He knew his lines and everything. It was pretty crazy. That helped us get into the zone.”

How did they get in the zone?

“I wouldn’t say I really prepared for it other than reading over the script to see exactly what they wanted me to do. I think the biggest preparation I did was I didn’t go into it trying to be cool,” Lillard said. “I’m going to go in there and try to do a really good job.”

To do a good job, the NBA and WNBA players did not just need to know their lines, act their character and play basketball. The players also learned how to act in front of a green screen, while wearing sensors to monitor their movement. That is because the film relied on CGI technology both so the real-life players could blend in with the Looney Tune characters in various settings. Those real-life players also were made into cartoon versions of themselves.

“If you feel awkward or feel embarrassed doing it, you just have to really lean into it,” Ogwumike said. “It’s fine you don’t need to care what you look like.”

After all, Lillard, Ogwumike and Taurasi completed this project with nostalgia after seeing the original “Space Jam” during their childhood and teenage years.

On the first day the movie was released, Lillard went with his mother and brother decked out in “Space Jam” attire from head to toe. Taurasi attended after already having Jordan posters plastered all over her walls. So as they worked through long days, multiple takes and flubbed lines, they were mindful the the latest movie could impact the next generation of NBA and WNBA stars the same way.

“People that are mostly millennials will definitely appreciate this for what it is,” Ogwumike said. “We were raised on the Space Jam.”

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Space Jam 2: NBA, WNBA stars dish on filming with 'actor' LeBron James