NBA Jam is a basketball arcade game developed by Midway in 1993. It is the first entry in the NBA Jam series, and was written entirely in assembly language. The main designer and programmer for this game was Mark Turmell.
The release of NBA Jam gave rise to a new genre of sports games which were based around action-packed gameplay. The arcade version features team rosters from the 1992-93 NBA season and the console versions use rosters from the 1993-94 NBA season. More up-to-date ports were released for the Sega CD, Game Boy, and Game Gear later in 1994.
Midway did not secure the license to use Michael Jordan's likeness, thus making him unavailable for home versions just as Gary Payton and Shaquille O'Neal; the latter conspicuous considering his appearance on the arcade version as a member of the Orlando Magic. New Jersey Nets Star Guard Drazen Petrovic & Boston Celtics All-Star Forward Reggie Lewis, both of whom passed away after the release of the Arcade version, were also removed from the home version.
Midway had previously released such sports games as Arch Rivals in 1989, High Impact in 1990, and Super High Impact in 1991. The gameplay of NBA Jam is based on Arch Vs. Rivals, another 2-on-2 basketball video game. However, it was the release of NBA Jam that brought mainstream success to the genre.
The game became exceptionally popular, and generated a significant amount of money for arcades after its release, largely because of the fairly expensive prices for game play. The typical cost to play a full game of NBA Jam in the United States ranged from $1.00 to $2.00. Nonetheless, the game was a smash hit. The original arcade release generated revenue of $1 billion in quarters.
NBA Jam, which featured 2-on-2 basketball, was one of the first real playable basketball arcade games, and was also one of the first sports games to feature NBA-licensed teams and players, and their real digitized likenesses.
A key feature of NBA Jam was the exaggerated nature of the play - players jumped many times above their own height, making slam dunks that defied both human capabilities and the laws of physics. There were no fouls, free throws, or violations except goaltending. This meant the player was able to freely shove or elbow his opponent out of the way. Additionally, the game had an "on fire" feature, where if one player made three baskets in a row, he would become "on fire" and have unlimited turbo, no goaltending, and increased shooting ability, until the other team scored (or the player had scored four consecutive baskets while "on fire").
The game is filled with easter eggs, special features and players activated by initials or button/joystick combinations. For example, pressing A five times and right five times on any Sega Genesis controller would activate 'Super Clean Floors'. 'Super Clean Floors' would caused characters to fall if they ran too fast or changed direction too quickly. And players could enter special codes to unlock hidden players, ranging from US President Bill Clinton to Hugo the Charlotte Hornets mascot. Early versions of the sequel, NBA Jam Tournament Edition, allowed players to put in codes that allowed people to play as characters from Mortal Kombat, but the NBA, uneasy over the controversies surrounding Mortal Kombat's levels of violence, forced Midway to remove these characters in later updates.
Team: Arcade: SNES/Genesis: Sega CD: Game Boy: Game Gear
- Atlanta Hawks: Dominique Wilkins and Stacey Augmon; Dominique Wilkins and Stacey Augmon; Stacey Augmon and Mookie Blaylock; Stacey Augmon and Mookie Blaylock; Dominique Wilkins and Stacey Augmon
- Boston Celtics: Reggie Lewis and Kevin McHale; Dee Brown and Robert Parish; Dee Brown and Dominique Wilkins; Dee Brown and Dominique Wilkins; Dee Brown and Robert Parish
- Charlotte Hornets; Larry Johnson and Kendall Gill Larry Johnson and Alonzo Mourning Larry Johnson and Alonzo Mourning Larry Johnson and Alonzo Mourning Larry Johnson and Alonzo Mourning
- Chicago Bulls Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant Scottie Pippen and B.J. Armstrong Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant
- Cleveland Cavaliers Mark Price and Brad Daugherty Mark Price and Brad Daugherty Mark Price and Brad Daugherty Mark Price and Brad Daugherty Mark Price and Brad Daugherty
- Detroit Pistons Isiah Thomas and Bill Laimbeer Isiah Thomas and Bill Laimbeer Terry Mills and Joe Dumars Terry Mills and Joe Dumars Isiah Thomas and Bill Laimbeer
- Indiana Pacers Reggie Miller and Detlef Schrempf Reggie Miller and Derrick McKey Reggie Miller and Derrick McKey Reggie Miller and Rik Smits Reggie Miller and Derrick McKey
- Milwaukee Bucks Brad Lohaus and Blue Edwards Brad Lohaus and Blue Edwards Vin Baker and Eric Murdock Vin Baker and Eric Murdock Brad Lohaus and Blue Edwards
- Miami Heat Rony Seikaly and Glen Rice Rony Seikaly and Harold Miner Rony Seikaly and Glen Rice Rony Seikaly and Glen Rice Rony Seikaly and Harold Miner
- New Jersey Nets Derrick Coleman and Dražen Petrović* Derrick Coleman and Kenny Anderson Derrick Coleman and Kenny Anderson Derrick Coleman and Kenny Anderson Derrick Coleman and Kenny Anderson
- New York Knicks Patrick Ewing and Charles Oakley Patrick Ewing and John Starks Patrick Ewing and John Starks Patrick Ewing and John Starks Patrick Ewing and John Starks
- Orlando Magic Shaquille O'Neal** and Scott Skiles Nick Anderson and Scott Skiles Nick Anderson and Penny Hardaway Nick Anderson and Penny Hardaway Nick Anderson and Scott Skiles
- Philadelphia 76ers Hersey Hawkins and Jeff Hornacek Clarence Weatherspoon and Jeff Hornacek Clarence Weatherspoon and Jeff Malone Clarence Weatherspoon and Jeff Hornacek Clarence Weatherspoon and Jeff Hornacek
- Washington Bullets Tom Gugliotta and Harvey Grant Tom Gugliotta and Harvey Grant Tom Gugliotta and Calbert Cheaney Tom Gugliotta and Calbert Cheaney Tom Gugliotta and Harvey Grant
*Dražen Petrović was killed in a car crash between the release of the arcade version and the home ports. NBA Jam is said to be haunted by Petrović, due to a bug causing his last name to be randomly called out by the announcer.
**Shaquille O'Neal appears only in the arcade version because his likeness was no longer licensed by the NBA by the time the home console versions were created, and the cost was too high to include him in the game (much like Michael Jordan).
Team Arcade SNES/Genesis Sega CD Game Boy Game Gear
- Dallas Mavericks Derek Harper and Mike Iuzzolino Derek Harper and Jim Jackson Derek Harper and Jamal Mashburn Jim Jackson and Jamal Mashburn Derek Harper and Jim Jackson
- Denver Nuggets Dikembe Mutombo and LaPhonso Ellis Dikembe Mutombo and LaPhonso Ellis Dikembe Mutombo and Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf Dikembe Mutombo and Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf Dikembe Mutombo and LaPhonso Ellis
- Golden State Warriors Tim Hardaway and Chris Mullin Tim Hardaway and Chris Mullin Chris Webber and Latrell Sprewell Chris Webber and Latrell Sprewell Tim Hardaway and Chris Mullin
- Houston Rockets Hakeem Olajuwon and Kenny Smith Hakeem Olajuwon and Vernon Maxwell Hakeem Olajuwon and Vernon Maxwell Hakeem Olajuwon and Vernon Maxwell Hakeem Olajuwon and Vernon Maxwell
- Los Angeles Clippers Danny Manning and Ron Harper Danny Manning and Ron Harper Pooh Richardson and Ron Harper Pooh Richardson and Ron Harper Danny Manning and Ron Harper
- Los Angeles Lakers Vlade Divac and James Worthy Vlade Divac and James Worthy Vlade Divac and Nick Van Exel Vlade Divac and Nick Van Exel Vlade Divac and James Worthy
- Minnesota Timberwolves Christian Laettner and Chuck Person Christian Laettner and Chuck Person Christian Laettner and Isaiah Rider Christian Laettner and Isaiah Rider Christian Laettner and Chuck Person
- Phoenix Suns Charles Barkley and Dan Majerle Charles Barkley and Kevin Johnson1 Dan Majerle and Kevin Johnson Dan Majerle and Kevin Johnson Dan Majerle and Kevin Johnson
- Portland Trail Blazers Clyde Drexler and Terry Porter Clyde Drexler and Terry Porter Clyde Drexler and Cliff Robinson Clyde Drexler and Cliff Robinson Clyde Drexler and Terry Porter
- Sacramento Kings Wayman Tisdale and Spud Webb Wayman Tisdale and Mitch Richmond Wayman Tisdale and Mitch Richmond Wayman Tisdale and Mitch Richmond Wayman Tisdale and Mitch Richmond
- San Antonio Spurs David Robinson and Sean Elliott David Robinson and Sean Elliott David Robinson and Chuck Person David Robinson and Dale Ellis David Robinson and Dale Ellis
- Seattle SuperSonics Shawn Kemp and Benoit Benjamin Shawn Kemp and Detlef Schrempf Shawn Kemp and Detlef Schrempf Shawn Kemp and Detlef Schrempf Shawn Kemp and Detlef Schrempf
- Utah Jazz Karl Malone and John Stockton Karl Malone and John Stockton Karl Malone and John Stockton Karl Malone and John Stockton Karl Malone and John Stockton
Some earlier cartridges of the SNES, Sega Genesis, and Sega Game Gear versions have Charles Barkley and Kevin Johnson on the Phoenix Suns; however, later versions replaced Barkley with Dan Majerle because Midway lost the rights to include Barkley when Accolade created Shut Up and Jam.
Sequels/spin-offs  NBA Jam Tournament Edition
An update named NBA Jam Tournament Edition (commonly referred to as NBA Jam T.E.) featured updated rosters, new features and easter eggs combined with the same gameplay of the original. Teams now consisted of three to five players and players could be substituted into the game. The game also featured new hidden teams and hidden playable characters. Early versions of the game included characters from Midway's Mortal Kombat games. Players were also assigned more attributes, including clutch and fatigue levels. In addition, the game also introduced features such as a "Tournament" mode than turned off computer assistance and on-court hot spots that allowed for additional points or special slam dunks.  Ports and sequels
The NBA Jam games were also ported to many video game consoles as well as PC, beginning with the original's debut on the highly-publicized Jam Day (March 4, 1994). Console versions were well known for featuring many easter eggs; the home versions of Jam T.E. even allowed the player to use then-President Bill Clinton, then-First Lady Hillary Clinton, then-Vice President Al Gore and Atari's Vice President of Software Development Leonard Tramiel on the Atari Jaguar version. Acclaim published the console versions, and later ended up winning the exclusive rights to use the NBA Jam name.
Acclaim used the name on NBA Jam Extreme in 1996, a 3D version of Jam which featured Marv Albert doing commentary. Some of the most famous and repeated sayings of that year came from Albert saying, "Razzle Dazzle", "BOOM-SHAKALAKA", "Kaboom", "From Downtown", "Jams it!", and "He's on Fire!". The game was a flop, in comparison to Midway's version released that same year, rechristened NBA Hangtime, a game which featured a create-a-player and a usual batch of new features combined with a classic, but improved, NBA Jam feeling. An update called NBA Maximum Hangtime was subsequently released.
In 1995, Acclaim released a collegiate version of NBA Jam for home consoles entitled College Slam. Although the game was created to capitalize on the popularity of March Madness and the subsequent Final Four, it did not enjoy the popularity of the earlier NBA Jam games.
However, the idea was not quite dead as Midway passed it to their other sports games. The 1995 hockey release 2 On 2 Open Ice Challenge was only mildly successful at best, but Midway found success with Wayne Gretzky's 3D Hockey in 1996 and NFL Blitz in 1997. The NFL Blitz series remains active today as Blitz: The League despite the absence of an official NFL license. The success of the game brought forth another high-flying basketball game, and genuine 3D rendered (but 2D playing) sequel to NBA Jam and NBA Hangtime, NBA Showtime: NBA on NBC (which used the familiar NBA on NBC theme, Roundball Rock) in 1999, a game which was received well and had acceptable success. After it was ported, Midway decided to focus itself on other games, and after the following year's NBA Hoopz (a slower-paced, 3-on-3 copy of NBA Showtime), Midway's series ended. Acclaim continued to keep the NBA Jam name alive with its console games, although the games are only mildly popular.
Now making console games exclusively, Midway has used Jam's idea on several other sports, with NFL Blitz, NHL Hitz, MLB Slugfest, and RedCard 20-03 (a hard-hitting soccer game). Many of Jam's influences remain in their games. The latest efforts of Midway arcade basketball include NBA Ballers.
In January 2010, ESPN published reports that EA Sports is planning to release a new version of NBA Jam for the Wii video game system. Creator Mark Turmell has been hired to work on this new version in conjunction with EA Vancouver. EA later confirmed that it is working a new NBA Jam game for the Wii, EA Sports NBA Jam, retaining the "over-the-top experience" while adding new features such as "true-to-life body types, updated physics and visible player emotion."
In certain subcultures, the phrases "He's heating up" and "He's on fire" and "Boomshakalaka!" have entered into common usage. The phrases, as in the game, are used to (self) describe someone doing something successfully twice or thrice respectively, as the original expression was used for any player who scored three baskets in a row. He would be "on fire", as he then started tossing/dunking a flaming ball to the basket, burning its net in the process. The effect only wore off if the opposite team scored. The NBA Jam script was written solely by Jon Hey.
Other commentary in the game includes:
- "The Monster Jam!"
- "Jams it in!"
- "A spectacular dunk!"
- "Wild Shot!"
- "From Downtown!"
- "For Three!"
- "He's on fire!"
- "From long range!"
- "Grabs the rebound!"
- "The nail in the coffin!" - in closing seconds of game.
- "Whoomp, there it is!"
- "Puts up a brick!"
- "Couldn't buy a bucket!"
- "Is it the shoes!"
NBA Jam also incorporated a slogan from Spike Lee's alter-ego in his 1986 film She's Gotta Have It, Mars Blackmon, who was also featured in a Nike basketball shoe television commercial at the time. The NBA Jam commentator asked, "Is it the shoes?" after a player performed spectacularly.
The announcer was modeled on Marv Albert and other announcers although there is no mention of Albert in the game and was voiced by Tim Kitzrow.
The upbeat, funky music written by Jon Hey was inspired by sports music themes and has been compared to George Clinton's P-Funk All Stars. Funkadelic's 1979 (Not Just) Knee Deep shares the most similarity with the music of NBA Jam but was recorded more than a decade before NBA Jam's music was written. The likeness of George Clinton was used as the character "P. Funk" in the console versions of NBA Jam: Tournament Edition. The music of NBA Jam is well known and considered to be one of the most important aspects of the game.
In July 2009, Mortal Kombat creator Ed Boon revealed (on Twitter) that a Mortal Kombat court was to be hidden in a console port of NBA Jam or NBA Hangtime.
Mark Turnell, creator of NBA Jam, affirmed a long held suspicion that the game had a bias against the Chicago Bulls. According to Turnell, a Detroit Pistons fan, the game had special code that caused the Bulls to miss last-second shots in close games vs. the Pistons.