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Video Game: NBA Jam
BOOM Shaka-laka!

NBA Jam is a two-on-two basketball game that was released in the arcades (by Midway Games) and 16-bit consoles (by Acclaim). The game is notorious for its insane dunks and equally insane catchup. The game became a phenomenon when it was released in 1993, earning over a billion dollars in quarters over its lifespan. An Updated Re-release called NBA Jam: Tournament Edition quickly followed, with new players, stat tracking, and hidden players. In 2010, EA would release NBA Jam on the 7th-generation consoles.

After TE, Acclaim took the NBA Jam name away from Midway and used it to make basketball games until its demise. Midway, meanwhile, made several games that took the Jam formula and expanded on it. These games were NBA Hangtime and its Updated Re-release NBA Maximum Hangtime; NBA Showtime: NBA on NBC, which took the series into 3D and used a presentation based on NBC's basketball airings, and NBA Ballers, an answer to EA's NBA Street series.

NBA Jam contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Announcer Chatter: Provided by Tim Kitzrow doing his best Marv Albert impression, providing memorable quips like "Is it the shoes?" "He's on fire!" and "Jams it in!"
  • Author Appeal/The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: A rare case where the designer actually admitted this and bragged about it. Series creator Mark Turmell, a Detroit Pistons fan, specifically programmed the game to make the Chicago Bulls miss last second shots in close games against the Pistons. Ironically, the development team was based in Chicago.
    • Can also be a case for the newest game in the series in which playing a one-on-one match against Magic Johnson, Magic will literally use some magic teleporting skills to to make some very improbable plays, even by NBA Jam standards.
  • Boss Battle: Surprisingly implemented as a gameplay mechanic in the 2010 version of NBA Jam. The bosses themselves are equally divided between the Eastern and Western Conferences, and between preexisting players and legends, who just so happen to be powered up just for the fight. The battles themselves are usually played as games of 21 (where the first player to hit 21 wins), yet there are some exceptions to the rule.
    • Western: Kobe Bryant (stat boost in a close game), Magic Johnson (can teleport and pass the ball to himself), Yao Ming (grows bigger with every dunk, power-ups are scattered to shrink him), Chris Paul (domiation rules with four slots instead of 6; if he gets all slots, he wins), Karl Malone (superpowered shoves, rubber powerups are placed to counter this)
    • Eastern: LeBron James (goes on fire if losing), Dwyane Wade (game is played straight with no interuptions), Shaquille O'Neal (smash rules, if the backboard is destroyed, he wins; board can be repaired by shooting), Larry Bird (can shoot three consecutive 3-pointers if on fire), Julius Erving (domination rules, can dominate all points if on fire)
  • Big Head Mode: Trope Maker.
  • Guest Fighter: Raiden, Scorpion, Sub-Zero and Reptile from Mortal Kombat were Dummied Out from NBA Jam: Tournament Edition, although they can be played through hacks.
    • In the On Fire edition of NBA Jam 2010, Elise, Mac and Kaori are members of Team SSX. Another bonus team (Team EA) consists of Mirror's Edge and Dead Space protagonists Faith and Issac Clarke. The game also features the now-defunct Seattle SuperSonics as a playable team (with Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp playing), as well as a team based of NBA Street, some international teams and a couple of other random oddball players.
  • Hey, It's That Guy!: Players like Tom Gugliotta, Mike Iuzzolino and Blue Edwards are probably better known for their NBA Jam selves than their real life selves.
  • Manual Leader, AI Party: You controlled the player who had the ball and the rest were AI driven (successfully passing would shift control to the player who caught it). If the opposing team had the ball you could switch between players freely. The game had a multiplayer mode which allowed up to four human players to control the team in the arcade version (leaving only one AI), however.
  • Medium Blending: The Wii revival uses digitized player heads on 3D models. Like this.
  • Mirror Match: Possible with any team and any set of players, yet played straight with Vince Carter in the On Fire Edition of the 2010 game, who is present in the Phoenix Suns as a regular player and as an unlockable one for the Toronto Raptors (Carter's old team, of which he is well-known for playing with).
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Jabs are permitted, players can jump several times what is humanly possible, and getting three shots in a row causes you to catch on fire and enter a Super Mode. Suffice to say, this is not a realistic basketball sim.
  • Rubber Band A.I.
  • Spiritual Successor: After Midway lost the NBA Jam name to Acclaim in the mid '90s, they released a series of games with different names. First came NBA Hangtime, which added a create-a-player mode and refined the gameplay elements, then NBA Maximum Hangtime refined things even further. NBA Showtime then took the series into 3D and added in rudimentary fouls while avoiding the Polygon Ceiling, NBA Hoopz made it 3-on-3 as opposed to the 2-on-2 of previous games, then the NBA Ballers series added extra "bling". Then, EA Sports got the license, which was well-received.
    • On top of that, Midway then branched out and applied the NBA Jam formula of "loose adherence to the rules and fast-paced gameplay" to other sports. The best example of this is the NFL Blitz series (with 7-a-side teams and 30-yard first downs; after EA gained exclusivity of the NFL license, Midway succeeded it with Blitz: The League, which ramped the violence aspect of NFL Blitz Up to Eleven), but Midway also did it to hockey (NHL 2 On 2 Open Ice Challenge, Wayne Gretzky's 3D Hockey, NHL Hitz), soccer (Red Card Soccer 20-02), baseball (MLB Slugfest), golf (Skins Game) and motorsport (CART Fury) as well.
    • NBA Jam itself could be seen as a spiritual successor to Arch Rivals, which debuted a few years earlier and popularized the concept of arcade-style 2-on-2 basketball.
  • Sprint Meter: Use of the turbo button is time-limited and slowly regenerates. It stays full while a player is "on fire".
  • Unstable Equilibrium / Super Mode: "He's on fire!" Make three shots in a row with a player and they get powered up, making it easier for them to make even more, and giving them powered-up dunking abilities. The 2011 On Fire edition adds Team Fire, by performing 3 consecutive alley-oops. The team is given 20 minutes of fire status, but can be extinguished by an opposing alley-oop.
  • Urban Legend of Zelda: No, a half-court dunking Superman is not in the game. Nor is a Michael Jordan who can do the same thing; he was busy making another game, Michael Jordan: Chaos in the Windy City.
  • Wakeup Call Boss: If the Rubber Band A.I. doesn't get you, the Dallas Mavericks and the Minnesota Timberwolves in the original 1993 game will. To make matters worse, they are usually the first two teams you will go up against.
  • X Meets Y: It could be described as basketball meets Dragon Ball. See Mundane Made Awesome.

NBA BallersSports GameNHL Hockey
Ganbare GoemonNintendo 64 Neon Genesis Evangelion
Mortal Kombat: Shaolin MonksCreator/Midway GamesNBA Ballers
Mortal Kombat IICreator/AcclaimPsychic Force
NAM-1975Arcade GameNinja Baseball Bat Man
NarcissuApple MacintoshNeed for Speed
MystAtari JaguarPinball Fantasies

alternative title(s): NBA Jam
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