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 titled 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 with two iterations: the first one (simply called NBA Jam) was released in 2010, with the On Fire edition released the following year.
After TE, Acclaim won the rights to use the NBA Jam name 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 that have only sweetened with age:
- FROM DOWNTOWN!
- HE'S ON FIRE!
- IS IT THE SHOES?
- It's GOTTA be the shoes!
- Author Appeal: 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.
- 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 (domination 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)
- The classic tour mode pits players against teams of two legends from the same city, with the final game being played against Magic Johnson and Larry Bird - the only cross-city team in the game, and fittingly enough, cannot be used by human players.
- Big Head Mode: Trope maker.
- Bonus Space: "Hot Spots" in Tournament Edition. These are randomly placed circles which, if a successful shot is made while standing on them, increase a basket's value to anywhere from four to nine points each.
- Character Customization: Starting from Hangtime, Midway's line of games began including create-a-player features tied to specific name and PIN combinations. While it was extremely basic by today's standards, and the fact that you're locked into using the character once created can be annoying, it was still a huge selling point upon introduction, especially next to Acclaim's Jam Extreme, which didn't allow it.
- The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: When playing a one-on-one match against Magic Johnson in the 2010 version of the game, Magic will literally use some magic teleporting skills to make some very improbable plays, even by NBA Jam standards.
- Dummied Out: According to Mark Turmell, Michael Jordan appeared in a very early revision of the original NBA Jam, but was quickly excised from the game once Midway was notified Jordan wasn't a part of the NBA licensing.note However, Turmell also confirmed there is a small number of collector's editions of the original game with MJ's code intact.
- Easter Egg: Aside from all of the games' legendary cheat codes, inputting a certain combinationnote while booting up the original arcade game allows you to play a hidden 3D tank minigame. In revision 3.01 of Jam, your team would get a massive stat boost if you lasted for sixty seconds in the minigame.
- Everything's Better with Cows: One of Hangtime's create-a-character attributes is a cow's head.
- Expy: Traditionally, when Michael Jordan was not on the game roster, his stats would be given to Scottie Pippen. However, in Jam '99, there's a player on the team simply named "Roster Guard", who strongly resembles Jordan and is given very high stats. To avoid legal issues, he was given a generic "99" jersey instead of the iconic "23".
- Genre Shift: Acclaim's Jam games from '99 to Jam 2002 shifted from its traditional arcade gameplay to simulation-style gameplay, akin to NBA 2K and NBA Live.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar:
- Tim Kitzrow slipped in quite a few cleverly risqué lines and puns in EA's Jam that never would've flew in 1993. And the game still got an E rating! Here's a few gems:"Not cool, dude! You shot blocked me!"
"Get that weak shit...take mushroom outta here!"
"An unfortunate case of projectile dysfunction..."
"Two guys, one dunk!"
"I am the rainmaker. I'll ride you hard and you're gonna get wet."
"Like my wife says every night, REJECTED!"
- Subverted with NBA Jam XXX, an in-house prototype of the SNES port featuring profane calls from Kitzrow that was never meant to see the light of day to avoid pissing off the NBA. When the prototype surfaced in 2012, Kitzrow called it a hoax, but Jon Hey, the game's composer and sound engineer, refuted that claim, and Kitzrow himself would later admit to recording the lines years later. Check out all of the prototype's X-rated glory here.
- Tim Kitzrow slipped in quite a few cleverly risqué lines and puns in EA's Jam that never would've flew in 1993. And the game still got an E rating! Here's a few gems:
- 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.
- George Clinton, (under the name "P. Funk"), DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, and former U.S. President Bill Clinton can be unlocked in Tournament Edition. Bill Clinton reappears in the 2009 revival and its 2010 update, this time bringing along Barack Obama and Joe Biden as teammates, and John McCain, George W. Bush and Sarah Palin as rivals.
- 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 of NBA Street characters, some international teams and a couple of other random oddball players.
- J Cole and 9th Wonder are unlockable bonus characters in the 2009 version of Jam. in the 2010 On Fire edition, they're replaced by the Beastie Boys.
- In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: As a sign of authenticity, and to distance themselves from Acclaim's Extreme, the covers and flyers◊ for Hangtime featured the Jam T.E. logo with the words "Created By the Original Midway NBA Jam Design Team".
- Invisible Wall: The ball will always stay in bounds, regardless if it's been shot or knocked loose.
- Konami Code: Used to unlock the Beastie Boys in NBA Jam: On Fire Edition, with the final two buttons differing on what system you use.note A variant of the code is used to unlock J Cole and Ninth Wonder in the original version.
- Large Ham Announcer: Tim Kitzrow's claim to fame.
- Mad Libs Dialogue: The arcade games' play-by-play commentary frequently says "(player's name) with the (action)" and "(team) up/down by (current difference in score)".
- Manual Leader, A.I. 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 higher and further than 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.
- New Jack Swing: Every game's OST by Midway and Acclaim until Jam '99 was influenced by this, funk, hip hop, and dance music.
- No Fair Cheating: The 2009-10 editions edition of Jam automatically disable the "One Shot Fire" cheat during the Arena Tour and Online Tour modes.
- Pinball Spin-Off: Jam was adapted into a pinball table called NBA Fastbreak by Midway in 1997, with Tim Kitzrow once again providing play-by-play.
- Polygon Ceiling: Acclaim, upon seizing the Jam name from Midway, ran smack into this problem with Jam Extreme. The 3D graphics were middling by 1996's standards and have aged like sour milk, the pace of play takes a significant hit, and on consoles, the experience gets even worse thanks to good old-fashioned PSX/Saturn load times long enough to make a quick sandwich while you waited. Midway, on the other hand, hung back and stuck to two dimensions with Hangtime, providing faster gameplay with more meaningful tweaks like team fire and create-a-player, and the result was a stronger successor that set the stage for an actually successful leap to 3D with Showtime.
- Pop-Star Composer: Rapper M-Doc of Indasoul wrote and produced the theme song "Whatcha Gonna Do?" and "Get Up, Get Up (First Quarter Music)" for Hangtime.
- Reality Has No Soundtrack: For some reason, the Super NES port of NBA Jam and Tournament Edition don't have in-game music like the original arcade, Genesis/32x and Sega CD ports do. It does have menu music, though.
- Re-Release Soundtrack: The Jaguar port of Tournament Edition has completely different music than the arcade version.
- Rubber-Band A.I.
- Shout-Out: The announcer line "It's gotta be the shoes!" is a reference to Spike Lee's character Mars Blackmon from his film She's Gotta Have It, who first used it as a Catchphrase in several late '80s-early '90s Air Jordan sneaker commercials with Michael Jordan.
- The team select theme for Hangtime interpolates some of the backing vocals from Michael Jackson's "Jam," which might explain why the King of Pop was such a big fan of the game.
- Spiritual Successor:
- 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.
- 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.
- Midway also applied the NBA Jam formula of "loose adherence to the rules and fast-paced gameplay" to other sports games. The best example of this is the NFL Blitz series (with 7-a-side teams and 30-yard first downs and suplexes and leg drops on downed players between plays. 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 Elevennote ). Midway also did it with hockey (NHL 2 On 2 Open Ice Challenge, Wayne Gretzky's 3D Hockey, and NHL Hitz). More Midway-style interpretation of other sports includes soccer (Red Card Soccer 20-02, in which Zidane can headbutt players a few years before he committed the deed in real life), baseball (MLB Slugfest), golf (Skins Game), combat sports (Ready 2 Rumble Boxing, WWF WrestleMania: The Arcade Game) and motorsport (CART Fury).
- Every game in EA's Street series took a lot of cues from Jam, though NBA Street is the obvious spiritual successor, to the point that Stretch was included in EA's Jam revival.
- Sprint Meter: Use of the turbo button is time-limited and slowly regenerates. It stays full while a player is "on fire".
- 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. Hangtime and the 2011 On Fire edition adds Team Fire, by performing three consecutive alley-oops. The team is given 20 seconds of fire status, but can be extinguished by an opposing alley-oop.
- Video Game Cruelty Potential: You're able to knock opponents down. On top of that, this can be used as a strategy - if a player is a little too strong for you, just gang up on them so they will be swapped out during halftime. Because knocking opponents down not only stops them, it can also weaken them.
- Wake-Up 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.
- In Hangtime, after defeating a certain amount of teams, opposing teams will start the game "fired up" at the beginning of the match, allowing them to activate Team Fire if they score the first point.
- You Don't Look Like You: For some reason, every single version of Hangtime, from the original arcade release to the final Maximum Hangtime update, gives the Vancouver Grizzlies' color scheme to the Toronto Raptors and vice versa.