Game Review #11


NBA Jam is a basketball arcade game developed by Midway in 1993.  It became unexpectedly popular after its release.  NBA Jam features 2-on-2 basketball.  It 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 and 24 second violations. 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’. This feature would cause 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.

In certain subcultures, the phrases “He’s heating up,” “He’s on fire,” and “Boomshakalaka!” have entered into common usage.  The phrases, as in the game, are used to describe someone doing something successfully multiple times.  The original expression, “on fire,” was used for any player who scored three baskets in a row.  As he started shooting/dunking while on fire, the ball would become flaming, and burn the net as he scored. The effect only wore off if the opposite team scored.  The term “on fire,” has become prevalent in other games, including popular college drinking games.

For fun, here is a list of more NBA phrases:

  • “Boom-shaka-laka!”
  • “The Monster Jam!”
  • “Jams it in!”
  • “A spectacular dunk!”
  • “Intercepted!”
  • “Wild Shot!”
  • “Slam-a-jamma!”
  • “From Downtown!”
  • “For Three!”
  • “He’s on fire!”
  • “Get that outta here!”
  • “Baseline leaner!!”
  • “Welcome to the zoo!”
  • “From long range!”
  • “Grabs the rebound!”
  • “The nail in the coffin!”
  • “Whoomp, there it is!”
  • “Puts up a brick!”
  • “Can’t buy a bucket!”
  • “Is it the shoes?!?”
  • “Count it”
  • “Razzle Dazzle”

Playing this game is simple.  The Genesis controllers only really had 4 buttons other than the D-Pad; A, B, C, and Start.  You had the abilities to move, jump, shoot, turbo, and block.  In order to dunk, all  you had to do was run up to the hoop and hold the shoot button.  Simple enough?

NBA Jam is all about the enjoyment of playing.  It is an over-the-top arcade game where almost anything is possible, even that full court shot with 0.1 seconds left in the game (which always seems to go in).


One response to this post.

  1. Adore sports games!! So much fun. Though I prefer soccer and football games this was a good pick too.


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