Designer: Mark Turmell
NBA Jam is the third basketball game developed and published by Midway, after TV Basketball (1974) and Arch Rivals (1989). This was the first game in the NBA Jam series of games, with development headed up by Mark Turmell, the game was based on the earlier Arch Rivals play style of 2 vs 2.
This game was one of the first to feature official licensing from the NBA and also featured the real NBA teams and digitized likeness versions of the basketball stars of the early 90’s. NBA Jam was an exaggerated version of basketball, with gravity defying slam dunks that could set the basketball net on fire, with the commentators announcing “He’s on fire”. The game also featured some unlockable players, including the developer himself, Mark Turmell and also some popular names like Bill Clinton (then newly-elected president), Al Gore, Air Dog and Asif ‘Chow-Chow’ Chaudri.
The arcade version of NBA Jam featured teams and rosters from the 1992-93, whilst the console conversions featured the 1993-94 season. Their were also noticeable absences from the NBA teams, these included Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal, Shaq was in the arcade game but not the console versions, because both players owned their own name and likeness, and were not owned under the NBA license. Other absences were New Jersey Nets guard Dražen Petrović and the Boston Celtics forward Reggie Lewis, who both had died after the release of the arcade version and were removed from the home versions.
It was originally planned for Bart Simpson and Godzilla to be included in NBA Jam as secret characters, but those ideas were scrapped, now that would have been a fun sight!
Development of NBA Jam
NBA Jam was born out of Turmell’s previous game Total Carnage, which failed to hit sales targets, as a result, he wanted to make a game that would wider appeal, the NBA had initially reacted negatively on the first itch for the game, they were worried an arcade game was the wrong branding, but were convinced of it’s potential after a second pitch.
The home console versions were developed by Iguana Entertainment, it was written entirely in assembly language and was given a staggering $10 million marketing budget.