Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index


NBA Jam was a basketball arcade game created by Midway Games in 1993. The release of NBA Jam many say brought rise to a new genre of sports games, which were based around high-flying, non-stop, in-your-face action and fun.

Midway Games, no stranger to releasing landmark games having released Pac-Man, had started experimenting with the ideas 2 years earlier, with the High Impact Football series. Both High Impact and Super High Impact had somewhat average success in arcades. It wasn't until the release of NBA Jam that the genre finally got noticed...and it was noticed in a big way. The game became exceptionally popular, and made a lot of money for arcades after its release, largely because of the fairly expensive prices put on these games, a game quarter generally took 2 credits and a full game generally took 8, typically equal to $2.00. Nonetheless, the game was a smash hit.

NBA Jam was one of the first real playable basketball arcade games, and was also one of the first sports games all told to feature real teams, real players, and their real digitized likenesses. However, the unrealism of the game was the major drawing point, as the high flying dunks (often featuring players jumping almost 20 feet in the air while making highly acrobatic slams) were the games' signature. Of course, seeing NBA superstars like Hakeem Olajuwon, Karl Malone, David Robinson, Charles Barkley, and Shaquille O'Neal flying through the air with the greatest of ease brought just as many fans back. In time, players discovered another major feature of the game, as it was filled with easter eggs, special features and players activated by initials or button/joystick combinations.

Unsurprisingly, it produced a sequel, NBA Jam: Tournament Edition (commonly referred to as NBA Jam T.E.), which featured more new features and easter eggs combined with the same fun of the original. The NBA Jam games were also ported popularly to many video game consoles and the PC. Those versions were well known for featuring tons of easter eggs, the home versions of Jam T.E. even allowed you to use then-president Bill Clinton or then-first lady Hillary. Acclaim ported these, 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 rendered version of Jam which featured Marv Albert doing commentating. 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 its usual batch of new features and classic fun. However, by the time Maximum Hangtime was released, Midway began to lose steam with the game, and the game was a disappointment. The basketball idea was shelved.

However, the idea was not quite dead as Midway passed it onto other sports. It released NFL Blitz in 1997, a wild, hard-hitting 7-on-7 version of American Football which, while not the big hit Jam was, became quite popular, and the series remains active today. The success of the game brought forth another high-flying basketball game, NBA Showtime, 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 it is presently the last game in the series. Acclaim continues to keep the NBA Jam name alive with its console games, although the games are only somehwat popular.

Now making console games exclusively, Midway has used Jam's idea on every other big sport, with NFL Blitz, NHL Hitz, MLB Slugfest, and RedCard (a hard-hitting soccer game). Many of Jam's influences remain on their games.