In the annals of video game lore, some titles will always be warmly nostalgic. Before today’s NBA 2K and NBA Live, there was the original: NBA Jam. Many ’80s and ’90s kids will recall lining up at laundromats, corner stores, and arcades to see what outrageous stunts their favorite basketballers could pull off next.
From oversized craniums and fantastical ways to score, to an exciting list of secret characters (including the likes of former president Bill Clinton and Mortal Kombat’s Reptile) to popularizing catchphrases such as”Boomshakalaka!” and “He’s on fire!”, NBA Jam was such a hit that gamers spent over $1 billion dollars in quarters in NBA Jam’s first year of release in 1993.
Emmy-nominated sports documentarian Sean Menard has been tapped to bring Reyan Ali’s 2019 book NBA Jam to the screen, and he talked about his memories playing the classic 2-on-2 arcade game. “When ‘NBA Jam’ hit the arcade, I was barely tall enough to reach the joystick and view the screen at the same time. But while literally standing on my toes, I was completely immersed in a game that allowed me the creative freedom to perform out-of-this-world feats of athleticism… Our film is more than just an original story about the most successful sports game of all time.”
The creator of NBA Jam finally confirms the long standing conspiracy theory that the game was programmed so that if the @ChicagoBulls took a last second shot against the @DetroitPistons it would always miss.
Mystery solved! pic.twitter.com/ugBw7cbx8k
— ᴀʀᴅᴀ Öᴄᴀʟ (@Arda) June 26, 2020
But according to Ali, the league nearly put the kibosh on the whole idea. “NBA Jam almost wasn’t made in the first place. The NBA initially balked at the idea of giving their license to an arcade game and rejected Midway’s advances over and over. Eventually, Midway licensing director Roger Sharpe was able to push through and convince the league that arcades were seedy havens of juvenile mischief that would tarnish their brand. It took roughly nine months to get them to say yes.”
The film plans to cover the game’s development as well as the larger framework of video games and the shifts in home entertainment during that time. And hopefully, we’ll also get some more insight into Michael Jordan’s noted absence from the game (due to licensing restrictions) and the high level pettiness of the game’s lead designer Mark Turmell.
An official date has not yet been given for the documentary’s release.