11 Essential Talking Points on NBA Jam

For those of a certain generation, the thought of basketball players flipping thirty feet in the air and shooting literal fireballs into smoking hoops isn't odd—it's the most natural thing in the world. That's thanks to NBA Jam, which was originally released in 1993 and quickly became the most popular arcade game of all time.

Here are some little-known facts about the game that had you and all your friends screaming "Boomshakalaka!" until the arcade closed.

1. It Started Out As A Standard Sports Game

Based on Midway’s previous (non-NBA licensed) game Arch Rivals, NBA Jam began as a straightforward 2-on-2 basketball simulator. It wasn’t until creator Mark Turmell began fiddling with the slam dunk sequences that the game got its trademark, gravity-defying jams. “I didn't even intend to do anything over the top,” Turmell recalled to ESPN The Magazine. “I put in the velocity and the height, and it looked cool, then I kept going higher until it was clearly unrealistic but still entertaining. Once that happened, we completely shifted the focus of the game.”

2. It Was Designed Quickly

It took Turmell and his team of designers just 10 months to make the first version of the game. They finished two months ahead of schedule in order to secure a 20% royalty bonus.

3. It Was Supposed To Include Different Camera Angles

Midway made the above video in 1992 as part of their pitch to the NBA in order to secure licensing. In it, they tease two features that never made it into the actual arcade game. When players dunked, the camera angle was originally supposed to switch to a vantage point behind the action. Also, on breakaways, the perspective was going to assume the character’s point of view as they sprinted to the hoop.

4. The Bulls Were Programmed to Choke

Turmell, a Detroit Pistons fan, gave his team an advantage when they played the arch-rival Chicago Bulls in the original arcade version of the game. “When the Bulls played the Pistons [and] there was a close game and anyone on the Bulls took a last second shot, we wrote special code in the game so that they would average out to be bricks,” Turmell revealed.

5. The NBA Got $100 For Every Arcade Machine Sold

Midway had to work hard to obtain licensing from the NBA. The league was initially reluctant to associate its brand with arcades, which NBA executives viewed as seedy locales. When the game developers finally convinced the league to come aboard, the agreement included a $100-per-machine royalty.

6. It Made Almost $1 Billion In Quarters In Its First Year

Reports pegged its revenue at a little over $900 million. There were over 20,000 machines, and some machines made over $2,000 a week. (One unit holds the world record amount for money made over one week: $2,468.)

7. A Version Exists That Features Both Michael Jordan And Gary Payton (On The Same Team)

Ever protective of his brand, Jordan wouldn’t agree to licensing terms for NBA Jam and was absent from the game. Gary Payton also wasn’t a featured player, as programmers selected Shawn Kemp and Benoit Benjamin (and later Detlef Schrempf, for the console version) to represent the Seattle Supersonics. Mark Turmell recalls making a special version featuring both those players after Gary Payton asked him to:

“One day, I got a phone call from a distributor out on the west coast who told me that Gary Payton was willing to pay whatever it cost to get into the game. So we told him what to do in terms of taking photographs, so he sent in photographs of himself and Jordan, saying, ‘We want to be in the game, hook us up.’ So we actually did a special version of the game and gave both players all-star, superstar stats. There are only a handful of these machines, but Jordan and Payton did end up being in one version of the game.”

8. Shaquille O’Neal Took An 'NBA Jam' Unit With Him Wherever He Went

Shaq loved the game so much that he bought two full arcade units—one for home, and one that was shipped around the country as he traveled so he could play in his hotel rooms.

9. The Narration Was Rushed

NBA Jam's iconic commentary and catchphrases (written by composer Jon Hey) had to be read by first-time video game voice actor Tim Kitzerow as quickly as possible. ”There was such limited space on those machines,” Kitzerow told IGN, “that we literally had to go over, ten or fifteen times, something like ‘He's on fire!’ as fast as we could until it was ‘H’s o'fire!’...I think that it was, well, just not very good. But it was only because of the restrictions.”

These quick-fire reads didn’t prevent Kitzerow's exclamations from becoming some of the most repeated catchphrases of the '90s, eventually permeating pop culture and entering the traditional sportscaster’s lexicon.

10. The NBA Nixed A Gory Hidden Court

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NBA Jam is famous for its hidden characters like Bill Clinton and Frank Thomas, but there was also supposed to be an unlockable court designed to look like a Mortal Kombat level (Mortal Kombat was also a Midway-designed game). The "Kourt," which had a hoop made of bones and featured a bloody skull as the ball, was vetoed by the NBA.

11. Its Creator Says The Game Has A Haunting Glitch

Croatian NBA star Dražen Petrović tragically died in a car accident in 1993. He was initially put in the game, but his likeness couldn't be removed in time before it shipped. Here, Mark Turmell told ESPN the Magazine about an eerie glitch that was discovered shortly thereafter:

"One night we were playing Mortal Kombat and there was a Jam machine next to it, and all of a sudden the game started calling out 'Petrovic!' 'Petrovic!' And this only happened after Petrovic had died. Everyone started freaking out. Something weird was going on with the software, and to this day, if you have an original 'NBA Jam' machine every once in a while it will just yell out 'Petrovic!'"

Nintendo Is Releasing a Special Gold Famicom Mini, Which Will Come Pre-Loaded With 20 Games

Nintendo’s renewed focus on retro gaming continues as the company is slated to release a manga-focused edition of the Famicom Mini in Japan on July 7. The Famicom—short for Nintendo Family Computer—is the Japanese version of the original Nintendo Entertainment System, and this new device will come with 20 games pre-loaded onto it.

Back when the NES Classic hit U.S. stores in 2016, Japan got its own Famicom Mini, which featured a slightly different selection of games from its Western counterpart, including Mario Open Golf and Downtown Nekketsu Kōshinkyoku: Soreyuke Daiundōkai. This new edition of the Mini will be gold-plated and is being released to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the manga magazine Weekly Jump, according to Kotaku.

To go with the theme, the games on the system will be ones based on the popular manga at the time like Dragon Ball, Saint Seiya, and Fist of the North Star, as The Verge reports. These are games that most Western audiences would have never experienced for themselves in the late '80s and early '90s as the manga/anime culture had not yet spilled over into the States much, and companies would rarely waste the time and money on localizing them for an unfamiliar fanbase.

In the rare instances that these games did come stateside, they were usually altered to appeal to a different culture—the most famous example is Dragon Ball on the Famicom arriving in America as Dragon Power in 1988 with box art looking more like something from The Karate Kid than a manga series.

Now that American audiences have embraced manga, there might actually be a market for this tiny package of retro gaming in the States. Unfortunately, there's no word on a U.S. release, meaning you’ll likely have to head to eBay or your local boutique video game store in order to have a shot at landing one. If you want a consolation prize, the original NES Classic will be heading back to stores on June 29—though if history is any guide, there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to get your hands on that, either.

[h/t: The Verge]

Ice Water Games, YouTube
5 Smartphone Games That Let You Tend Plants and Chill Out
Ice Water Games, YouTube
Ice Water Games, YouTube

Being in nature is naturally relaxing, but city-dwellers don’t always have an opportunity to get outside. Gardening can be therapeutic for mental health, but you may not have access to a garden—or even the space to tend a houseplant. You can still have a few moments of horticultural meditation every day. It will just have to be digital.

Over the last few years, video game developers have released a number of mobile games that revolve around the simple act of tending to plants. These games are, for the most part, slow-moving, meditative experiences that focus on beautiful graphics, calming soundtracks, and low-key challenges. They’re a great way to de-stress and pursue your gardening dreams, no watering can required.

Here are five relaxing, plant-centric phone games you can download now.


Viridi is like Neopets for plants. The game is dedicated to nurturing a pot of succulents that grow almost in real time. You can plant a variety of succulent species in your virtual pot. Spritz your plants with water when they’re thirsty and wait for them to grow. Each week, a new seedling will be available for you to plant. The game moves slowly by design. You can let it run in the background, and your plants will do their thing, just like a real plant would. These ones are even harder to kill than real succulents, though.

Find it: iOS, Android

2. TOCA NATURE; $2.99

Toca Boca makes games for kids, but honestly, Toca Nature is pretty fun no matter what your age. You can create your own natural landscapes, adding trees, water features, and mountains. Different natural features attract different animals, and the type of landscape you make shapes whether you’ll get bears, beavers, or birds living there. You can collect berries, feed the animals, or just enjoy planting trees.

Find it: iOS, Android


In Breath of Light, your job is to bring a garden to life by manipulating a stream of light. Move rocks and mirrors around your zen garden to harness and direct the life-giving light emanating from a single flower. When the light hits another flower, it causes that plant to grow. The very simple puzzles are designed to help you chill out, and the award-winning soundtrack by the audio designer Winterpark features binaural tones that are naturally relaxing. “As a unique, gamified version of guided meditation, Breath of Light helps you enter a state of calm serenity without you even noticing,” according to Killscreen. Sorry, Android users—the app seems to have disappeared from Google Play, but it’s still available for iPhone.

Find it: iOS

4. PRUNE; $3.99

Prune is a puzzle game with a horticultural twist. The object is to plant a tree, then as it grows up, guide it with careful pruning, helping the branches reach the light while staying away from the cold shadows or hot sun, both of which will kill the tree. As the levels rise, you’ll need to contort your trees into ever more complex shapes.

Find it: iOS, Android

5. EUFLORIA; $4.99

If you like your gardening to be a little more high-stakes, Eufloria is out of this world. Seriously, it’s about colonizing asteroids. Your mission is to grow trees on far-off asteroids, sending your seedlings out to turn gray space rocks into thriving landscapes. Your seeds hop from asteroid to asteroid at your behest, creating a chain of fertile life. Sometimes, alien enemies will attack your flourishing asteroid colonies, but don’t worry; you can beat them back with the power of more seeds. The game can be fast-paced and competitive, but there’s a “relaxed” play option that’s more meditative.

Find it: iOS, Android


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