Flashback Review: NBA Jam (1993)
When it comes to engaging in sports, what could be better than good old fashioned basketball? The rules are fairly simple, and you can play it any time of year. When the sun is out and the days are long, you can go for a little outdoor street basketball. When the snow is flying and the nights are long, you can hit the gym. If you’re good enough, you might even make it to the pros, earning massive paychecks. It’s also a great spectator sport (that’s where the money comes from to inflate those massive paychecks).
But what if you want to play b-ball without actually expending any physical energy? That’s why they invented video games, and that’s why they invented games to pander to the sports enthusiast in all of us—hence the title NBA Jam. No, not the more recent one available on the Nintendo Wii, I’m talking about the original (1993). There aren’t any create-your-own-player options, no drafting guys out of college, and nothing else to distract you from the reason you turned on the game in the first place. Just good, clean arcade fun.
Although the game features NBA teams (as the title indicates), the rules differ noticeably from those of the real-life game. For starters, an NBA game consists of five-on-five action, but in NBA Jam, it’s two-on-two. When you select a team, you’ll be playing with that team’s two best players from the 1993-’94 season. Chicago Bulls fans will be dismayed to learn that M.J. is not in this game (he was retired at the time). But there are loads of other big name players of that past era, from Charles Barkley (Phoenix Suns) to Dikembe Mutombo (Denver Nuggets).
The game consists of four 3 minute quarters. Sure, it doesn’t seem like much, but if you’re hungry for more when the game ends, you know what to do. For all you zebra haters you only see the ref once, when he tosses the ball into the air for the tip-off to start the game. From then on, you can take as many cheap shots at the other guys as you want. When you’re on offense, you can floor defenders by throwing elbows; when you’re on defense, you can shove opponents down (this action will cost you energy, unless your player is “on fire”). There are no fouls, no free throws and no ejections. Just be careful when you’re getting rowdy, because you might end up smacking your own teammate. If your player makes three baskets in a row, he’s “on fire”, and can go as crazy as he wants to without tiring out. The “on fire” phase will end if the other team manages to score a basket.
The most attractive feature, however, is the incredible slam dunks players are capable of. When you charge the basket and shoot, you might just see your man take off like a jet to deliver the jam. Sometimes, you can even destroy the backboard. Debris flies, and the announcer yells “BOOMSHAKALAKA!!” Win or lose, your game isn’t complete until you litter the floor with shards of fiberglass. So the next time you want to hit the court without climbing off the couch, maybe it’s time to turn on some NBA Jam.