NBA Jam is a series of basketball video games developed by Midway/Acclaim that were extremely popular in the 1990s. Originally released in arcades, NBA Jam was later ported to home consoles as well as the PC. In the mid 90s NBA Jam was a popular alternative to EA Sports' NBA Live series and many gamers enjoyed both games for the different representation of basketball that each provided. Where NBA Live sought to emulate the NBA experience in a realistic fashion, NBA Jam featured two-on-two matchups between teams of NBA players with arcade-style gameplay, such as somersault dunks, superhuman powerups and the ability to knock players to the floor without being called for a foul. Later games in the series would also feature more realistic five-on-five gameplay, however these titles were less popular.
On January 11th 2010, EA Sports announced that they would be reviving the franchise with a new release for the Nintendo Wii. The game was also released for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. The series continued in 2011 with NBA Jam: On Fire Edition, released via the Xbox Live Marketplace and PlayStation Network Store.
Games in the series
- NBA Jam (Arcade, Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo, Sega CD, Game Boy, Game Gear)
- NBA Jam Tournament Edition (aka NBA Jam TE) (Arcade, Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo, Sega CD, Sega 32X, Atari Jaguar, Sega Saturn, Playstation, Game Boy, Windows)
- College Slam (Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo, Playstation, Sega Saturn, Game Boy, Windows)
- NBA Jam Extreme (Arcade, Playstation)
- NBA Jam 99 (Nintendo 64, Game Boy Color)
- NBA Jam 2000 (Nintendo 64)
- NBA Jam 2001 (Game Boy Color)
- NBA Jam 2002 (Game Boy Advance)
- NBA Jam (2003) (Playstation 2, Xbox)
- NBA Jam (2010, EA Sports) (Wii, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Mobile)
- NBA Jam: On Fire Edition (Xbox Live Marketplace, PlayStation Network Store)
After NBA Jam Extreme, the series appeared only on the Nintendo 64 and became more of a simulation, adding 5-on-5 play (as well as maintaining the classic 2-on-2 mode) and various features such as seasons and roster management that are expected in the genre. It reverted back to its roots when it went hand-held only for 2001 and 2002. The return to consoles with the 2003 edition was 3-on-3 but maintained the arcade gameplay.
Although NBA Jam featured two-on-two gameplay and eliminated fouls, it retained other traditional rules of basketball such as goaltending (except when a player was On Fire) and double dribbling though no violation was called for the latter; if a player picked up his dribble, he would not be able to move until he passed the ball. Points were also scored according to traditional basketball rules with regular field goals counting for two points and shots beyond the three point line counting for three points.
One of NBA Jam's most prominent features was the ability to be "On Fire". Taking its cue from basketball slang that describes a player as being "on fire" when they continue to hit shot after shot, being "On Fire" in NBA Jam afforded the player benefits such as greater accuracy, unlimited turbo and the ability to goaltend without being called for a violation. Players achieved "On Fire" status by hitting three shots in a row without a teammate or opponent scoring in between; players could preserve their streak by goaltending a CPU's shot attempt. "Fire" would last until the opposition scored or the player on fire hit three consecutive shots, during which time a player's shots would burn the net. It was possible to preserve fire by allowing alternating baskets between the player on fire and his teammate.
"On Fire" would continue to be featured in most of Midway's video games and achieved infamous status in popular culture through the phrases "He's heating up" and "He's on fire!", both of which would be excitedly uttered by the commentator as a player built up and successfully completed an "On Fire" streak.
Jam also featured other powerups such as the ability to take off for a dunk from anywhere on the court, gain unlimited turbo or increased pushing power. Hotspots were introduced in NBA Jam TE and gave players the ability to score up to nine points by hitting a shot from the point on the floor where a hotspot randomly appeared. These powerups could also be disabled if desired.
NBA Hangtime and future Midway NBA titles
Although NBA Hangtime/NBA Maximum Hangtime, NBA Showtime: NBA on NBC, NBA Hoopz and the NBA Ballers series are created by Midway's original NBA Jam team or a successor team, they are not published by Acclaim, nor part of the NBA Jam series. They, like NBA Street, could be seen as spiritual successors.
Hangtime was under development as the next NBA Jam when Acclaim acquired the license. As such, it builds directly on NBA Jam TE's gameplay base while introducing the concept of "Team Fire" which gave both players the benefits of being "On Fire" for 25 seconds should they complete three consecutive teamwork plays uninterrupted by a CPU basket. Hangtime was without a number of players due to licensing conflicts with the films Space Jam and Kazaam.
NBA Jam & NBA Street
Although produced by EA Sports as an arcade-style alternative to the NBA Live series, NBA Street is sometimes seen as a spiritual successor to the NBA Jam franchise in the way that it utilises superhuman dunks and a simplified control method. However, whereas NBA Jam sought to represent NBA basketball in a somewhat of a cartoonish light, NBA Street focuses on streetball featuring NBA players.
Revival under EA Sports
On January 11th, 2010, EA Sports announced that they had acquired the NBA Jam license and would be producing a new game to be released on the Nintendo Wii. The game was also released on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. A stripped down version was also intended to be shipped as a bonus feature of NBA Elite 11 prior to its cancellation. EA Sports then released NBA Jam: On Fire Edition in 2011, available via digital download only through the Xbox Live Marketplace and PlayStation Network Store.