Together Retro Game Club: NBA Jam


Presented by Fastbilly & Racketboy
New To Together Retro? Check out the introduction to the club

I have been trying to think of one word to describe this months Together Retro title and just haven’t had any luck. Bodacious and Badical just cant seem grasp the awesomeness of this title. I mean what other game did Shaquille O’Neill own two copies of the arcade cabinet for: one for home one for travel. No wait, I’ve got it: Boomshakalaka, that’ll work. As you can tell, this month we are playing that exquisite arcade basketball game NBA Jam. So lace up your sneakers, its time to go break a backboard as Bill Clinton.



NBA Jam was coded Mark Turmell (listen to our podcast interview with Mark), who, if you have been keeping up Together Retro you will recognize as the creator of Smash TV. Despite what many people believe NBA Jam did not create the over the top sports genre. Arch Rivals was released by Midway in 1989 and is considered the prime inspiration for the title. It was, however, the first arcade game to use NBA licensed teams and player likenesses. It’s over the top gameplay style and exaggerated physics are what sold it to the fans though. Also of note, it is one of the very few games on the Midway T-Unit hardware.

According to Turmell, the game was a more serious basketball game until he coded the first dunk. He didn’t mean to do something zany, but with the velocity and height entered, well it just looked cool. So he pushed it to be higher and look even cooler, changing the dynamic of the game from then on. NBA Jam also introduced an unheard of number of Easter eggs for a game at that time. Hidden characters ranging from mascots to political figures to the creators were all available with the right passcodes. I mean who doesn’t want to play the Clinton team: Bill Clinton and George Clinton.


2-on-2 basketball game on an indoor court with very few rules or penalties. The only penalties are goaltending and 24 seconds. Thanks to the exaggerated physics players can jump several times their height, do numerous flips into a goal, and who can forget the signature “he’s on fire” ability to have the ball, well, be on fire. Gameplay is quick and fast, but very easy to learn and is forgiving until you get to the higher levels of competition.


NBA Jam has spawned countless imitators and a long running series with ports or sequels on most 16 and 32 bit consoles. However, over time it ran its own name into the ground with mediocrity. Midway did the right thing though, it went under and EA bought the license. And if you do not keep up with modern gaming news let me tell you to buy a Wii since NBA Jam comes back to home consoles in October. Rumors say there are PS3 and 360 ports coming aswell, but Wii is 100% confirmed. And yes, Tim Kitzrow is back to be the voice of the announcer.


  • Gameboy – 1993
  • GameGear – 1993
  • Genesis – 1994
  • SNES – 1994
  • Sega CD – 1994


  • Joystick: Move
  • Three buttons: Shoot, Pass, Turbo

Turbo / “On Fire” Capabilities

  • The turbo button will make your player move twice as fast and perform special moves such as dunks or extra-high jumps.
  • You need to recharge it if you hold the button for too long
  • Score three baskets in a row and you’ll become “on-fire” for as long as the opposition is held scoreless.
  • The player who is on-fire will have increased abilities and unlimited turbo, no goaltending, and increased shooting ability.

Emulation Help

Racketboy Emulation Forum

Together Retro Discussion

Instead of posting in the comments section of the blog, we will be using the forum for all of our discussion in order to keep things more organized. So play NBA Jam and talk to us about your thoughts and play experiences in the forums. We want to know your favorite route, your highscores, and your failures.
Discuss The Game In The Forum

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the7k says:

Not counting the Saturn and PS1 versions?

racketboy says:

Not that they can’t be included, but I think fastbilly1 was referring to just the original, non-TE versions

Ken Masters says:

this has been circling on youtube for a bit. Nice tribute to NBA JAM. theie pso song is way better thoguh.

jared says:

I’m pretty sure this game is coming out on psn/xbla/wiiware sometime soon as well. =)

RedCrossKnight says:

Sweet TR post. Hey maybe some of yall can help me out. What is generally considered the best port of NBA Jam?

racketboy says:

Does it have to be the original or would you still like TE?
Sega CD would probably be the best one of the original other than the longer load times.
I haven’t played the Saturn/PS1 versions of TE, but the 32X one looks pretty good. (or the Jaguar version if you have one…)

RedCrossKnight says:

Hmmm. That’s a good question. What’s the difference between the original and the TE?

racketboy says:

Well, it had updated rosters, three players to choose from on each team (including rookies from that year) ability to change players at the end of quarters, and I think there were some other tweaks. But the graphics and game were quite similar. It was basically a nice update.

RedCrossKnight says:

I see. Interesting. What’s the best if we do include the TE update?

racketboy says:

Well, like I mentioned earlier, it would probably be the 32X or the Jaguar — the Saturn or PS1 ones probably aren’t bad either, but the load times might get annoying.

Favrenation says:

Here is video of the PS1 game: The SNES version looked good but not as good as the MAME version which is to be assumed. I also would think that the Saturn version would be great just becuase it is in the same generation as the PS1.

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