NBA Jam is a basketball arcade game developed and released by Midway in 1993. It is the first entry in the NBA Jam series and became exceptionally popular in arcades, generating over $1 billion in revenue for the company. Mark Turmell is the game's main programmer and designer, and its gameplay is based on the game Arch Rivals, which Midway released in 1989.
Due to the success of NBA Jam, an updated version of the game called NBA Jam Tournament Edition was released a year and a half later. Featuring updated rosters and adding a number of new features to the series. Midway also used the success of NBA Jam to apply the over-the-top nature of the game to other sports. For example, Midway went on to create NFL Blitz, an over-the-top version of American football, in 1997.
NBA Jam is a 2-on-2 arcade-style basketball game that features over-the-top gameplay. The exaggerated nature of the gameplay means that players can perform gravity defying dunks with ease and shove opposing players down without penalty. Each game consists of four 3 minute long quarters, and the team with the most points at the end of the fourth quarter wins the game. When starting a match players have the option to enter their initials in order to keep track of their win-loss record and teams that they have beaten.
The only fouls a player can commit in NBA Jam are goal tending and shot clock violations. This means that the player can shove opposing players (and even his own teammate) down in order to get the ball without commiting a foul. A shot clock is present in order to keep the game moving at a fast pace and goal tending is used to prevent players from hoarding the basket while on defense.
A trademark of the NBA Jam series is the ability for players to catch on fire. This occurs when a player makes three consecutive unanswered shots. While on fire the player is nearly unstoppable; the player is granted unlimited turbo, increased accuracy, and can't be called for goal tending. A player's fire goes out when the opposing team makes a basket.
*Note: The arcade version features teams from the 92-93 NBA season, while the home version include players from the 93-94 season. Shaq only appears in the arcade version of the game, he does not appear in the home versions of the game because the cost to renew the right to license him was deemed too high.
- Dražen Petrović died in a car accident between the game's home version port. It is believed that he haunts the arcade version of the game by causing the announcer to call his name out at random.
- NBA Jam is well known for featuring many odd hidden characters that can be unlocked via the game's initial entry. The home versions of the game added "celebrity" characters, while the arcade release focused more on the team responsible for developing the game. Unlockable players include:
- Bill Clinton
- Al Gore
- Sal Divita
- Mark Turmell
- NBA Jam also includes cheats that enhance a players stats, these include: always on fire, infinite turbo and super dunks.