[Note: RSS readers, there is a video within this blog]
I’m not a big gamer. Who has the time? But I can be persuaded to get down on the NBA 2K series from to time. As chance would have it, I stumbled across my old Super Nintendo system the other day when I was doing a little Spring Fall cleaning. I hooked it up and to my surprise, it still works. (It’s funny how my original Xbox crapped out on me after two years, but the NES works fifteen years after I bought it.) Maybe that’s why I thoroughly enjoyed reading ESPN The Magazine’s Q&A with NBA Jam designer Mark Turmell.
Among the highlights:
“The big thing for us, though, was the fact that it was the very first NBA-licensed coin-operated game. That was quite a hurdle, because the NBA was really concerned about putting their logo in arcades. Back then, a lot of the arcades they were used to in New York were kind of seedy with drug dealers hanging around, and the NBA didn’t want to be associated with that. We really had to educate the league about all the family fun centers and bowling alleys, and why the NBA logo should be on the side of these cabinets. We tried to make them forget about the seedy side and they finally agreed.
“Then right off the bat, we knew we had a huge game. Jam was making so much money when it first came out. There was so much four-player action at this one arcade in Chicago that the first week they had to shut the arcade down, because there was a huge fight over whose turn it was to play. There was so much money coming in, they had to change the coin-box every day. It was crazy.”
Even NBA players were hooked:
“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.
“Shaq actually bought two machines. He kept one at home and then, if you can believe this, they shipped the game with them on their road trips, setting up the machine in their hotel rooms as they traveled. The players would play, then get someone to pack it up and ship it off to the next city.”