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NBA Jam is a two-on-two basketball game that was released in the arcades (by Midway Games) and 16-bit consoles (by Acclaim). The game is notorious for its insane dunks and equally insane catchup. The game became a phenomenon when it was released in 1993, earning over a billion dollars in quarters over its lifespan. An Updated Rerelease called NBA Jam Tournament Edition quickly followed, with new players, stat tracking, and hidden players. In 2010, EA would release NBA Jam on the 7th-generation consoles.
NBA Jam contains examples of the following tropes:
- Announcer Chatter: Provided by Tim Kitzrow doing his best Marv Albert impression, providing memorable quips like "Is it the shoes?" "He's on fire!" and "Jams it in!"
- Author Appeal/The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: A rare case where the designers actually admitted this and bragged about it. Series co-creator Mark Turmell and the lead designers, all Detroit Pistons fans, specifically programmed the game to make Chicago's shots brick like crazy in clutch situations against Detroit.
- Pretty amusing, come to think of it, because the dev team was based in Chicago.
- Can also be a case for the newest game in the series in which playing a one-on-one match against Magic Johnson, Magic will literally use some magic teleporting skills to to make some very improbable plays, even for NBA Jam's sake.
- Boss Battle: Surprisingly implemented as a gameplay mechanic in the 2010 version of NBA Jam. The bosses themselves are equally divided between the Eastern and Western conferences, and between preexisting players and legends, who just so happen to be powered up just for the fight. The battles themselves are usually played as games of 21 (where the first player to hit 21 wins), yet there are some exceptions to the rule.
- Big Head Mode: Trope Maker
- Guest Fighter: Raiden, Scorpion, Sub-Zero and Reptile from Mortal Kombat were Dummied Out from NBA Jam Tournament Edition, although they can be played through hacks.
- In the On Fire edition of NBA Jam 2010, Elise, Mac and Kaori are members of Team SSX. Another bonus team (Team EA) consists of Mirror's Edge and Dead Space protagonists Faith and Issac Clarke. The game also features the now-defunct Seattle Supersonics as a playable team (with Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp playing), as well as a team based of NBA Street, some international teams and a couple of other random oddball players.
- ~Hey, It's That Guy!~: Players like Tom Gugliotta, Mike Iuzzolino and Blue Edwards are probably better known for their Jam selves than their real life selves. Of course, Your Mileage May Vary on some of these guys.
- Medium Blending: The Wii revival will use digitized player heads on 3D models. Like this.
- Mirror Match: Possible with any team and any set of players, yet played straight with Vince Carter in the On Fire Edition of the 2010 game, who is present in the Phoenix Suns as a regular player and as an unlockable one for the Toronto Raptors (Carter's old team, of which he is well-known for playing with).
- Rubber Band AI
- Spiritual Successor: After Midway lost the NBA Jam name to Acclaim in the mid-'90s, they released a series of games with different names. First came NBA Hangtime, which added a create-a-player mode and refined the gameplay elements, then NBA Maximum Hangtime refined things even further. NBA Showtime then took the series into 3D and added in rudimentary fouls while avoiding the Polygon Ceiling, NBA Hoopz made it 3-on-3 as opposed to the 2-on-2 of previous games, then the NBA Ballers series added extra "bling". Then, EA Sports got the license, as seen in And the Fandom Rejoiced in the YMMV section.
- On top of that, Midway then branched out and applied the NBA Jam formula of "loose adherence to the rules and fast-paced gameplay" to other sports. The best example of this is the NFL Blitz series (with 7-a-side teams and 30-yard first downs), but Midway also did it to hockey (NHL 2 On 2 Open Ice Challenge, Wayne Gretzky's 3D Hockey, NHL Hitz), soccer (Red Card Soccer 20-02), baseball (MLB Slugfest), golf (Skins Game) and motorsport (CART Fury) as well.
- NBA Jam itself could be seen as a spiritual successor to Arch Rivals, which debuted a few years earlier and popularized the concept of arcade-style 2-on-2 basketball.
- Unstable Equilibrium / Super Mode: "He's on fire!" Make three shots in a row with a player and they get powered up, making it easier for them to make even more.
- Urban Legend of Zelda: No, a half-court dunking Superman is not in the game. Nor is a Michael Jordan who can do the same thing.
- Wake Up Call Boss: If the Rubber Band AI doesn't get you, the Dallas Mavericks and the Minnesota Timberwolves in the original 1993 game will. To make matters worse, they are usually the first two teams you will go up against.
- What Do You Mean It's Not Awesome?: Jabs are permitted, players can jump several times what is humanly possible, and getting three shots in a row causes you to catch on fire and enter a Super Mode. Suffice to say, this is not a realistic basketball sim.
- X Meets Y: Due to the above trope, it could be described as basketball meets Dragon Ball.