The Game Is To Be Played: NBA JAM


One of the things we at the Sportress like to do besides play and watch sport is play sports based video games. We’ve tried our hand at everything from NBA 2K to Madden, Sensible Soccer to FIFA, Rugby League 2 to, uh, Rugby League 3. One game that has always been a constant in our lives is NBA Jam, a title that has evolved from its original arcade cabinet through various consoles and finally into a mobile platform.

My earliest memories of the game were day long marathons which Ben would hire on a routine basis during school holidays. Having obtained the holy cartridge, Ben, Dan, myself and anyone else who happened to be at Ben’s place would then sequester ourselves in Ben’s bedroom and play it until the callouses on our thumbs achieved sentience, stopping only to replenish on snacks.

A never ending soundtrack of “Boom Shakalaka” and “He’s on Fire” would reverberate in the hallway, along with the odd quibble about whose turn it was.

Jam 1.png

We played that game to death, hours and hours spent dunking and alley-ooping, teammates riling at each other when the CPU began its usual cheating tactics of simply waiting for you to both stand together so it could shove you over (it still does this).

One of the greatest things about ‘Jam’ is that it is a game that can be played so casually – you know exactly how long a game takes and it can be played by anyone who can hold a controller.

Then, as we grew older, NBA Jam faded into the background. SNES’s and N64s reached the end of their lives, and we were too busy doing other things. Close to a decade passed. Occasionally, during drunken ramblings, one of us would remember the game, which would lead to inebriated cries of “Boom Shakalaka”Jam 2.jpg

Fast forward to 2011. While flipping through a catalogue I noticed that iconic Jam logo, revised for a more modern world. I honestly can’t remember if I bought it for myself on the Nintendo Wii, or if I gave Dan the ultimate gift to play on his PS3. All I know is that NBA Jam was back, with swish new graphics, crazier dunks, a bigger roster and more secrets to unlock.

Dan and I played that thing every chance we got. Dan would usually be the point man, while I would choose a bulkier, pushier kind of guy.

We became obsessed with stats – it was no longer about just beating our opponents but about racking up the best figures while doing so. Dan would aim for steals, assists and points, while I tried to chalk up as many blocks and rebounds as possible.

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As before, NBA Jam soon lost its shine, fading into history, until one day, while catching up with Dan, I was informed that the iconic game had now made its way to mobile devices.

I’ve finished the Android based version twice already, both times as the Clippers, using Griffin as my CPU while I play as Jamal Crawford.

Now playing at All-star level, NBA Jam has become more than a dunkfest. It’s a calculated effort to deceive the computer, which becomes more and more adept at foiling you attempts to score. It doesn’t help that I’m obsessed with shooting three pointers; countless are the times that I’ve marched straight to the top of the key and launched a long range shot only to have the CPU casually swat my shot back at me.

My tactic against this is to not move once my teammate has passed me the ball at the restart; the CPU can’t resist the temptation to go the steal after 3-4 seconds and comes running in, only for me to spin around it and make for open ground. At first this was enough to get clear air for the three, but after a while the CPU got wise and would leave its second player waiting at the top of the key.

Now I have to shake the first defender, then switch back across court and head for the side of the three point arc to take a 90 degree shot. I also inject more effort into trying steals, as nothing opens up a good lead more than two three pointers back to back.

I’ve hit road blocks – Dan’s beloved Knicks held me back for one game, and as recently as yesterday it took me three cracks to topple the Celtics. Ironically the easiest teams to beat are the legendary ones you play every six games, so beholden to honour that they can only shoot gracefully, never shoving, always twirling.

I dread to think what the next skill level will bring – JAM ON!


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