In an older but still interesting interview with ESPN the Magazine’s “The Gamer Blog,” NBA Jam’s original lead designer Mark Turmell finally revealed what most of us have been screaming for the last 20 years – the NBA is fixed! Well, maybe not the actual NBA, but at least the video game version is a complete sham. A lifelong Detroit Pistons fan, Turmell admitted that there was actually code written into the game that made it impossible for anyone playing as the almighty Chicago Bulls to win a game with a final shot against the Pistons.
Did Scottie Pippen’s ratings in the game really drop when he played certain teams?
It’s true, but only when the Bulls played the Pistons. If there was a close game and anyone on the Bulls took a last second shot, we wrote special code in the game so that they would average out to be bricks. There was the big competition back in the day between the Pistons and the Bulls, and since I was always a big Pistons fan, that was my opportunity to level the playing field.
Here’s the thing – since Michael Jordan wasn’t in the original NBA Jam because of licensing rights and whatnot, this wasn’t very necessary and therefore a pretty dick move. I mean, if you couldn’t beat Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant as it was, then the problem was you and not the game’s code. As for Jordan and the other missing player, Gary Payton, Turmell also revealed what happened when NBA Jam became the mega hit that it was and the Glove and his Airness realized what they were missing out on.
The most interesting one was the team of Gary Payton and Michael Jordan. Payton didn’t make the cut to be in the game, and of course, Jordan pulled himself out of the licensing of the NBA, so we had to pull him out of the game. But 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.
Instead of all-star and superstar stats, they should have made them both the worst players in the game. Like, if you could have started Alan Ogg for the Miami Heat, he would have been better than Michael Jordan or Gary Payton.
Unfortunately, Turmell didn’t mention whether or not this profanity-laced version of the game actually exists or if it was just some Internet prank. (Fast forward to around the 2:00 mark for the juicy stuff.)
Here’s the supposed long-winded response from Midway’s sound guy, Jon Hey, on how this version of the game might have been made, although he basically still says that it’s a fake based on actual recordings. But Turmell also said that it really happened, so I guess it’s as close as we’ll ever get to someone shouting, “Get that sh*t out of here!” while Bill Clinton tries to slam dunk a basketball.