NBA Jam Designer Rigged Game Against The Bulls

09.26.13 5 years ago

It was more than twenty years ago, so many forget about the old Eastern Conference battles between Isaiah Thomas‘ Pistons and Michael Jordan‘s Bulls. They were the best teams in the Conference after Larry Bird and Kevin McHale suffered through injuries which forced the Celtics off their 80s perch at the top of the East. Except, the makers of NBA Jam played favorites with the rivalry.

NBA Jam is — and was — one of the best arcade basketball games we ever played as a child. Usually it was at the local Putt-Putt arcade, but some of our friends had it, and any time we played with the Bulls’ tandem of Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant — or B.J. Armstrong (Jordan wouldn’t let the NBA license his name in the game) — we had no idea the game featured specially written code so that if we were matched up against the Pistons, we would never hit a shot in the final minutes.

In an ESPN the Magazine interview (by way of CSN Chicago), one of the original designers of the game, Mark Turmell, admits to cheating while writing the game’s code because, well, he’s a Pistons fan.

ESPN: Did Scottie Pippen‘s ratings in the game really drop when he played certain teams?

Turmell: 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.

If you’re a Bulls fan, remember your team went on to win 6 NBA Championships in 8 years, and Thomas’ Pistons group only got the 2.

But this is ghastly news and totally unfair. It’s also sure to spark the interest of conspiracy theorists who think NBA 2K, NBA Live, or other basketball video games have hidden quirks that screw over their favorite team. The next time your video game player misses a potential game-winning shot, blame the game designer and not your skills with the game console.

Thanks to Mr. Turmell, the onus is never on us for a tough loss; it’s always the designer’s fault now.

[ESPN the Mag]

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