NBA Jam is beloved among basketball fans and gamers alike. As of this writing, you can even get an NBA Jam-inspired shirt with your favorite team’s two best players on it in the team store, if it’s open. Decades later, its details and lore are still such that NBA Jam is one of the most beloved sports games of all time.
Over the years we’ve learned a few small things about the game and its making that has created an even more charming and nostalgic look at the title that came out in 1993. The ball on the game’s iconic box art, for example, was real and sold for a ton of money.
Ars Technica put together a nice video featuring NBA Jam creator Mark Turmell, which has lots of details about the game’s creation and also takes place in front of a very cool NBA Jam arcade cabinet. And in a video clip that circulated on Friday we found official confirmation of a long-rumored reality: the game was biased against the Chicago Bulls in a very specific circumstance.
The creator of NBA Jam finally confirms the long standing conspiracy theory that the game was programmed so that if the @ChicagoBulls took a last second shot against the @DetroitPistons it would always miss.
Mystery solved! pic.twitter.com/ugBw7cbx8k
— ᴀʀᴅᴀ Öᴄᴀʟ (@Arda) June 26, 2020
“Being from Michigan originally I’m a big Detroit Pistons fan,” Turmell said. “Making this game in Chicago during the height of the Michael Jordan era there was a big rivalry with the Pistons and the Bulls. But the one way I could get back at the Bulls once they got over the hump was to affect their skills against the Pistons in NBA Jam.”
It wasn’t a game-breaking change, but it was very specific: If you were playing a game between the Pistons and Bulls, you were toast if you were Chicago and needed a buzzer-beater.
“So I put in special code if the Bulls taking the last-second shot against the Pistons they would miss those shots,” he said. “So if you’re ever playing the game, make sure you pick the Pistons over the Bulls.”
Again, the Bulls were plenty good in that game, so it’s not like something like this would discourage you from playing as them. But it’s a fun quirk of a beloved video game, and the official explanation confirms a theory some fans have held for a long time. It also follows a fairly common theme in a world where hyper-realism is of the upmost importance: sometimes making a game less realistic makes it a lot more fun.