Hear the True Story of How 'NBA Jam' Almost Didn't Get Made

Andrew LaSane

The '90s arcade game NBA Jam brought the word boomshakalaka into the world (it's defined in The Dictionary of American Slang as "an impudent exclamation similar to 'in your face'"), but that's only one of its many contributions. The arcade fixture, created by the Midway Games company, was a massive success back in the day. It earned the company over $2 billion in quarters (a figure that does not include cartridge sales for home consoles). But according to lead designer Mark Turmell, the game almost didn't happen.

As Turmell told Great Big Story, "We put together a demo—a videotape via VHS. We sent it to the NBA and said, 'Hey, we're making this cool game,' and they immediately shut it down and said, 'No, we don't want the NBA logo in the arcades.'"


After a second reel and some persuading, the company finally gave Turmell and his team the license, and a classic was born. In a 1993 article in Vibe magazineNBA Jam was called the "biggest money-making game in arcade history," and it still ranks high on the list more than 20 years later.

For more on the iconic game's history, and to see Turmell hack into his own game, check out the video above.

[h/t Great Big Story