The Chicago Bulls-Detroit Pistons rivalry may not be what it once was, but there’s always a little extra buzz in the air when these two teams get together, as they will tonight in Auburn Hills, mainly due to the battles they had in the late 80’s and early 90’s, but I’m not here to review that. I’m here to ruin the childhood of all those that played NBA Jam when they were kids.
For the younger crowd that may not know, NBA Jam was one of the most popular video games in the world in the 1990’s. Developed by Midway in 1993, during the height of the first Bulls three-peat, the game had young basketball fans lining up at the arcade and begging their parents for it when the home version was released. If you grew up during that time, you know you played it. Even in pickup games today, you can still hear people yelling “He’s heating up” or “Boomshakalaka” in their best video game announcer voice.
The Bulls were the hottest thing in sports at the time, and in the 2-on-2 format of the game, you would have thought that Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen would be the two to represent Chicago, but Jordan didn’t allow his likeness (which he owned, not the NBA) to be used in the game, so Pippen was paired with Horace Grant.
The problem with using the Bulls in this game, outside of the Jordan issue, was that you were at a disadvantage from the start. You see, the lead designer and programmer for the game, Mark Turmell, was a huge fan of the Detroit Pistons. If you remember playing the game, then you know how many games came down to the end and how many fights you would have with your buddies when they made one of the ridiculous last-second full-court shots that the game was known for, unless you were playing with the Bulls.
“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, ” Turmell once said. “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.”
Seriously? What a dick. The Pistons couldn’t beat the Bulls anymore, so he wanted to make things right in a video game? Good stuff Mark. Thanks for hours of torture in my youth as I couldn’t figure out why I kept losing to Shawn Kemp and Benoit Benjamin. I just thought it was the shoes.