By 1994, NBA Jam was the highest-earning arcade game All-Time. Nearly 30 years later it still one of the most popular sports games ever created in the world.
Last week the Voice of NBA Jam, Tim Kitzrow was a guest on the Scoop B Radio with Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson and shared the reason why Michael Jordan didn’t appear in the game because of marketing, agreement with Nike that caused him to op-ted out of the NBAPA.
Kitzrow revealed on the podcast that Michael Jordan really wanted to be in the game and requested Midway to create a version with him in it. He also revealed that there were five versions created and Gary Payton has three of them, while Michael Jordan and Ken Griffney Jr. own the other two.
Of course. It was just a terrible thing. I was his biggest fan, and I was in Chicago. Actually, in Albany, New York, Phil Jackson was the coach in the CBA league where he won a title. I moved out here he became the assistant coach [of the Chicago Bulls] and then Michael Jordan I’d seen in the Olympics he came to the Bulls, and it was such an exciting time. So for him to not be in the game was disappointing. But aside story to this; the interesting thing is him Gary Payton, Ken Griffey Jr., all wanted to be in the game.
Gary Payton wasn’t in the very first year with the Sonics. So we got a call from their agents, and I came back in the studio and recorded their voices. The artists put together the visuals, and we sent them each individual a large NBA Jam package.
Gary Payton bought three, and I’ve spoken to him recently he’s got three of them out in Oakland. There’s only four to five cabinets in the world that exist. I’d love to ask Michael Jordan if he still has his, but Gary Payton super excited already said his sons grew up playing it and he loves it. So there you go, and maybe one day I’ll talk to Mark Turmell and see how if possible legally we could release the Holy Grail with Michael Jordan in it, see it, or at least get in into the Hall of Fame. Some discussion that the Hall of Fame will do some updating to exhibits on the effects of video games on the league and have an old NBA JAM cabinet. That would be great to have the Michael Jordan version there.
But wait there more news that was revealed on the podcast. Apparently having NBA Jam was a must-have for Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal. He had to have it a part of his road rider when he traveled to each city.
“There’s an NBA JAM book that’s coming out” Kitzrow shared.
“An actual paper version and online book that will be called NBA JAM. NBA JAM THE BOOK is the twitter handle. He interviewed Glen Rice, Shaquille O’Neal, lots of other players and you’ll get all the backstories.
“Shaq, when he traveled, would either have an arcade cabinet brought on the road or actually on the plane. In the city, he would have his entourage find a local arcade around the area and would have his friends rent out the arcade cabinet for like $1000 bucks or so. He’d take the cabinet and put it in his hotel room. His teammates would play all night and gamble, playing NBA JAM. So that’s a pretty cool story.”
Hold up we are not done. There is a story that involves former Net Drazen Petrovic.
“Yeah, there’s a Ghost story connected with it,” Tim Kitzrow tells Scoop B Radio.
“Midway where they had a cabinet it was in the cafeteria, a couple times people would be closing up at night around like 10 or 11 O’clock, dark and all of a sudden the NBA JAM cabinet would just cut on. And it would start going: ‘Petrovic, Petrovic.’ Just me saying his name. That story was told by other arcade owners around the country who said that this happened. His energy was still coming back saying: ‘I’m here still as a basketball player.‘”
Petrovic died in a car accident in 1993, later that year the New Jersey Nets would retire his jersey and he would be named to the Hall of Fame in 2002.