NBA Jam was THE game of the 90s.
More then 25 years ago the hit video game had everyone yelling: “He’s on Fire” and “Heating Up.”
By early 1994, NBA Jam was the highest-earning arcade game of all time.
One disappointing part of the game: Michael Jordan wasn’t in it.
As the story goes: the Chicago Bulls legend had a marketing pact with Nike. That pact caused him to opt out of the NBPA’s group license. MJ also had two solo video games with Electronic Arts.
Despite not being in the video game, NBA Jam actually created a version of NBA Jam with Michael Jordan in it for Michael Jordan.
Appearing on this week’s episode of the Scoop B Radio Podcast, Tim Kitrow, the voice of NBA tells me that MJ was a fan of the game and that he, Gary Payton and Ken Griffey Jr. own a version of that game.
Check out the Q&A of that story in the transcript below:
Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson: Were you ever disappointed that Michael Jordan wasn’t on the game?
Tim Kitzrow: Of course. It was just a terrible thing. I was his biggest fan, 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 a side 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.
Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson: You may say I’m crazy but what does the cabinet mean?
Tim Kitzrow: The arcade, the home version. Yeah the old cabinet.
Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson: Do you own a cabinet?
Tim Kitzrow: Unfortunately no. When you’ve worked at Midway games they offered you any game that you wanted or worked on for $400. I had no room for it back then and probably not the money. It’s pretty sad to know that I could’ve had a Blitz or a Jam and any other games there. Even the Pinball games as well.
Tim Kitzrow: I am the dude, BOOMSHAKLAKA!
What a story!
A lot has changed with licensing since MJ played in the NBA.
“When you’re looking at what we’re paying out to players in licensing for the video games, you’re looking at seven figures of payment,” Scott Rochelle, President and CEO of the National Basketball Retired Players Association told Scoop B Radio.
“However, there are ten licensing fees that the NBA is using for the retired player fees. So, you’re talking about photos, jersey sales, those are all uses of likeness. That’s going to give you a ballpark estimate of how much is being paid out.”
Even NBA Commissioner Adam Silver was a fan of the game.
He told me about it last year: