As consoles entered the 16-bit era in the early 90s, not as many kids were walking into arcades as they had the decade prior. Because there were so many great PC and console games available for use in the home, there wasn't a lot of reason to plunk a bunch of quarters into an arcade machine.
But 25 years ago, a new basketball game started showing up in arcades. While it featured the top NBA stars in the world, it was a uniquely video game experience. Basketball players were doing exactly the kind of wild athletic feats that fans had always imagined as children. And behind them was a bombastic and infectiously enthusiastic announcer, capturing every insane action and planting his voice in the minds of a generation.
That game was NBA Jam, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. That voice is Tim Kitzrow, who has become one of the defining video game voice actors of a generation. His style is unmatched to this day. His influence on not only a generation of gamers, but also a generation of professional NBA athletes, is vastly understated.
Later today, Kitzrow is set to join the Los Angeles Clippers for a special NBA Jam Day promotion, honoring the game's 25th anniversary. He'll be working as the game's PA announcer, as well as joining in on some other fun activities that are themed after the Midway classic. But prior to his arrival at Staples Center, Shacknews had the opportunity to reach out to Kitzrow over the phone. Over the course of an hour-long conversation, we discussed his lengthy career that has spanned three decades, his work with Midway, his work on Mutant League Football (recently voted Shacknews' Best Sports Game of 2017), the art of sports announcing in the real world versus sports announcing in a video game, the evolution of voice acting in video games, and NBA Jam's legacy as a whole. And because the man's voice has such a unique place in video game history, Shacknews is letting the man speak in his own words.
Tim Kitzrow on whether he ever envisioned working in games
"The simple answer is, I had no idea I would ever, ever in my life be involved with pinball or video games. Number one, because every time I went to the penny arcades, aracdes when I was a kid, I sucked at pinball. I sucked at every game I put money into. Games were a dime, like shooting games. I just couldn't play them. I loved the allure of the arcade, like at a county fair. But when I was little, there weren't arcade venues. I lived in a very small time in Troy, in Albany, New York where I grew up.
"No, I never thought I would do either of those things. I began as an actor, a stage actor.
(Shakesperean voice) "A very important, dramatically trained actor at a classical conservatory program at Purchase College.
"I thought I was going to be Mr. Stage Actor, Shakespeare, Chekhov, and then I thought 'Well, I'm in the big city, spending time in L.A. and Chicago. I know! I'll be a commercial actor! And that will lead to me being a very important film or TV actor.' I had all kinds of ideas, but the last one in my mind would have never been video games or that kind of thing."
Tim Kitzrow on how he got his start in games
"The long and the short of that question is, I wound up doing a job that I never had any inkling that I would be involved. But as an actor, I was training at Second City at the time. I had my own improv group in Albany, New York before I moved out to Chicago. So I was ready for anything. I was just looking to have fun. I was looking at writing comedy, performing comedy, improv, and obviously, the stepping stones for any actor, like TV or commercial work leads to this, leads to film, whatever. And you just keep chasing that thing. In the interim, this was a fun side gig for fun side money.
"So what happened with NBA Jam when that came along? Well, I was the in-house guy. My very good friend, Jon Hey, such a talented musician... back then, one guy was generally responsible for one pinball game. They were the producer that wore six hats. Their job was to record, to write and record the music for the pinball game, put said music into pinball game, do all the sound effects for the pinball game, write the script for the pinball game, hire the talent for the pinball game, record the talent, edit the talent, you know, every single thing. I worked with him and two or three other guys doing 15 pinball games. So I'm in and out of there for a few years on a regular basis, doing Attack From Mars, Twilight Zone, all these great games.
"So then when NBA Jam came along, well at that point, Williams/Bally/Midway was basically one entity. There was the gaming, the pinball, the slots, and that new video games, Midway Games. So it was a different building, but from across the street, Mark Turmell came over to Jon Hey and said, 'Hey, Tim's been around here. He's pretty good. Why don't you offer him NBA Jam?' Mark never made the direct offer to me. So Jon Hey, who was the writer of the script for NBA Jam said, 'Hey, Mark's got this cool new game, NBA Jam, a video basketball game. Are you interested?' I was like, 'Are you kidding me? Of course!' I was such a huge basketball fan. And I'm an even bigger fan of money! So they were offering to pay me money to use my voice for something that I absolutely loved and have been using my voice for since I was a kid in the back yard. Back in the 60s, when I would take a shot, I would go, 'Three seconds on the clock, Kitzrow shoots, he scores!' So are you kidding me? Of course I wanted to do this game!"
Tim Kitzrow on his NBA Jam approach and influences
"That was in the Marv Albert time. I was watching, every Sunday, the Bulls versus whoever. If they weren't on, it was the NBC game of the week. Marv Albert and those sounds and phrases were not only in my head, they were in Jon Hey's head. Because there weren't three or four other broadcasters. Now they have NBA TV, TNT with Kevin Harlan...
(Kevin Harlan voice) "'Up high and down hard!'
So it was basically just Marv. Back then, what I felt was interesting about Marv Albert was that he made any and every game, no matter who played on Sunday. And you know how schedules are. You can't always have the two best teams or rivalries. There's the down team, there was the team they thought was going to be good scheduled. Every time he turned up on TV, it sounded exciting. So that leads to another question, what do you think is most important about your voice in a video game, compared to TV broadcasters, and I'll try to segue to that question.
"If I turn on a TV and hear... nowadays, commentators go on about analytics during the game, they're telling stories, a lot of ex-players have stories. The thing about Stacey King, Kevin Harlan, and Marv Albert, there are some guys that just throw the color, throw the attitude, they're the carnival barker. Even if it's two teams in a half-empty arena, you feel like you've got to go close to the TV and you can't be in the other room waiting for your pot of spaghetti boil. They make, by the sound of their voice, you want to hear what's going on.
"So I had that Marv Albert sound in my head. Jon Hey had it in his head. He wrote the script. If you go back and look, they were all lines you heard every week. 'He's heading up!' Marv Albert said it. 'He's on fire!' Marv Albert said it. The only thing Marv Albert didn't say was Boomshakalaka. The only broadcaster that was really on TV on a regular basis was NBC and Marv Albert. And if you break down that script... ugly shot, can't buy a bucket...
(Marv Albert voice) "'The dagger! At the buzzer! The nail in the coffin!'
"So I'm trying to get up under that register that has an extra, last-second, 'It's the biggest game, it's Game 7 of the Finals!' And that's what Jon said. He's like, 'This is something that's going to go very fast. The quarter is going to go quickly. It's gotta be super exciting, super over-the-top.' We knew we weren't doing a sim game. There wasn't even a sim game! We were making a game! We approached it knowing it was larger-than-life. It was superheroes with super power. It was NBA players in this high-intensity, adrenaline rush game. And I kind of knew my job was to be the carnival barker, to draw people in. But I didn't consciously think that, but I intuitively knew that."
Tim Kitzrow on working for money versus working for passion
"The embarrassing thing is, I was so concentrated on just living my life, trying to make rent, I had a very young son born in '85, so here we are in '93. So all I'm doing is spending time with him, making money like everyone else. If you go in and you get $50 an hour, great. My goal is to get to Hollywood, get to New York, get to Saturday Night Live, get stage work, live the actor's dream. It's a fun gig, but it's an extra gig.
"And I didn't spend time in the arcades, because my wife and I were too busy doing other things. So I didn't have the background or context or perspective on what's a good game, what's a successful game. I never really thought about it. I knew the games I played in college, like Asteroids, were out there. I knew people talked about them. I wasn't oblivious, like a Jesuit priest off in some monastery. I had no understanding what they really did or what kind of money they made, so I wouldn't be able to tell you what a good game was or what was successful from a monetary standpoint.
"I never even questioned, 'Okay, I'm getting $50 an hour. But what if this game makes $100,000? Shouldn't I get, like... $52 an hour?' If someone had said it would make $1 million, I would have said 'Are you out of your mind?' What if it gets 5 million, 10 million, 20 million, 100 million, 200 million? The crazy thing is, I had no idea, didn't give it another thought. I was truthfully so excited about doing the game, there are some times in your life and some things that you would do for free and that would be one of them. And it sounds silly once you get older and more business savvy. But I loved playing drums. The reason I got into voiceovers was that I was playing drums just to have fun in a weekend band with these guys that I met and they worked at a pinball company. If I hadn't just been there for the fun of it, playing drums on the weekend, I wouldn't have met them, I wouldn't have had any job, I certainly wouldn't have had NBA Jam. It was fun! Using my voice to play different characters, just like I play drums for free because I like it.
"If you chase things for money and your passion is connected and you don't know how to separate the two, you've got to find a way to make your passion work without worrying about the money. At a certain point, that being said, I've learned in hindsight, you need to be smart about the money. When I was young, I didn't care. It was just fun. I didn't give it a second thought. I wasn't even aware that there weren't any other NBA licensed games out there. There were no other major league sports licensed games out there. It was just another game, it was a fun game, and it looked like it would be a lot of fun to do.
"And then when it was done, it was the first time that I just had to hear my work. I'd hear it in the factory when they were finished, but NBA Jam, I wanted to see what this thing sounded like. You record words and you record sheets of paper on different days, but you don't have any context and you never see it matched to any graphic during the process. So I wanted to see what this thing looked like and I got real excited when I saw it. Like I said, I'm a huge basketball player. And I thought, 'Hey, this could really be something.' I never, ever still thought about money.
Tim Kitzrow on NBA Jam's success and the trouble with voice acting at the time
"Then a year later, I'm going in to do another game, I forget what, and there's an article on the board where all the arcade machines are and everybody hangs out, next to the cafeteria. It said, 'NBA Jam Brings in Record $1 Billion in Quarters in One Year.' And I just laughed out loud. I said, 'Who put this up?' These tech-savvy guys with a computer made this fake thing to have a laugh, because that's how ridiculous it was. I'm sure even to you or any readers who are reading this article would think, 'A game did not make a billion in quarters!' To give some perspective, the top-grossing box office hit in '93 was Jurassic Park. It made something like $400 million, at $10 or whatever a ticket price was then. The top-grossing Spielberg movie made less than half of what NBA Jam made in quarters in one year. So who would believe that? I'm a kid who's making $50 an hour. This game didn't make a billion dollars. There are not a billion dollars worth of quarters in the entire world! It just blows your mind. How could there be that many quarters?
"But it really did. And I said, 'Then why am I not a millionaire?' That's when it started to click that, 'Oh... I'm not really a good businessman here.' That was the beginning of the end of the innocence. How's that for a Dickens line?
"It's crazy that there are some things, like when you do commercials, you do residuals. I worked non-union in the beginning, so there's no protection. But it seems crazy that everything isn't connected to a certain royalty. You work on a movie that doesn't do well, then you're going to get the scale. But if it does really well, then it gets bumped up incrementally, especially if you have a part that's integral to that artistic project.
It said, 'NBA Jam Brings in Record $1 Billion in Quarters in One Year.' And I just laughed out loud. I said, 'Who put this up?'
"There are certainly musician stories that you can relate to, with all the greats, especially the black artists that wrote some of the greatest music, like Chuck Berry. Even the Beatles were paid like half a penny per record, split four ways. Just the cutthroats out that every step of the way waiting to make money off the artists. It's kind of obscene when you think of it. And 25 years later, people say how much I meant to their experience and, for $900, what that game made and what it means. It seems kind of tough to say, 'I should have been smarter,' because even if I was smarter, I probably couldn't have gotten it. I was nobody, except a guy who was talented and they liked what I did in the pinball games. I couldn't say 'I won't do it for under...' because they'll just find someone else to do it for 50 bucks an hour.
"There also wasn't thought of 'We need to have a broadcaster do a big game.' They didn't know it was going to be a big game. And at the time, no one would have thought 'Why would a big broadcaster want to do a video game?' They probably wouldn't want to do it. They would think it's beneath them. And the people at Midway would think, 'We don't want them. First of all, they're probably too expensive. And this isn't a real game, it's a game game!' They wanted an actor.
Tim Kitzrow on losing his role. Twice!
"So the funny thing is, later, around our fourth or fifth different incarnation. NBA Jam was like the Frankenstein of games for Midway, because once they exhausted it at arcades and the home game started, they didn't have a home software business, they had to license out to Acclaim. So now they can't do anymore arcades of just NBA Jam. They went on to do Tournament Edition, Hangtime, and Showtime.
"So then they publish a Hangtime home version and they decide at that moment, they're going to go with Neil Funk from the Bulls. And he's one of my favorite all-time broadcasters, but suddenly they went, 'Oh, now we're getting serious and games are becoming really big. We need a broadcaster.' And he didn't do that well in the role, because that's not his thing. He's not a voice actor, he's a guy who responds to seeing live play in front of him. That was the one moment where my job was taken away.
"The other moment was when Acclaim did a follow-up game. I remember reading one day, 'Marv Albert Signs $100,000 Contract with Acclaim to Make (x) Amount of Games.' I was like, 'I made $900 and he just signed a $100,000 contract?' Yeah, it's for more games, but whatever, it was for about $20,000 game.
"And the response was that people didn't really like his version, so they brought me back for the subsequent ones. The funny thing was, he's my hero. But he was probably bored. There's no context, you don't know what you're looking at. So he probably just thought, 'I'm gonna make my money and get the hell out of here.'"
Tim Kitzrow on Real-World Announcers vs. Voice Actors for Sports Games
"I have so much respect for broadcasters. To be in the game, in the moment. One of the things that's so hard is to have the familiarity with every teams and all the names. Ask Harry Caray about that.
"(Harry Caray voice) 'Jose Casech... Canseck... Janechco!'
"He just couldn't get some of the names. Canseco just bothered him to no end. But think of all the Hispanic names, or like when I was doing the NHL Hitz hockey games. Just the technique to not only be familiar with the names, but also know all of the stats. All that goes into being a professional sports broadcaster is incredible.
"But they're two different worlds. You sit in a room with words on a page and try to see a live game happening unfolding in real-time and give it the energy and context that it needs. It's totally different. And to stay on it, hour after hour after endless hour. Saying a player's name 20 different times with a different inflection. It's exhausting work and it's not for everybody. If you're used to the energy and thrill and thrive on the emotion of the game to feed you, as these guys do their whole lives. That's how they naturally react to things.
"It's hard to conjure that up if you don't have an acting background and a lot of patience and you aren't hungry for the paycheck. Because a lot of those guys are making good paychecks. They're basically going in and reading a phonebook, so it isn't a lot of fun.
"The other thing, my problem is, sim games, although there's a big fanbase for them, the sim game to me... why would I want to see a virtual version of a real life sport? It's one thing for all the players to have become so realistic with all their moves, their looks, and everything else. But to have broadcasters for two hours I'm playing a game on. You have to realize, video games you can only sneak in generic, universal phrases when having banter, because they can't have specific things for each player on 30 different teams and 20 different guys on the roster. It doesn't work that way, so you have to have lots of generic stuff. So there's nothing more boring to me... than all the generic stuff. You end up with just a big melting pot of cliches for sim games that are trying to sound so authentic, but they're trying so hard that it puts me to sleep. It's like going into a chemistry class as a junion in high school... hungover."
"I think it's crazy that... if you're doing a basketball game for a video game and you're the crew, how excited can you get? Because the new style of announcing, for the most part, is that except for Harlan, Marv, and certain other people, is lots of anecdotal stories and trivias. All of that instead of the excitement of Harry Caray...
(Harry Caray voice) "'AHH, he should have swung at that one!'
"When I go after a game, I want the fun! I want that crazy guy who's sitting next to me in the stands with two beers and has his paycheck on the line if he loses the game. I want that extra energy and passion. That's what I try to infuse into all my games. And then also the one-liners, the funny stuff that you always want to hear the broadcasters say.
Tim Kitzrow on his work for Mutant Football League
"I want seat-of-your-pants, fun adrenaline. And I think because I've cut my teeth on the arcade games, I've made sure that every game I've done after that has that same intensity. Mutant Football League, I didn't approach it any differently from any of the other games. There are teams, there are players, there's excitement in the stadium, everything is real. If anything, it's amped up, because the stakes are so much higher. You can get your head cut off! It's also so crazy, because my character is so used to the violence and the gore of this post-apocalyptic world that he's developed a sense of humor about it. Someone gets their head cut off, it's became mundane.
"There's this black humor about it. One of the challenges was writing that and seeing that there was so much gore and death... but you have to look at it as a Looney Tunes cartoon. It's Daffy Duck getting hit on the head and a lump going up six inches, he gets his head cut off, his feathers get burned off. You have to have that complete cartoon, surreal take and Dr. Seuss take on it, otherwise it could be a disturbing game. (laughs)
"I've never actually been a fan of Mortal Kombat, but I know some people do see the wry dark humor in it, because of the fact that it's so absurdly violent that it becomes a parody, David Lynch type of violence. I like the fact that Mutant Football League has all the violence of Mortal Kombat, but it's in a very comical way.
(Announcer voice) "'And he goes down and gets buried six feet under. And speaking of that, Speedy Funeral Services! When you have get someone in the ground quick and fast and cheap, why not choose our drive-thru service off the interstate? Why waste money on a bus when you can put him in a bag? That's right!'
"It's MAD Magazine, it's Futurama, it's The Simpsons. It gave me a place to go that I have never been able to go in any game, as crazy as Slugfest was. Michael Mendheim, when I met him, said, 'Go where you want to go. This is Adult Swim. This is going to be for anybody with a sense of humor. It's funny. This is a crazy world. I can envision a lot of college stoners staying up and laughing their asses off. Some jokes are going to go over people's heads. Some are going to be overt. Some are going to be real subtle. Don't worry about people getting references. If it's funny, it's funny.'
"Once I understand the character... and my character has never really gravitated too much from Tim Kitzrow on NBA Jam, Blitz, whatever. There's always a little bit of a shift to the left or to the right, a little more sarcastic, a little more this, more that, but it's always been my alter ego PA announcer."
Tim Kitzrow on connecting with NBA teams
"Here's an interesting thing. I have an agent. I'm with NB Talent in Chicago. But over the years, I started to realize that people don't wake up every morning going, 'I wonder what Tim Fitzrow is doing? Remember that game, NFL Blitz? We should do something with that kid.' Then it hit me, it's my job to make people wake up in the morning to think about me. So here's what I'll do. I'll get a list of all the people in the NBA and I will get their phone numbers and find out who's in charge of entertainment and in-game presentation and I will call them. And that's what I started to do a few years ago. I would just do cold calls and while I realized that it works against me that I don't have a manager, a manager just goes...
(Agent voice) "'Hi, this is Phil Bosco. I represent Tim Kitzrow, I don't know if you're familiar with him out of Chicago. He did NBA Jam, blah blah blah blah blah...'
"I'm the guy who I can talk to someone who, most likely, is going to be between 30 and 45 years old and go, 'You've reached Craig Smith from the Houston Rockets! Boomshakalaka! He can't come to the phone right now!' I can leave a message in an NBA Jam voice and blow their mind! Because I know it'll blow someone's mind. They're in sports, they've played NBA Jam when they were a kid. So what happened is, I would start to get called back.
"Just an example, I get a call one day from Jim Odessa from the Houston Rockets. He goes, 'Yeah, I got your message! I'm a big NBA Jam fan! Let's do something together!' So we put together a gig down in Houston, where he sent me down highlights. I wrote them, recorded them, sent them back, and he and his official team did all the graphics. They did one where James Harden does such a move on [Ricky] Rubio, Rubio falls down, both hands, feet on the floor, they put a digital graphic Twister mat under him. They don't tell me anything, I do everything single thing myself, except for that one where he said 'We're going to throw a Twister mat under Rubio.' Everything else I wrote and they put the graphics up, but for that...
(Announcer voice) "'How about a little game of Twister, Rubio? Left foot, green! Right foot, blue! How about my hot hand in your red face? Boomshakalaka!'
"Harden's coming down the lane..."
(Announcer voice) "'This is a limited-time TV offer! He slices, he dices, he dunks in your face! Announcing the amazing Hardenizer! Beard sold separately! Now with amazing MVP strength!'
"The thing did so well, it won an award at a conference, where people for all major league sports go to review all in-game sports video presentations. And everybody gets to vote for what they think their favorite video is. That won the best out of all four major league sports. So then I got a call from the Golden State Warriors. But I had put out calls to them first. It's me calling people first. And I did the same for the Clippers."
Tim Kitzrow on celebrating 25 years of NBA Jam with the Los Angeles Clippers
"I'd wanted to get in with the Clippers since Steve Ballmer bought the team. I knew he had an Xbox background. They had a terrible situation with [former owner Donald] Sterling. They had a smear on them. They were the second-place L.A. team. And he said, 'I'm going to turn this place around. I'm going to make it the number one fan-friendly, entertainment-friendly, fan-interactive experience in basketball today.' And I knew that coming from a gaming background that he was going to use it and look for that real interactive game fan experience. And my son, who is now 32, when we were out in L.A. at the time four years ago, he said, 'Dad, you've got to work for the Clippers. This is made for you!'
"So after all these different things: working with the Rockets, working with the Wizards, I worked with the Bulls, worked with the Warriors, which was real exciting, because they're the Warriors! They won their championship again and I did two rounds of playoffs and Finals highlight videos. And then I get a call last year from Joe Legaz, he's the President of Marketing for the Clippers.
"I said, 'Hey, next year is the 25th anniversary.' He said, 'Great! Let's work all year, you can come out during the summer.' We've been back and forth, talking for a year. He is the most innovative, accomodating, creative guy that I've worked with in the business. You have to schedule things for 40 home games as the President of Marketing and half the day is spent getting tickets for friends, setting up Bobblehead Nights, T-shirts, and all that, and he worked so closely with me. I don't think he realized at first that I said that it's the 25th anniversary, he said, 'That's even better! Tim, we're only limited by our imagination for what we could do.' He saw the importance, he saw the value, and he saw that playing it up right would mean something, so I just can't say enough for him or the organization for how they've turned Los Angeles around and into a Clippers town.
"And for me to go from working with the Warriors to the Clippers. It doesn't matter where they are in the standings now. They started off as one of the hottest teams. They've had terrible injuries. They had some bad, bad luck. But they are one of the elite franchises and they are terribly entertaining. There's so much talent on the team. Long story short is, it was a collaboration, Joe became a fan, he wasn't a lifelong NBA Jam fan, but he did see the Rockets video, I made contact, he saw the value, he put everything together, he helped make it all so smooth, and it's been a real exciting thing. When I got out there, he said 'This means a lot to our organization.' I met Steve Ballmer last night. I met Apl from the Black Eyed Peas. We're actually talking about maybe making an NBA Jam rap song together, collaborating with his producer JJ. All in just one night, because we got along so great!"
Tim Kitzrow on the realization that an entire generation of pro NBA athletes grew up playing NBA Jam
"It really does [blow my mind]. [On Clippers Pregame,] it was Corey Maggette, Don MacLean, and Mike Hill. Corey's been out of the league just a short time, but he was playing in Milwaukee. So I'm sitting next to him and he says, 'Before I got into college, I was such a big NBA Jam fan! For my 15th birthday, my parents bought me an NBA Jam arcade machine!'
"And just to hear that story randomly, I hear all these great stories and it does blow my mind. I met Steve Smith once. And I believe Steve Smith is a Hall of Famer. So I'm going over to see him, being in awe of him. And someone mentioned to him that I was the NBA Jam guy. And he approached me and he goes, 'Hey man, are you the NBA Jam guy? I can't wait until I tell my kids I met you! We were just playing a game yesterday.' And I said, 'What, on the Nintendo?' He said, 'No! Big arcade machine!'
"I go, 'How do you have a big arcade machine at home?'
"He goes, 'Dude, I was in the game! That's what they gave us! That was our compensation!' They gave all the players who were in it an arcade machine and he says he still plays all the time."
Tim Kitzrow on the NBA Jam 'Holy Grail'
"And then I met Gary Payton doing an interview on the radio in Chicago. He was coming in town to do the BIG3. I was in the studio doing an hour-long interview after the Sports Illustrated article. He called in, didn't know I was on the phone. The guys kind of baited him. They thought this would be fun. They go 'Hey, tell us about the BIG3 and why you think this will be a success.' And he goes 'Man, it's kind of like a video game. There's three guys in, like in a video game. We got a four-point shot, and 'He's on fire! He's heating up!' And they're laughing and go 'Speaking of that, we've got 'He's on fire!' here in the studio.'
"So we get on the phone, we start talking, and I said, 'Gary, I've known for years that Mark Turmell made a game for Michael Jordan, you, and Ken Griffey to be in, because I had to be called into the studio to say your names and put it in the game. So what happened to those games? He goes 'I don't know exactly how it happened, but I have all three of them right now out of my place in Seattle. I fix them up every year, my sons play them all the time, but these things are going to be worth a lot of money. They're one-of-a-kind! They're antiques!'
"So that was a cool side story, he was all excited about having the game I lent my voice to. And he became a one-time-only character for the cabinets that he has. That's kind of a nice side note. Mark Turmell and I, we have spoken and it was on Reddit in an interview, [he said] he does have the original Michael Jordan/Gary Payton game, and we're somehow going to find out if there's a way we can release it. It's like the Holy Grail, the Michael Jordan one-off-only NBA Jam game. We just have some legal hurdles to go through, but we're hoping for the 25th anniversary to get that done.
Mark Turmell and I, we have spoken and it was on Reddit in an interview, [he said] he does have the original Michael Jordan/Gary Payton game, and we're somehow going to find out if there's a way we can release it.
"Imagine if there was a 25th anniversary Michael Jordan... and Gary Payton is one of the greatest of all-time, but imagine when people know the story that they were hanging out and were both pissed that they weren't in the game. But it was for business reasons. They were smart, especially Jordan. Jordan thought, 'If I sign on, I don't get any compensation. My name alone is going to sell a billion dollars worth of games.' So he opted out of the players agreement with the NBA, so that's why he's not in it.
"But can you imagine, 25th anniversary... going back to '93, that was around the time the Bulls were starting their first three-peat... a game coming out with him in it, NBA Jam, and a 'Boomshakalaka' NBA Jam sneaker with a Jordan autograph or something? That would be my Holy Grail for every NBA Jam and gaming fan. There are hardcore NBA Jam fans out there. They want stuff! They want original stuff! They want their original game, they want the Jordan game. There's nothing to tangibly hold on and buy, for the most part, for gamers, as far as memorabilia and merchandise. So my hope this year is to launch a shoe line and apparel line and hopefully get Mark Turmell and some other people together to get this 'Holy Grail' Jordan game out."
Tim Kitzrow on bringing NBA Jam joy to all 30 teams
"I'm hoping that for the 25th anniversary... there are 30 teams out there. They'll go, 'Hey, even if he's done it here in Golden State or Houston, this could be done for every team.' Every team's fanbase should have the fun of their guys being immortalized with that style of NBA Jam over-the-top fun and humor. So that's my goal, especially for the 25th year, to reach as many teams as possible. To have this become not a novelty, but a way of experiencing NBA and NBA highlights through a different way. Because now you either have ESPN SportsCenter or the NBA TV laugh-along crowd. So I've heard one or two times from NBA teams, 'Well, we don't want to oversaturate it, have too much NBA Jam.' Is there such a thing as too much NBA Jam for people who have spent a billion dollars in quarters?
"The fact that every single highlight I do is going to be a completely different take and unique for that specific player, team, and situation. If anything, the oversaturation comes in nightly with that SportsCenter style. It becomes predictable.
"There's a market for this. That's why they have apps for all these crazy things. And I'm hoping people go, 'We do want more,' whether it's wanted in daily or weekly doses, one or two plays at a time, we'll see. But that's a nice way to wrap up, is to tell you that I'm having fun doing what I'm doing, 25 years later, living the dream, and still getting as excited as I was the first few days of doing this, adding excitement to basketball and sports."
The Los Angeles Clippers and the Sacramento Kings will tip off from Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles at 12:30PM PT, as they celebrate 25 years of slam town with today's NBA Jam Day promotion.