The evidence that NBA Jam was the greatest video game ever made just got a lot stronger.
Buried within an intriguing interview with ESPN The Magazine, game designer Mark Turmell revealed that the 1993 game was actually rigged against the Chicago Bulls, then coming off their third straight NBA championship. Turmell, a diehard fan of the Bulls’ rival Detroit Pistons, tells the magazine that the original game included a code that made it more difficult for Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant to hit clutch shots.
The game also lowered Pippen’s ratings against a certain team. Guess which one.
“It’s true, but [Pippen’s stats dropped] only when the Bulls played the Pistons,” Turmell said. “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.
“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.”
For any fans who watched the Bulls crush their teams’ dreams every May and June, this revelation should only make them want to replay the game more. The Bulls were good enough in real life. Let somebody else have the video game world.
If angry Bulls fans want to blame anybody, they should direct their ire at Michael Jordan, not Turmell. Jordan refused to allow his likeness in the game — as he did with most games at the time — for licensing reasons. If he had been in the game, it’s a certainty that his digital avatar’s competitive spirit and will to win would have rewritten those 1′s and 0′s so that the Bulls never missed a game-winning shot.
So, sorry, Bulls fans. Jordan made you suffer. Now you know how the rest of us feel.