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NBA Jam meets Apocalypse Now: what happens when you drink while watching Apocalypse Now and playing NBA Jam simultaneously?

Platform: Super Nintendo Entertainment SystemNBA Jam SNES coverart

Developer: Midway Games

Publisher: Acclaim Entertainment

Release Date (NA): March 1994

Genre: Sports, Basketball

Nerd Rating: 7 out of 10

Reviewed by NerdBerry

icehouse4We are going to conduct a science experiment. What happens when a man plays NBA Jam while watching Apocalypse Now Redux and drinking 4 Icehouse 40 ounce beers?  There’s only one way to find out, and let’s take this review DOOOWNTOOOWN!

nba-jam-snes-ingame-34004NBA Jam is possibly the first and only sports title you’ve ever played. Perhaps you’ve dabbled in Madden and didn’t like it. Or someone said “Hey, FIFA ’13 is the shiznit. You’ve got to play with us!” And then they convinced you to play with the Chicago Fire while they played with International Spain and beat you 14-0 thus destroying any chance you had at enjoying a soccer game. Maybe these are the sports video game experiences you remember. But if I had to take a shot in the dark, I’d be aiming at a little fact that maybe you’ve neglected to mention… and that fact is you played NBA Jam once before and you fucking loved it. Maybe it was on the Super Nintendo loaded with beautiful colors and a 4-button control layout. Or perhaps you played it on the Sega Genesis with a solid 3-button scheme and Sega’s famed blast-processing. Either way, you played it, and you STILL scream “BOOMSHACKALACKA!” every time you do something gnarly.


Damn, whatever happened to Martin Sheen? I mean, yeah, he still acts and did a lot of stuff. But his performance in this movie is legendary.


Fun Fact: One of the first scenes of him is where he’s in the hotel drunker than piss. This entire scene was more real than you know. Martin Sheen was actually completely shithoused and really cut his hand on the mirror. The crew was entirely disturbed by everything but Francis Ford Coppola made them continue filming.


NBA Jam was a massive success, spurring a sequel titled NBA Jam T.E. and a college basketball spin-off titled College SlamAlthough this sequel might sound like the same game (typically when it’s called “blah blah edition” it means a different version of the same game), but make no mistake. NBA Jam T.E., short for Tournament Edition, is a new game and takes the good from NBA Jam and improves upon it. But there’s little to be found in NBA Jam that’s bad. It’s a unique sports game unlike any before it. A similar game could have been made with any sport but Midway did it first and started a new era for sports games.


Most people will probably remember NBA Jam for the Sega Genesis, considering it was released a full year prior to its SNES release; the game as a whole stands out more than the platform on which it was played. NBA Jam is a 2 versus 2 basketball game, and is one of the first to feature a fully licensed NBA roster (downsized for gaming purposes, of course) and real digitized video footage of NBA players. Unlike many sports titles who try to create a true-to-life sports experience, NBA Jam took an entirely different approach. They chose to feature more of a larger-than-life street-ball approach (albeit in an NBA arena), with players dunking from 30 meters out, basketballs catching on fire, and super hangtime aerial tricks. This unreal style of gameplay is precisely what took NBA Jam from a “boring sports simulator” to a “heated game for bragging rights and respect.”


Okay, it’s starting to get a little weird. I mean, I’m not complaining about these naked Playboy Bunnies at the USO show, but it sure as shit seems out of place. Maybe that’s why it was wildly limited in the theatrical version.


Fun fact: Laurence Fishburne plays a semi-ancillary role in the film,  but in order to get the part, he lied about his age stating he was 18 and old enough to do the part when in reality he was only 14 years of age.

Oh man, these Icehouse 40s are really starting to feel like a bad idea.


The game was loaded with a full NBA team list of 27 teams, yet each team only featured a pair of their best players (or the only 2 players they could acquire licenses for). Depending on the platform for which the game was released some teams had the same players and other teams had different players. For example, The Golden State Warriors have Tim Hardaway and Chris Mullin (great combo) for the Arcade, Super Nintendo, and Sega Genesis, yet on the Sega CD they have Chris Webber and Latrell Sprewell (eh, still good. Less cool combo though). Despite these differences, there was no noticeable effect on gameplay.


The easy part about NBA Jam was the limited technology. NBA Jam did not feature any noticeable difference between players or teams. The Bulls were hot in 1993 and 1994, yet their team was identical to the Hornets in the game. The difference was you, the player. It didn’t matter if you were playing with Scottie Pippin or Patrick Ewing or David Robinson, each player played the same. This created a fairer and level playing field. You couldn’t accuse someone for picking the best team as the reason for them beating your ass.


The scene with the French army is a little odd. Again, a notable omission for theaters. For many, it doesn’t add or detract from the movie experience. But for me, it adds a ton. This is one of my favorite movies and the inclusion of the French military only heightens the realism and depth Coppola produced for his viewers.


Fun Fact: Filmed in 1976, 1 year prior to Star Wars, Harrison Ford’s role in the movie was considered exceptionally minor. Apocalypse Now would eventually be released in 1979 (after years of post-production), 2 years after Star Wars was released, and at this time Harrison Ford was a national star! Had Star Wars been shot first, it’s very conceivable that Coppola would not have been able to afford to cast Harrison Ford.


The essential parts of NBA Jam are to pass, pass, and shoot. Shooting was as easy as pressing a button, but that’s not how one prefers to play a game such as NBA Jam. Jamming the rock was truly the only way to play as showboating and hot-dogging were the preferred methods of annihilation in NBA Jam! The control scheme is easy and straightforward, but sometimes slam-dunking proved to be a little more difficult. More often than not you would be driving to the net and would press the “shoot” button only to find your character pull up and lay down a 2-point field goal. Passing the ball, however, was easier than pressing a button (okay, that obviously doesn’t make sense because you have to press a button to pass) as you only have 1 player to pass to.

NBA Jam (2)

Controls are easy to learn and allow for a quick pick-up game whenever you have the time. Since NBA Jam was originally in the arcades, games are relatively short, allowing for more kids to come along and play after you finished dumping your quarters. The 2 v 2 system really allowed for more team work and less computer control. This system was easy to learn after just 30 seconds of play, which is truly one of the best features of the game.

The real highlight of playing NBA Jam, however, is how insanely over-the-top the entire game is. On the regular, your players will jump twice their height, and occasionally jump high enough to touch the rafters if there were any in this fictional basketball arena. But the crème de la crème of NBA Jam is the commentary. The commentators make some of the most outrageous and memorable calls of any game I’ve ever played. Some of my personal favorites that have stuck with me for over 20 years are:





“Puts up a brick.”

“Nail in the coffin.”

And “intercepted!” – While this quote isn’t notable for the word itself, hearing the commentator say it when your pass is intercepted is just annoying and frustrating! As if you weren’t already pissed!


Overall, NBA Jam is a really fun sports title that paved the way for franchises such as NFL Blitz and FIFA Street Soccer. It refused to take serious sports titles like Joe Montana Football and NBA Live ’94 too seriously and instead created their own brand of basketball. C’mon, we all remember playing 2 on 2 in the street outside our friend’s house. Okay, maybe we don’t all have that memory. But anyone can appreciate a decent video game. And NBA Jam is exactly that. A decent video game. Not too long and not too short. NBA Jam isn’t a deep game by any means but the quick shallowness for which it is known is exactly what makes it fun to this day. No effort is needed if you and a friend want to pick up the old SNES controller and play a quick 10 minute basketball game. Better than winning is the bragging rights one holds for days to come. If NBA Jam isn’t in your collection, it is widely considered a classic and timeless 16-bit game and should be added to your library.


*Beware of movie spoilers ahead.

Closing out Apocalypse Now, we are left with some really uneasy feelings. What a dark movie this is, and the Icehouse only added to my unsettled feelings. Even though this is one of the best movies ever made and one of my personal favorites, I always felt that the last 30 minutes were entirely out of place. While the whole movie is about war and a battle with one’s own mind and not just the Viet Cong, our 3.5 hour war epic ends with a strange mini-story of a man held captive by a deranged war-hero. I don’t want to ruin anything, but you should definitely check it out for yourself.

Apocolypse Now


What a weird fucking movie to pair with a sports game while getting drunk on Icehouse 40s!

Nerd Rating: 7 out of 10

Reviewed by Nerdberry

Written by Nerdberry


What’s up yall? David “Nerdberry” here! I am the founder of Nerd Bacon and the current co-owner (and CEO) along with partner David “theWatchman!” I hail from North Carolina, hence my love for all things pork! Oh, you’re not familiar with NC? Well I’m not 100% sure, but I am pretty confident that NC and VA lead the nation in pork production. I could be wrong, but even if I am, I still love bacon!

Come enjoy some bacon and games with us yall.


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  1. Pingback: College Slam - Sega Saturn - Nerd Bacon Reviews

  2. I love NBA Jam! I never knew about the pairing of “Apocalypse Now” as well. Great review man.


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