Iconic basketball-themed game “NBA Jam” will be the focus of a new documentary.
Initially released more than 25 years ago as an arcade game, it shattered records by earning more than $1 billion in quarters, becoming a memorable piece of pop culture.
BestCrosses Studios, the production arm of the basketball-themed social media platform BestCrosses created by Jack Sussman, has optioned Reyan Ali’s book “NBA Jam” to produce a feature documentary about the history and success of the game.
Emmy-nominated Sean Menard, who has several sports documentaries to his credit, including the acclaimed “The Carter Effect” about now-retired NBA superstar Vince Carter, will develop and direct.
The book, released by Boss Fight Books in October 2019, is built on extensive research and dozens of original interviews with developers, journalists, fans and NBA players. When programmer Mark Turmell and his team at Midway Games released the original “NBA Jam” in 1993, it had an immediate impact and spawned numerous home adaptations, sequels and remakes, including Acclaim’s famous 1994 conversion for Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis.
The game counts many NBA greats among its fans, including Shawn Kemp, Gary Payton, Glen Rice, Larry Johnson, Patrick Ewing and Mark Price. Basketball superstar Shaquille O’Neal had teammates over to play his NBA Jam arcade cabinet, then organized Sega Genesis tournaments while on the road, while Michael Jordan, whose likeness could not be licensed by Midway for the game, asked Midway to create a custom version for him so he could be included as a playable character. Another “NBA Jam” fan is baseball great Ken Griffey Jr.
“When ‘NBA Jam’ hit the arcade, I was barely tall enough to reach the joystick and view the screen at the same time,” says Menard. “But while literally standing on my toes, I was completely immersed in a game that allowed me the creative freedom to perform out-of-this world feats of athleticism. This was during a tipping point for the NBA as the league was bursting with excitement and culture that was appealing to a younger fan base.
“Our film is more than just an original story about the most successful sports game of all time. There are various sub-plots that detail how gaming was transitioning from arcades to home entertainment and how it would eventually lead to the demise of Midway,” adds Menard.
“Getting to work with Sean and learning his vision for a film about the remarkable history of a game I love is obviously a huge thrill for me,” says Sussman. “This documentary will not only be a trip down memory lane for older audiences but will reveal to a younger generation how it all started with a gaming industry today worth many billions of dollars.”
Producing the NBA Jam film with Sussman are his partners in BestCrosses Studios, Terence Richards and Peter A. Sussman.
Jack Sussman created the basketball-themed Instagram account @BestCrosses six years ago when he was 13 years old. The account now has 1.3 million followers.
BestCrosses Studios’ basketball-themed series “Anyone’s Game” premieres Friday on Canadian public broadcaster CBC.