Say Boomshakalaka to anyone between the ages of 25-45 and you may receive a knowing grin and will likely get a response that will lead into a lengthy discussion about NBA Jam. The classic arcade mega-hit is a game that has transcended generations and is just as playable today as it was on the faithful night in Chicago when the first cabinet was booted up and tested. It’s simple, yet hard to master game-play is just some of its magic. The realistic player faces, memorable catch-phrases are just some of what helped Mark Turmell and his development team based out of Chicago, create a game that has been ported to countless systems and lead to the development of countless spin-offs and imitations.
Nearly one and a half years ago, I tweeted something about fellow NJB blogger, Adam and I trying to obtain the top spot on the Twin Galaxies leaderboard for margin of victory in NBA Jam. This post led to Reyan Ali, author of NBA Jam The Book to like my post. This led to an interview with Reyan and the start of a friendship built around a passion for NBA JAM.
Author, Reyan Ali got his start in pop culture journalism well over a decade ago as a freelance writer writing for Rolling Stone, Wired, USA Today, Complex, Spin and various other publications. During these years Ali developed a passion for interviewing and decided he wanted to take on a project with more substance, a book. Ali’s first pitches were rejected and they focused more on music. He was familiar with Boss Fight Books, NBA JAM The Books publisher, from Kickstarter. Ali poured his heart into an NBA Jam book proposal, nearly 37 pages worth and the rest is history. This book has been a tireless effort of Ali’s since 2015 and the heart and soul he poured into the pages of this book show.
The amount of sources and interviews conducted by Ali is staggering; nearly sixty interviews were conducted. No proverbial stone was left unturned in the research phase of this book. No major player in the development of NBA Jam was left unaccounted for. Prior to reading this book I felt that I had a solid understanding of what transpired prior to the development, during the development and the fall out afterwards, but I was naive. I was the 11 year old boy in sex education class that has an older sibling and talks like he knows everything there is to know about the “birds and the bees”. Ali not only presents valid information, he does in a style that is gripping and leaves the reader with the “one more chapter” any readers know. Personally I am a sucker for documentaries and non-fiction, but the storytelling in this book would have anyone who is a fan of compelling stories interested.
The amount of interviews cannot be understated. This book is a work of true journalism, which I know Reyan prides himself in. Ali interviewed Tim Kitzrow, the NBA Jam cheerleaders, various Midway employees, the original development team, Acclaim staffers, John Romero (designer of Wolfenstein 3D, Doom and Quake), DJ Jazzy Jeff, George Clinton, Glen Rice and well known Jam fanatic, Shaq. By the way, Shaq ironically always plays as a 3-point shooter, which is a rookie strategy if you want my opinion.
One critique of the book I have is the fact it does not spend much time discussing and comparing all of the various ports of the game. It would have been fascinating to me to read what Mark Turmell thought of the translation of his game to platforms such as the Gameboy color or Sega 32X for example. I have found various YouTube videos comparing the different ports of the game, but they leave more to be desired and Ali could have given some depth and presented the information in his style that had me finish the book in nearly one sitting.
This book is a must have for NBA Jam fans, and I know there are a lot out there. Sure, the book does leave the reader wanting more, but not because it felt incomplete. To the contrary the book leads you to want to start looking into the history of coin-op gaming as a whole. NBA JAM The Book not only tells the story of a single game, but explains the climate in which the game was developed and the long fascinating history of Midway, the games original developer. The book has insights into why the game plays the way it does, how the animations were developed and many other fascinating anecdotes are told throughout its 192 pages of pure excitement.
You can follow the author of NBA Jam The Book, Reyan Ali on twitter @NBAJAMBOOK. He is continuously posting interesting relics of gaming history and is highly interactive with his followers. Reyan also responds to emails if you have questions about the NBA Jam or the book. His email is NBAJAMBOOK@gmail.com.
Special Thanks to Reyan Ali and Boss Fight Books for providing me with a review copy of th
e book. Please note, we were not paid monetarily for this review. The review of the book has been solely my opinion. If you’re interested the book can be purchased directly from Boss Fight Books here or on Amazon, here. NerdJockBlog.com does not benefit monetarily from the sales the book.
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