NBA players are evaluated in a variety of ways: the traditional box score, advanced metrics, All-Star appearances, All-NBA team honors, MVPs, championships, etc. But the latest measure of not only sheer basketball ability, but player charisma and popularity, is inclusion in the revamped NBA Jam game set for release later this year.
There hasn’t been an NBA Jam title in arcades or for home consoles in over 15 years, which makes this the first title in the Jam mold for NBA players of a gaming generation. So many of the league’s young players grew up not only playing Jam, but a vast assortment of basketball games since. But the glaring difference between this series and newer titles that strive for realistic graphics and true in-game simulation is not only the cartoonish aesthetic of the former. Perhaps even more important, for the purposes of the players, at least, is Jam’s exclusivity.
Rather than featuring every player in the league (and even unsigned free agents) like the 2k series or NBA Live, the original Jam only had a two-player tandem to represent each team. The new installment looks to continue in that tradition, though by allowing fans to vote on the three players they’d most like to see in the game through the game’s official website.
So it was only a matter of time before the NBA Jam generation, weaned on video games and the internet, caught wind of the online voting. Kevin Love wasn’t shy at all about expressing his desire to be in the game…or the lengths he’s going to to make sure that happens. From ESPN’s Jon Robinson’s piece on NBA gaming (via First Cuts):
“I went online and kept refreshing my computer and voting myself into
‘Jam,’ I’m not going to lie,” said Kevin Love. “‘NBA Jam’ was my
favorite game growing up, so I was on there all day voting for myself.
I used to play as Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton or Karl Malone and John
Stockton. I never even imagined that I could be in ‘Jam.’ I just want
to get that team fire, get that blue ball … it’s going to be cool.”
But it’s not just Love. Robinson also has quotes from an excited Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James, two superstars who hardly have to worry about making the cut. NBA players have a chance on a nightly basis to make their mark in NBA history, but this goes beyond that. The original Jam was a flat-out phenomenon, and a chance to be in the reboot offers not only a solidified place in basketball lore, but cements a player’s status in pop culture as well.