New Book on NBA Jam Arcade Game to be Released in Early 2018
Local Writer Reyan Ali plans to release his first book, NBA JAM, in early 2018. The book tells the story of the epic, multi-million dollar arcade game by the same name. Released in 1993 by Midway, the game swept the nation and captured the hearts and minds of an entire generation of millennials who looked up to NBA super stars like Shaquille O’Neal, Michael Jordan, Karl Malone, Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley, and Shawn Kemp.
Ali spent most of the early 90s in Pakistan with his father, where the NBA was virtually unheard of. His first exposure of the basketball league was an ad for the NBA Jam arcade game in a comic book. The graphics of wild colors and crazy logos caught his attention, and he quickly became a fan. He collected everything he could find, from trading cards to VHS tapes, even asking his mom in Ohio to mail him NBA items.
Although the NBA Jam arcade game did not exist in Ali’s town of Karachi, he remained an avid fan of anything NBA. He played Sega Genesis’ version, NBA Jam: Tournament Edition. Playing the game helped him feel connected to the far-away sports league, even if it didn’t help him understand the actual rules of the live game (like fouls). Ali also played, and loved, other video games like Mortal Kombat, which was created by the developer of NBA Jam.
NBA Jam was a trailblazer in its industry. It was the NBA’s first official arcade game, and it also helped set the standard for sports video games today. It was one of the first games to have actual player’s faces recognizable, and it had fascinating effects such as celebrating three baskets in a row with the ball going on fire. The game was a fast-paced two-on-two game with a loud announcer who yelled things like “BOOMSHAKALAKA!” and “HE’S ON FIRE!”
The original arcade game earned $1 billion in its release year of 1993, tripling the box office record of the biggest movie of the same year, Jurassic Park. Rumor has it the arcade game can be found around Columbus in several arcade bars, such as 16-Bit Bar + Arcade, Level One BAR + ARCADE, and Zeno’s.
When Ali moved to Columbus as a teenager, a whole new world of video games opened up to him. The sequel to NBA Jam, NBA Showtime, had arrived on the scene and Ali fell equally in love with the game. Finding it at the then-emerging Easton mall was a huge thrill for him, and he enjoyed playing the newest NBA arcade game.
Throughout college, Ali worked as a freelance writer for several local outlets, as well as for a few in bigger cities like Chicago, Cleveland, Boston, and San Francisco. Ali’s passion for writing stemmed from the excitement of getting to meet all different kinds of people and learn about their worlds. When asked what he loved about writing, he said, “Seeing an idea finally materialize is the greatest feeling.”
More recently, when he heard that Boss Fight Books, a small company that publishes short books on individual video games, had an open call for proposals he decided it was the time to pursue the next step in his career – writing a book.
His decision to write on NBA Jam centered around several factors. One, the game was wildly successful in its day and had a huge following. Two, the developer Midway was an American company and therefore accessible for interviews and information. Three, so much material already existed scattered in various sources that compiling it into one central location made sense.
Once Ali received his contract from Boss Fight Books, he delved into massive research. Old fan forums, articles, and magazines all aided in his efforts to gather and compile the history of NBA Jam. The book, three years in the making, will be released the same year that the arcade game turns 25.
Ali’s book NBA Jam contains the in-depth history and story of the arcade game. In addition to interviews with secret characters like George Clinton and DJ Jazzy Jeff, the book also contains interviews with recognizable NBA names like Glen Rice and Shaquille O’Neal. Interviews with several influential gaming industry inventors, designers, and creators are also found within the pages of Ali’s NBA Jam.
NBA Jam also goes deep into the industry of arcade games. He jumps into the “deep and murky waters” of how Midway, a massive company in the entertainment industry, goes under a few decades after its peak. Ali takes readers on the full NBA Jam ride, writing with familiarity on his beloved game. His extensive research and dozens of interviews will give readers a complete picture of the billion-dollar game that swept the early 90s.
For more information on the release of NBA Jam, fans can follow Reyan Ali on Twitter @nbajambook.
Visit this site for a sneak peek at the book’s prologue.