I used to annoy the local arcade with this game. Sure, people liked playing the basketball bit, but I knew about the hidden Battlezone-esque 3D tank game that was freely accessible if you held down some stick and button combination during attract mode. It was a bit crap but it was FREE and in the arcade you really can’t beat that can you.
OK anyway NBA Jam was a pretty great game, especially when you were playing with other people. The addition of the secret real world characters to the already cool roster – this was back when basketball was cool – was a fun way to keep the interest up. It was pretty obvious that the computer was cheating to hell and back in an effort to keep the games close, but it didn’t really matter that much.
The SNES version was a really great conversion, no two ways about it. The speech made a lot of the difference and the Mode 7-style effect for the basketball court just felt polished and made it a confident home conversion.
I didn’t play much of the later NBA Jam games, but for a while there this was a real cool way to kill a few hours.