I had a brief love affair with the NBA in the 1990s. Looking back, it feels weird to say that considering how little I pay attention to the league today and how quickly it fell out of favor with me sometime in the early to mid 2000s (around the time of the Lakers Shaq/Kobe dynasty). I was truly enraptured with the NBA starting in the late 80s with teams like the Celtics, Pistons, Lakers and the up and coming Bulls but when I hit high school in the early 90s, my NBA love was in full force. I latched on to a brand new franchise, the Charlotte Hornets (along with my home state team, the Milwaukee Bucks), thanks to the cool hornet logo, interesting color scheme (Carolina baby blue and purple) and a certain Larry “Grandmama” Johnson straight out of UNLV paired up alongside former Georgetown Hoya big man, Alonzo Mourning. They just seemed like a youthful, hip hop influenced team with great young talent and I wasn’t wrong. The Hornets were Eastern Conference contenders shortly after their inception. I even went so far as to ask for a Hornets Starter jacket for Christmas in 1991. I jumped on the Bucks bandwagon a few short years later after Milwaukee drafter Purdue’s Glenn “Big Dog” Robinson with the #1 overall pick and then UConn star, Ray Allen, shortly after. A Robinson NBA jersey (still in my closet) was a Christmas gift in ’94 while I was in college. Let’s be honest though, the NBA was better 20-30 years ago than it is today, right? It can’t just be attributed to my nostalgia glasses and how much I was influenced by hip hop culture at the time, can it?
House hold names like Jordan, Barkley, Magic (before his early retirement), Bird, The Admiral David Robinson, Big Dog Glenn Robinson, Patrick Ewing, Malone & Stockton, Drexler & Olajuwon, Pippen, Isaiah Thomas, Shaq, Penny, et al ruled the pop culture landscape. There were so many memorable players from this era. As a result, my love of the NBA was bound to bleed into my video gaming life. It all started with Tecmo’s NBA Basketball for the NES in 1991 and then the NBA Live franchises on the SNES and PlayStation. I loved NBA Jam for the Genesis as well even though I didn’t own one at the time.
The two basketball games I own for the Saturn are not unique to the console or even to the 32 bit generation. NBA Jam Tournament Edition (T.E. for short) is the successor to the popular NBA Jam arcade and home ports from the 16-bit generation. T.E. found its way onto just about every 16, 32 and 64 bit console and hand held during the mid 90s for good reason. It’s an improved version from the original and loads of fun. I have this title on several consoles and the Saturn version is just as good as any of them. NBA Live ’98 is the 4th game in EA’s long running franchise that got its start with NBA Live ’95 for the SNES, Genesis & DOS computers. I played Live ’95 and Live ’97 extensively for the SNES but never picked up Live ’98 until getting my Saturn several years after the console’s death. Live ’98 is notable for having the Heat’s Tim Hardaway on the cover and up to date rosters (for the time), otherwise, it’s standard NBA Live fare. I haven’t played this version on any other console so I can’t compare the Saturn version to the PlayStation, Genesis or SNES, but when I play exhibition games (I don’t have time to play a full 82 game season anymore), I enjoy it. Live ’98 was the last version available for those two 16 bit consoles as well.
While my love of the NBA is long gone, I have always had fun with NBA based video games and both of these are worthwhile entries for the Saturn.
Currently in my collection:
NBA Jam T.E. – game, manual, case B+
NBA Live ’98 – game, manual, case B