If you're a Netflix subscriber, you'll no doubt have seen the excellent basketball documentary series, The Last Dance. It charts the incredible story of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls during one of the most exciting periods in the history of the sport. It also spends a bit of time covering the intense rivalry between the Bulls and the Detroit Pistons.
It turns out that rivalry bled into video games of the period, too, because NBA Jam designer and lead programmer Mark Turmell has admitted to Ars Technica (thanks, Eurogamer) that the game was designed to give the Detroit Pistons an unfair advantage against the Chicago Bulls.
According to the developer, he programmed the game so that the Bulls always miss if they take a shot on the buzzer:
Making this game in Chicago during the height of the Michael Jordan era, there was a big rivalry - the Pistons and the Bulls. But the one way I could get back at the Bulls once they got over the hump, was to affect their skills against the Pistons in NBA Jam. And so I put in special code that if the Bulls were taking last-second shots against the Pistons, they would miss those shots. And so, if you're ever playing the game, make sure you pick the Pistons over the Bulls.
So there you have it, right from the horse's mouth – if you ever thought that the Pistons played dirty in NBA Jam, now you know why.
Turmell also talks about why Jordan – one of the most famous basketball players of all time – isn't in the game. Jordan removed himself from any NBA-related licencing deals during the development of NBA Jam because he believed he could make more money by negotiating on his own. However, he's in some of the early arcade units that were used for location testing prior to launch, and some ROMs available online also include the player.