Why NBA Hangtime Was the Best Basketball Game of Its Kind

The greatest NBA Jam game ever made had everything but the NBA Jam name.

Old School Cool is our new original video series releasing every Tuesday afternoon on the Den of Geek Facebook page. Each week, we break out the SNES, SEGA, PS2 or another classic console as we take you on a nostalgia trip into the world of classic video games and accessories.

Old School Cool: NBA Hangtime

During a much simpler time when major sports organizations were unburdened with thoughts of preserving the integrity of their brand’s image, wacky sports games roamed the Earth.

While some early sports titles such as Base Wars and Mutant League Football were able to get away with being absolutely ridiculous because they didn’t feature any official licenses, even licensed sports games were much more absurd than they are now. NFL Blitz was a hard hitting arcade-style take on the NFL. NHL 94 infamously featured blood on the ice.

The king of this subgenre was NBA Jam. With its roster of incredible NBA players and absolute disregard for physics, NBA Jam became the definitive basketball gaming experience of its era. To this day, it remains one of the most beloved sports games ever made.

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As impressive as NBA Jam’s legacy is, it’s strange to think that NBA Hangtime is rarely considered to be a part of it. Perhaps that’s because of the game’s name. See, NBA Hangtime was going to be the third NBA Jam title but a last minute licensing change forced developer Midway to alter the name.

Nevertheless, anyone who played NBA Hangtime immediately knew that this was an NBA Jam sequel in spirit. Two-on-two matches, players catching fire, flagrant shoving…everything anyone could love about NBA Jam was gleefully included in NBA Hangtime.

Yet, Hangtime was no mere continuation. It was a true innovator. Along with alley oops and double dunks, Hangtime introduced a character creation mode to this particular subgenre. In the spirit of this style of game, Hangtime allowed you to create everything from the next NBA star to outright abominations. Who among us didn’t immediately create an eight-foot tall wizard who was deadly from downtown?

The ability to create a variety of ridiculous characters would soon become a staple feature of many sports games, but Hangtime didn’t necessarily receive the attention it deserved at the time of its release. Some blamed the name change. Others said that people simply got their fill of arcade basketball by the time that the game was released.

Years later, though, a lack of the absurd games that once dominated the sports genre allows us to view NBA Hangtime in a new light and recognize it as maybe the best of its kind.

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