In his youth, Damon Amendolara would go to the arcade hoping to play NBA Jam, but oftentimes the older kids dominated the machine. Eventually, the game came out on Sega Genesis, which DA played incessantly, and in college he received the best birthday gift his parents ever gave him: an arcade version of NBA Jam.
NBA Jam was – and is – extremely popular for many reasons, including its catch-phrases: “Razzle Dazzle!” “He’s on fire!” And, of course, “Boom-shaka-laka!”
Tim Kitzrow, the voice of NBA Jam, dropped by CBS Sports Radio on Wednesday to take a stroll down memory lane with DA. As it turns out, the phrase “Boom-shaka-laka” came from a 1960s R&B/soul song.
“I was unaware of exactly how it happened,” Kitzrow said on The DA Show. “I thought it was all my own genius, but apparently one of the sound guys at Midway Games had been listening to a lot of Sly & The Family Stone and on the song ‘I Want To Take You Higher’ there’s a chorus that goes, ‘Boom-shaka-laka-laka.’ He thought they were saying, ‘Boom-shaka-laka.” He liked the phrase, so he yells to Jon Hey, who produced and wrote the whole script for NBA Jam, ‘Tell Tim to say boom-shaka-laka!’ I’m in this meat-locker-size recorder box and I go, ‘Boom-shaka-laka!’ And that, my friends, is history.”
NBA Jam debuted in 1993 and quickly became one of the most popular arcade games in the country.
“It was a time that was really interesting,” Kitzrow said. “Video games were just starting to make a big splash at the arcade. There was one other game called Run and Gun. It was kind of a black-and-white video game, and when NBA Jam came out, I would go to the arcades to see how Jam was doing, and I saw the competitor. Jam had just come out, and week by week, the crowd started to build around NBA Jam – to the point where it was 10, 12 deep. And people (were) yelling and screaming like on a playground: ‘Who’s got next? Quarters on the board.’”
Kitzrow would have a little fun with them.
“I’d walk up behind the guys who were playing and I’d see someone take a shot and I’d go, ‘Ugly shot! Get that shot outta here!’” he recalled. “They’d go, ‘Hey, man, you sound like the dude on the game!’ I go, ‘I am the dude.’ Walk away. ‘Boom-shaka-laka!’ I had a feeling it was going to catch fire at that point.”