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Michelob ULTRA Brings Back NBA JAM for All-Star Weekend

A Michelob ULTRA event space in Cleveland gives fans old and new of the classic video game a chance to re-live the magic of every last Boom Shaka Laka.

As the NBA’s official beer, Michelob ULTRA wants to celebrate one of the sport’s most iconic video games at this weekend’s NBA All-Star festivities in Cleveland with a fully immersive NBA JAM-themed event space and virtual fan experience.

“No video game displayed the joy of basketball quite like NBA JAM,” said Ricardo Marques, Michelob ULTRA’s VP of Marketing.

Turning back the clock to 1993, the year the game was first released, the caps-locked favoring brands will be hosting fans at “Boom Shaka Laka’s Barcade” from Noon to 1 a.m. ET this Friday, Feb. 18, through Sunday, Feb. 20.

Featuring a foursome of Hall of Famers on hand as brand ambassadors, NBA icons Dominique Wilkins, James Worthy, Dikembe Mutombo, and Clyde Drexler are all slated to take in the experience with fans.

“We’re gonna shake our body like a Shaka Shaka,” joked Mutombo. 

Concept of Michelob ULTRA’s live NBA JAM activation at 2022 All-Star Weekend in Cleveland (Image via Michelob ULTRA)

Known for his instant classic catchphrases from the game, Tim Kitzrow — the voice of NBA JAM’s taglines like “He’s on fire!” and “Boom Shaka Laka” — will also be in the house for the festivities. 

“There is something special about NBA JAM and the power it had to bring real joy to so many people over the years,” three-time NBA champion and seven-time All-Star James Worthy told Boardroom. 

For each of the former NBA stars, they can vividly remember originally playing the two-teammate format video game that went all-in on excessive hops, full-shove steals, and turbo-driven fast breaks. 

“I have a lot of nephews, neighbors, and young kids who would always come up to me and say, ‘Hey, man, I was killing it with you! You were the man,’” recalls Worthy.

A key pillar of the 1980s Lakers dynasty, Worthy was an established star when the game was launched. Mutombo, who went on to be named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year a record-tying four times, the original game dropped just as he was making his mark on the Association after his rookie season. 

“Looking at young Mutombo, as tall as I was, with the little mini shirt and the high top fade, I remember all of it,” he smiled.

Image via Michelob ULTRA

In the decades since, it was the personality, skill, and style of the league’s biggest stars that helped to expand the game globally. From Drexler’s smooth, gliding dunks to Nique’s powerful windmills, Worthy’s signature New Balances and trademark goggles, and (of course) Mutombo’s unmistakable finger wag, players known for their individual flare all added to the fun of playing video games like NBA JAM

After entering the Hall of Fame in 2015, Mutombo has continued to be featured in several brand campaigns in retirement, now the latest ambassador for Michelob ULTRA as his marketing profile continues to expand.

John Leyba/The Denver Post via Getty Images

“I’m happy that the game still recognizes me. I’m happy that Michelob ULTRA brought me into this,” he said. “Young people need to know that you win the game with defense.” 

While chatting with Boardroom over Zoom from Atlanta, he could only laugh when describing his airport experience flying home after watching his son’s basketball game in Chicago.

He was relentlessly stopped throughout the entire trip for videos and photos with fans requesting his signature finger wag.

“They don’t even call me Mutombo or say, ‘Excuse me,’” he laughed. “They just say ‘No no no – can I have a picture?’”

Kicking off this Friday, the ULTRA x NBA JAM experience will also feature throwback musical performances by the iconic DJ Jazzy Jeff – a secret character in 1993’s NBA JAM Tournament Edition – along with rapper Fat Joe and additional special guests.

Michelob ULTRA is also releasing All-Star Weekend exclusive can designs with 16-bit inspired graphics and wordmarks drafting off of the original NBA JAM typefaces. 

“It made perfect sense for us to team up with this iconic franchise during an All-Star Weekend that celebrates the history of the NBA,” added Marques of the league’s 75 anniversary season. 

Image via Michelob ULTRA

Each of the Hall of Famers is looking forward to playing the game again all these years later, a point of pride after being featured as one of just two players to represent their franchise on the 27 team rosters in the original game. It’s a distinction that only 54 players can claim, as NBA JAM expanded to rosters of three for the updated Tournament Edition a year later.

“Your day will come, brother, where you’ll be where I am and you can play this game,” Worthy remembers teasing a young Lakers teammate in the locker room when NBA JAM first released. 

“I only played as a Nugget,” said Mutombo. “I didn’t pick anyone else.” 

For Worthy, the main studio analyst for local Lakers broadcasts over the last decade, picking current players for the three-player NBA JAM format led him to an “obvious” grouping of LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook. Then, he thought of a darkhorse candidate. 

“The not-so-obvious one would be a guy like [Austin] Reaves, who’s a plus-minus genius,” he said. “He could have zero points, but if you look at the stat sheet, he has the highest plus-minus. He had four years of college and he knows how to play the game. There’s things you don’t see in the stat sheet. I’m from the old school, and it just drives me lovely crazy to see the way he plays. I love it.”

To check out additional details and info leading into the event this weekend, Michelob ULTRA has created a dedicated microsite at EnjoyItLikeIts1993.com. The campaign is an added component of Michelob ULTRA’s yearlong tagline, “It’s Only Worth It If You Enjoy It.” 

When thinking back to that era, Mutombo can’t help but think of the opening-round 1994 playoff series in which he helped lead his young Nuggets team to an upset victory over the top-seeded Seattle SuperSonics. The image of him holding up the game ball on the floor after the final buzzer has remained an iconic playoff snapshot ever since. 

“People ask, ‘Were you crying?’” he said. “It was a cry of joy and full of celebration. It was full of joy.”

The Boom Shaka Laka’s Barcade will be open to fans on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 2120 E 4th Street in Cleveland, featuring: 

  • Musical performances by rap legend Fat Joe and a surprise guest appearance 
  • Spin sets by hidden NBA JAM character and iconic DJ Jazzy Jeff
  • Meet-and-greets with NBA JAM legends Clyde Drexler, Dikembe Mutombo, Dominique Wilkins, and James Worthy
  • Special appearance by the voice of NBA JAM, Tim Kitzrow
  • Michelob ULTRA limited-edition graphic cans, limited-edition collab merchandise made in partnership with Ohio-based apparel company Homage, and unlimited NBA JAM arcade plays 
  • Fans not in Cleveland can tweet a selfie to @MichelobULTRA using #ULTRAJAM to be transformed into their own individual 16-bit avatar inspired by the game

The throwback thrills begin Feb. 18.

See you at Boom Shaka Lakas.

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