When it comes to influential sports video games, the early ’90s release NBA Jam stands tall next to Tecmo Bowl, the Madden NFL series, and RBI Baseball. The arcade basketball game, featuring many of the era’s top NBA stars, was notable for its fuzzy crowd noise and a steady stream of commentary peppered with catchphrases such as “Boom shakalaka!” “Ugly shot!” and “He’s heating up!”
The man who recorded these catchphrases is Chicago resident (and Bulls fan) Tim Kitzrow. The former Second City Conservatory member was already doing voiceover work for NBA Jam’s developer, Midway, when the opportunity to channel an enthusiastic NBA announcer came up. Kitzrow was paid $50 an hour for his time, which added up to a whopping $900. “When you’re young and you’re trying to get a start, $50 an hour was a nice paycheck,” he tells Vice Sports. “I can’t look back and say I got ripped off, because that’s what everyone in my role got.”
Post-NBA Jam, Kitzrow went on to do voiceover work for a variety of other sports games, including Frank Thomas Big Hurt Baseball, MLB Slugfest, Wayne Gretzky 3D Hockey, and NFL Blitz. Over the years, he’s also had several near-misses with greatness, including a movie idea with then-Bulls coach Phil Jackson that he hoped would involve Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. Alas, this ascent to Hollywood stardom wasn’t meant to be, although the Houston Rockets recently commissioned Kitzrow to reprise his role for a James Harden video. Read more about Kitzrow’s life (and NBA Jam memories) at Vice Sports, and hear some of his best work below.