Basketball games (hoop shooting)

Basketball games (hoop shooting)

Retro Coin Op Synopsis

Basketball hoop-shooting contests have been around almost as long as the sport itself. For decades, carnival barkers have been luring in suckers to try to put a ball through an irregular, undersized hoop. Mechanical basketball games had been arcade standards since the 1920’s, but the actual throwing of a full-size ball through a full-size hoop in an arcade setting didn’t really hit its stride until the 1980's.

Through the 1970’s and into the 80’s, the National Basketball Association (NBA) had been expanding its appeal to younger fans, riding on the shoulders of superstars like Julius “Dr. J” Erving, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Larry Bird. But the league, and basketball itself, entered a new era of unequaled popularity with the rise to fame of Michael “Air” Jordan in the mid-80’s. Jordan became a hero to a generation of kids, inspiring millions of hoop dreamers to hone their b-ball skills.

And that brings us back full circle to the arcade. As basketball began to challenge baseball, football, soccer and the rest as the preferred sport of youth, the arcades took notice. Hoop-shooting basketball machines began to proliferate, allowing junior Jordans to show off for their pals and win redemption tickets at the same time.

Most arcade basketball-shooting games were played in an alley-type setting. Players grabbed balls—some regulation-size, but most smaller to accommodate kid hands—from a trough at the front of the machine, then launched them toward the hoop at the back of the machine. Netting on the sides of the alley kept bad shooters from injuring innocent Pac-Man players, and the sloped floor of the alley kept the balls rolling back for more shots. Once time ran out, the balls were blocked off, and tickets were awarded based on the hoopster’s score.

Those were the basics, but some imaginative manufacturers decided to give players challenges they wouldn’t find on any ordinary driveway hoops court. Some fueled competition, placing two or more baskets side-by-side to let challengers engage in a shooting duel. Others moved the hoop itself, creating a variety of tricky shots during the course of a single game. Hoops began appearing in all shapes and sizes, as nearly every manufacturer of redemption games tried to make its basketball game stand out from the competition.

These alley-style basketball games continue to line arcades today, becoming as permanent a feature as arcade classics like Skee-Ball and Whac-A-Mole. The machines still come in all forms imaginable, from the moving baskets of Skee-Ball’s Super Shot Deluxe or ICE’s Full Court Fever to the stacked vertical hoops of Coastal Amusement’s Triple Jam, but the fundamentals haven’t changed. Wannabe NBA superstars still flock to the machines, ready to prove that if they can’t be kings of the hardwood, at least they can be kings of the local arcade.

Arcade Machine Release History

1972 - Basketball games (hoop shooting)

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