Almost everyone who played the popular “NBA Jam” video game in the 1990s wondered who Mike Iuzzolino was and why he was paired with Derek Harper on the Dallas Mavericks in the video game. Last week, a Denver sports columnist finally met the character who was a mystery to so many.
Mike Iuzzolino does in fact exist. And he’s currently the director of basketball operations for New Mexico.
Benjamin Hochman, a columnist for the Denver Post, wrote that “two-on-two arcade game was innovative in the early ’90s, swallowing quarters, as fans played as their favorite NBA stars” and “because teams on NBA Jam only had two players, fans were obviously familiar with every guy featured on the game. Except — the Mavericks were so pitiful back then, one of their two guys was … Mike Iuzzolino.”
“I grew up watching the NBA. And later in life, I was an NBA reporter. Yet when 1-Up opened a few years ago, and I played the game for the first time since childhood, I had NO IDEA who this guy was,” he wrote.
Hochman actually discovered that “Iuzzolino did, indeed, exist. After college ball at St. Francis, the second-rounder played two NBA seasons, averaging 9.0 points per game. And then, he dropped off the NBA radar.”
Hochman had a mix-up at a New Mexico airport and after going to Quiznos when he landed, he “spotted the New Mexico basketball team, boarding a flight. While waiting for my turkey on wheat (no cheese), I became curious about who was the New Mexico coach these days, so I looked it up on my phone. As I perused the staff list, I spotted the director of basketball operations — MIKE IUZZOLINO!!”:
So, I hopped out of line, darted straight to the gate, weaving my way through the players. And there he was, like Indiana Jones discovering the Lost Ark — Iuzzolino, in person, not pixelated.
“Hey uh Mike,” I said, “This is random, but I’m a fan of you from your NBA days.”
Surprised and humbled — and surely wondering just HOW I picked him out of a crowd — our hero replied: “Oh are you from Dallas?”
“No,” I admitted. “I just know you from NBA Jam.”
He smiled wide. And then, he was a good sport, agreeing to be in this photo with me: the biggest NBA Jam fan ever and the most random NBA Jam player ever.
photo credit: photobucket