ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary, You Don’t Know Bo, isn’t just about sports. Director Michael Bonfiglio said Bo Jackson was a superhero, not just a sports hero. Thanks to his athletic gifts and a brilliant Nike ad campaign, Jackson became a household name without winning a World Series, Super Bowl or any major awards.
The media exposure didn’t stop there. Jackson became an animated superhero with his own cartoon. He teamed with Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky to fight crime as the Pro Stars. Hey, it seemed like a good idea to NBC execs at the time. Of course, Jackson would conquer the video game world too.
Talk to any sports gamer in their 30s about Jackson’s legend, and they’ll remember Tecmo Super Bowl. Jackson is possibly the greatest video game athlete of all time. Tecmo Super Bowl teams had only a handful of plays, and if you blitzed the one your opponent picked that was game over. That is, unless Bo was involved. His combination of power and speed made him nearly impossible to contain. This video shows just what I’m talking about:
NFL stars these days play as much Madden as anybody. They complain about their ratings to the point of stalking EA developers. Jackson told ESPN that even though he still owns a copy of Tecmo Super Bowl, he has never played the game that’s such a huge part of his legend. Despite a mountain of real world athletic achievements, Jackson says Tecmo’s football games are often the first thing people mention when they meet him.
His superpowered, pixelated counterpart is now immortalized with a T-shirt. Piggy backing on the Nike campaign, the tee declares that “Bo Knows Tecmo.” An injury ended Jackson’s career before we saw just how much he might have achieved. As the director of the ESPN documentary notes, it will be hard for those who remember Bo to explain just how incredible he was. The quickest way for many of us will be to fire up the Nintendo and watch him work.