One on One: Dr. J vs. Larry Bird

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One on One: Dr. J vs. Larry Bird
Developer(s)Electronic Arts
Publisher(s)Electronic Arts
Atari Corporation (7800)[1]
Designer(s)Eric Hammond
Platform(s)Apple II, Amiga, Atari 7800, Atari 8-bit, ColecoVision, Commodore 64, IBM PC, Classic Mac OS, TRS-80 Color Computer
Release1983: Apple II
1984: Atari 8-bit, C64, IBM PC
1985: CoCo, Mac, Spectrum
1986: Amiga
1987: Atari 7800[1]
Genre(s)Sports (basketball)
Mode(s)Single-player, multiplayer

One on One: Dr. J vs. Larry Bird, commonly known as One on One, is a basketball video game written by Eric Hammond for the Apple II and published by Electronic Arts in 1983. It was initially ported to the Atari 8-bit computers, ColecoVision, Commodore 64, and IBM PC compatibles (as a self-booting disk). Versions followed for the TRS-80 Color Computer, Classic Mac OS, Amiga, and ZX Spectrum. In Europe, the publisher was Ariolasoft. Atari Corporation released an Atari 7800 port in 1987.


The player controls basketball star Julius Erving or Larry Bird in a game of one-on-one against another player or the computer. The game includes personal fouls, a 24-second shot clock, jumpers, fadeaways, putbacks, and what is likely the first instant replay in video games.[2] It allows for play to a certain score or timed games. On offense, a player can spin or shoot; on defense, attempt to block or steal the ball, with over aggressiveness penalized by fouls. A hard dunk can shatter the backboard, prompting a janitor to come out and sweep up the shards, directing censored complaints at the player in the process. The game used Scott Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag" as its title screen soundtrack.


Magazine advertisement

The game was developed while Trip Hawkins was unsuccessfully attempting to develop a video game based on American football (an effort which eventually led to the creation of the Madden NFL series). Influenced by a televised one-on-one basketball tournament he remembered watching when he was younger, Hawkins decided to create a game based on the concept. He signed Julius Erving, his favorite basketball player at the time. Erving went to Electronic Arts headquarters for principal photography and to offer advice to the developers. Erving and Bird were each paid $25,000 to appear in the game, along with a 2.5 percent royalty. In addition, Erving received some stock in Electronic Arts.[2]

The game's simpler half-court set-up allowed the team to focus on adding more realism, including more accurate physics and animations. A planned feature that would have made Bird and Erving play more similarly to their real-life counterparts did not make the final game.[2]

The cover photograph for the game's record-style package, was taken while Erving and Bird were visiting the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. The crowd sounds heard in the Amiga version were recorded by Hawkins and producer Joe Ybarra at a Golden State Warriors game.[2]


One on One was very successful, helping EA avoid financial difficulty and increasing retailers' familiarity with the company.[3] In 1984 ST.Game's readers named the game the eighth most-popular Apple program of 1983.[4] It was also awarded Electronic Game of the Year by the 1985 Arkie Awards, presented by Electronic Games Magazine.[5] One on One was Electronic Arts' best-selling game, and second best-selling Commodore 64 game, as of late 1987.[6] It was certified "SPA Platinum" (sales of 250,000 copies) by November 1989,[7] after having sold 400,000 copies by late 1988 and becoming the highest-selling sports game ever for computers.[8]

InfoWorld in 1984 called One on One "perhaps the most talked-about sports game of the new year". The magazine praised its portrayal of the two players' individual styles, backboard shattering, crowd noise, and instant replay, concluded that "One On One delivers the goods: a realistic simulation of a lively sports matchup".[9] Computer Gaming World in 1984 called One on One "incredibly realistic" and predicted that it would be one of the year's best sports games. The magazine cited the "absolutely fantastic" graphics, simple controls, and the instant replay as positives, only criticizing the lack of clarity of ball possession under the basket and lack of overtime.[10] ST.Game said that "this is the sports game of 1984", noting the realistic feel of the two players' playing styles. While noting the inability to stop dribbling to fake out the other player, the magazine concluded that "highly addictive, thrilling, sometimes frustrating, and always involving are ways to describe One-on-One. It's a winner".[11] Ahoy! in 1986 called the Commodore 64 version "a must-have", praising its graphics and gameplay.[12] Compute! in 1986 approved of the Amiga version's improved graphics and sound but noted that the gameplay was the same as on 8-bit computers, stating that this was "a testament to careful research and clever programming" of the original version.[13]


The original One on One has been credited as a game that helped establish Electronic Arts as a successful game company and would also foreshadow how important sports titles would be to the company's future.[2] EA Sports would later be spun off into its own division.

The sequel, Jordan vs Bird, was released in 1988 with improved graphics, Michael Jordan taking the Doctor's place, a slam dunk contest with Jordan, and a three-point shootout with Bird.


  1. ^ a b Scott, Jason (May 20, 2013). "Atari 7800 Manual: One-on-One Basketball (1987)(Atari)". Console Manuals: Atari 7800. Internet Archive. Retrieved January 5, 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e Sauer, Patrick (May 25, 2017). "How Dr. J and Larry Bird Helped Build a Video Game Empire". Vice Sports. Vice Media LLC. Retrieved June 22, 2017.
  3. ^ Campbell, Colin (14 July 2015). "How EA lost its soul, chapter 8". Polygon. Vox Media. Retrieved 15 July 2015.
  4. ^ "The Best and the Rest". ST.Game. March–April 1984. p. 49. Retrieved 28 July 2014.
  5. ^ Staff (January 1985). "1985 Arkie Awards". Electronic Games. Vol. 3, no. 1. p. 22.
  6. ^ Ferrell, Keith (December 1987). "The Commodore Games That Live On And On". Compute's Gazette. pp. 18–22. Retrieved 24 January 2015.
  7. ^ Staff (November 1989). "Chart-Busters; SPA Platinum". Game Players (5): 112.
  8. ^ Staff (October 1988). "Michael Jordan and CGW Go One on One". Computer Gaming World. No. 52. pp. 32, 33.
  9. ^ Mace, Scott (27 February 1984). "Olympic games on the way". InfoWorld. p. 66. Retrieved 29 July 2014.
  10. ^ Long, Dave (April 1984). "One On One". Computer Gaming World (review). pp. 42–43.
  11. ^ Yuen, Matt (March–April 1984). "Call Him Dr. Joystick". ST.Game. pp. 37–38. Retrieved 29 July 2014.
  12. ^ Kunkel, Bill; Katz, Arnie (January 1986). "Calling Computer Coaches / Team Sports Simulations for the Commodore 64". Ahoy!. pp. 47–50. Retrieved 2 July 2014.
  13. ^ Brannan, Charles (May 1986). "One-On-One For Amiga". Compute!. p. 53. Retrieved 29 July 2014.

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