What is a jock jam?
Well, in the ’90s it was whatever ESPN defined it as for the purposes of their series of Jock Jams compilations: Most often, hip-hop-flavored dance-pop bangers which implicitly (and sometimes explicitly) promoted physical movement of any and all kinds. But defined more broadly for our purposes at Billboard, a Jock Jam is a song that has come to define the in-game experience at a pro sports arena: Any song that, after years of stadium (over-)usage, is as familiar to sports fans’ ears as sneaker squeaks, referee whistles and Zamboni organ groans. It’s a canon that spans rock, hip-hop, dance and country, and still includes pop songs old and new.
To celebrate this canon, Billboard presents our list of the 100 greatest jock jams of all time. We tried to stay away from jams that only really made sense for one sport (like John Fogerty’s “Centerfield”) or one city (like Dropkick Murphys’ “I’m Shipping Up to Boston”), in favor of the classics that could work in the most games in the most places. These are the songs that helped define sports culture in this country for decades, which may have fallen in and out of favor with music supervisors as hip songs of the moment, but which will forever produce a Pavlovian response of sports-readiness. It’s a Hall of Fame in which AC/DC are The Beatles, 2 Unlimited are Michael Jackson, and The Baha Men… well, they’re still The Baha Men, but forever bronzed at their 2000 peak.
Now, a bunch of us here at Billboard are sports junkies, but we didn’t trust our own experiences and recollections in this matter to be anywhere near complete. So to help flesh out our Top 100 and determine the absolute cream of the bumper-music crop, we consulted the experts: Stadium entertainment officials, DJs, and general music men and women of the MLB, NHL, NFL and especially the NBA worlds. They were kind enough to give us their picks for the stadium-anthem GOATs, and explanations for their selections are interspersed throughout our list.
And now, let’s sound the horn and get our countdown underway. Y’all ready for this?