What is a jock jam?
Well, in the 90s it was whatever ESPN defined it as for their purposes line of Jock Jams collections: Mostly hip-hop flavored dance-pop bangers, which implicitly (and sometimes explicitly) promoted physical movement of 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 in a professional sports arena: any song that, after years of stadium (over-)use, is as familiar to sports fans’ ears as sneaker squeaks, referee whistles and Zamboni organ sounds. It’s a canon that spans rock, hip-hop, dance and country, and still includes old and new pop songs.
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 made sense for one sport (like John Fogerty’s “Centerfield”) or one city (like the Dropkick Murphys’ “I’m Shipping Up to Boston”) in favor of the classics that could work in most games in most places. These are the songs that have helped define sports culture in this country for decades, that may have fallen out of favor with music supervisors like today’s hip songs, but will forever produce a Pavlovian response of sports readiness. It’s a Hall of Fame where AC/DC is The Beatles, 2 Unlimited is Michael Jackson and The Baha Men… well, they’re still The Baha Men, but forever bronzed at their peak in 2000.
Now, a bunch of us here at Billboard are sports junkies, but we didn’t trust our own experiences and memories in this matter to be anywhere near complete. So to help fill out our Top 100 and determine the absolute cream of the music crop, we consulted with the experts: stadium entertainment officials, DJs, and regular music men and women from the MLB, NHL, NFL, and especially NBA worlds. They were kind enough to give us their picks for the stadium anthem GOATs, and explanations for their picks are scattered throughout our list.
And now, let’s sound the horn and start the countdown. Are you ready for this?