The Greatest NBA All-Star Program Cover Designs

Written By:  •  Sunday, February 18, 2018

It’s NBA All-Star Sunday, a good time to look back on the history of the annual mid-season event in which the best basketball players in the world get together and don’t play any defence.

Fingers crossed one of the teams cracks the 200 point mark tonight, we’ve gotten close the last two years.

This year the game is being played in Los Angeles at the Staples Center and is hosted by both the Lakers and the Clippers. Elements of the weekend reflects this, the 2018 NBA All-Star Game logo uses the colour schemes of the two teams (red/blue, purple/gold) and the NBA Rising Stars Challenge game uniforms yesterday had Team World wearing a uniform based off the old Buffalo Braves (who, after a couple of relocations, are now the LA Clippers); and Team USA wore a uniform very similar to the 1960 Minneapolis Lakers who are obviously now the LA Lakers.

Uniforms for the game itself are… unusual; black and white, the team logo of the player right on the chest. Players aren’t representing conferences anymore, instead Team LeBron and Team Curry so we have very neutral designs. You can take a look at those uniforms here.

In the past on All-Star Sunday we’ve looked at the history of NBA All-Star Game uniforms, but in this post I’m breaking away from uniforms and logos to look back at another underappreciated design element from these events: the NBA All-Star Game program cover.

The first NBA All-Star Game was played in 1951, hosted by the Celtics at the Boston Garden; as was the norm in program design at the time the cover simply featured a black-and-white photo of a basketball game.

Here’s the cover from the first NBA All-Star Game:

Program cover from the first NBA All-Star Game, 1951

Program cover from the first NBA All-Star Game, 1951

While I haven’t flipped through this program myself I’d bet the interior of it is about 90% local ads with maybe two articles from local sportswriters and a lineup card.

And now to fast-forward to this year and the focus is on the “branding package”, just the logo with the supporting elements provided by the design team that made the logo:

While I haven’t flipped through this program myself I’d bet the interior of it is… etc.

Anyways the last few days I went through as many NBA All-Star Game program cover designs as I could and selected what I considered to be my favourites, presented below in chronological order:


1960 NBA All-Star Game Program cover

William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania is looking to the heavens, presumably from his perch atop city hall and seeing a 23-year-old rookie Wilt Chamberlain shining back at him, among many others. Wilt, who was with the Philadelphia Warriors at the time, went on to win the MVP of this game playing in front of his hometown crowd.



As design trends change, as does the NBA All-Star program cover and that isn’t any more apparent than the sudden change in style we see in 1969; this psychedelic cover matches any of the classic vinyl jackets of the late 1960s. Groovy.



An extension of that great 1975 NBA All-Star logo which featured a basketball streaking across a sun rising over the Phoenix Mountains; the sun a nice subtle nod to the host Phoenix Suns. Those three streaking stars are brought onto the cover with Bob McAdoo, Gail Goodrich, and Walt Frazier featured inside the stars.



It’s the All-Star Game, let’s get some stars in there! And they sure did, for the first game to be played in the brand new area at the Meadowlands in New Jersey. The flying stars and colour scheme are reminiscent of the uniforms worn by the host Nets at the time, those uniforms actually would’ve made a decent look for the All-Star jersey design. Hmm.



At first glance I wasn’t sure if I liked this cover – it’s certainly a great piece of art but for basketball? It wasn’t until I realized that this design basically inspired what would become the new Minnesota Timberwolves alternate logo in the late ’90s and now morphed into their primary logo here over 20 years after this program was designed. How many program covers can you think of that influenced a future logo design? Respect.



As we hit the new millennium designs started focusing on the logo and the package built around it more than any unique artwork for the cover; fortunately for the final All-Star Game held before “the clock struck twelve in the Year 2-G” we got this beaut featuring players making and trying to defend (in an All-Star Game, ha!) a shot, the players when put together create a towering skyscraper blending in with the surroundings of Manhattan.


Do you agree with my choices? Feel free to browse through the gallery of program covers below to find out your favourites. Yes, some are missing unfortunately, but here are 51 covers from ’51 (coincidence) through this year’s game in 2018:

Share your picks in the comments below!

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Chris Creamer

Chris Creamer is the founder of SportsLogos.Net and has been maintaining it since June 1997. You can follow him on Twitter at @sportslogosnet or contact him via email at