Since the first All-star game held in 1951, it’s been 60 years of the NBA All-star history. So let’s take a look at how the All-star NBA jerseys have changed during the 60 years.
In 1951, the first NBA All-star game was held. It was only 2 years after BAA merged with NBL, and there were only 11 teams in the league, as the Washington Capitols bankrupted at the beginning of that year. At that time, basketball was not popular in the USA. The American’s favorite games were the NFL (National Football League), MLB (Major League Baseball), and NHL (National Hockey League). So the NBA league was keeping quite a low profile. Even in the All-star game which was aimed to please the fans, the NBA jerseys were quite conservative. From 1951 to 1970, All-star NBA jerseys were extremely regular and rigid. The main colors were always the Red, White, and Blue which symbolized the league, and there were no big “NBA” letters or logos in the jersey. There was only the “EAST” or “WEST” showing in the chest, along with the giant number. Moreover, there could not be two same numbers in one team. For example, if Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan were both in the WEST All-star team, one of them could not use the No.21 and had to choose another number that nobody had used. Besides these rigid rules, the most unacceptable thing is that the NBA Jersey Design Department believed that now that it was an All-star game, everyone’s jersey must have stars on it, and the stars must be purely colored five-pointed stars. Therefore, in the 20 years, every NBA All-star jersey had been full of stars and the stars had somehow become the leading role in the game. It was said that there was even a repertoire in the opening ceremony that all players in the All-star game would be hand in hand singing “we are the stars” or something.
After entering the 1980s, the situation was a little bit changed. The league realized that the regular and rigid rules would not be favored by the young people who had taken a big part in the NBA consumer market. Although the league still held a cautious attitude against the jerseys’ design, they had started to let some creative designs show up. Since then, the All-star NBA Jerseys tended to be diversified. Some lively designs had been showing in the NBA All-star jerseys. For example in 1975 Phoenix All-star jerseys, there was a rising sun in the pants. In 1979 Detroit All-star jerseys, the inclined letters and numbers created quite a visual impact. And for some reason, in 1982, the design with stars all around the jersey sleeve and hem was adopted by many people. And this jersey style was continued till 1987 with very few changes. In this period the major feature was that the NBA logo was shown in the most obvious place of the jersey, which means the NBA league had finally started to emphasize its brand construction. Of course, this obvious advertising activity was firstly resisted by consumers, but then the people accepted it soon. After all, the commercialization had been all over the globe already.
When the hip-hop culture breaking the boundaries of human races had become a hugely popular element in the whole of Europe and American society, the liberation of personality had become everyone’s slogan. And the very exotic, fancy, strange, and clever jersey designs were all created in this period. For example, the Denver Nuggets’ Rainbow jerseys in the 1980s were regarded as a masterpiece ahead of its time even from today’s perspective. Also, the league for the first time gave the authority to the host city to design and make the All-star jerseys. The boring All-star jersey was then being developed on the way of personalization.
But if the personalization had gone too far, it wouldn’t be a good thing either. It was obvious that every host city had emphasized applying the local team jersey’s elements so much that they had ignored the tastes of the whole American audiences. In 1995 Phoenix All-star Games — this city’s design had always been either too beautiful or too terrible — they put a giant cactus that looked like the manure fork onto an orange/yellow grotesque star in the jersey. The most killing part was the manure fork with this color. The city was quite proud of it, but this All-star NBA jersey style was almost the worst-selling one ever. Maybe for the design, it was not that bad, but obviously, it was not everybody that would love the desert and cactus.
In 1996, the situation seemed worse. The league was hoping the low-profile and honest San Antonio could come up with an acceptable NBA jersey to bring it back to the right way. However, no one could imagine that those mint colored jerseys with little peppers would appear on Jordan’s body. The ABC was interviewing an audience who left the game early and he simply said, “Sorry, but I really have an allergy to mint.”
In 1997, the league finally took back the authority of the All-star NBA jersey design. But the replacing plan seemed even worse. Every player should wear his own team’s jersey in the All-star game. Those various NBA jerseys made it looked like that every player was fighting alone. And due to the color distinguishing problem, turnovers such as passing the ball to the wrong teammate had affected the game. The game was not so wonderful. This situation changed in 2003. In 2003, the league finally unified all the All-star NBA jerseys again and reactivated the 1988 All-star jersey style.