The NBA All-Star Game is a basketball exhibition game hosted every February by the National Basketball Association (NBA), matching the league's star players from the Eastern Conference against their counterparts from the Western Conference. Each conference team consists of 12 players, making it 24 in total. It is the featured event of NBA All-Star Weekend. NBA All-Star Weekend is a three-day event which goes from Friday to Sunday. The All-Star game was first staged at the Boston Garden on March 2, 1951.
The starting lineup for each squad is selected by a fan ballot, while the reserves are chosen by a vote among the head coaches from each squad's respective conference. Coaches are not allowed to vote for their own players. If a selected player is injured and cannot participate, the NBA commissioner selects a replacement.
The head coach of the team with the best record in each conference is chosen to lead their respective conference in the All-Star Game, with a prohibition against repeat appearances. Known as the "Riley Rule", it was created after perennially successful Los Angeles Lakers head coach Pat Riley earned the right to coach the Western Conference team eight times in nine seasons between 1982 and 1990. The coach of the team with the next best record serves instead.
The 2017 All-Star weekend was originally awarded to Charlotte, North Carolina. On March 23, 2016, North Carolina passed House Bill 2 as a remedy to Charlotte Ordinance 7056. This led to the NBA threatening to pull the game from Charlotte if the bill was not repealed or revised so as to not discriminate against the LGBT community. The NBA announced on July 21, 2016 that the game will be moved from Charlotte to New Orleans.
The idea of holding an All-Star Game was conceived during a meeting between NBA President Maurice Podoloff, NBA publicity director Haskell Cohen and Boston Celtics owner Walter A. Brown. At that time, the basketball world had just been stunned by the college basketball point-shaving scandal.
In order to regain public attention to the league, Cohen suggested the league to host an exhibition game featuring the league's best players, similar to Major League Baseball's All-Star Game. Although most people, including Podoloff, were pessimistic about the idea, Brown remained confident that it would be a success, and he even offered to host the game and to cover all the expenses or potential losses incurred from the game. In the first All-Star Game, the Eastern All-Stars team defeated the Western All-Stars team 111–94.
Boston Celtics' Ed Macauley was named as the first NBA All-Star Game Most Valuable Player, and the All-Star Game became a success, drawing an attendance of 10,094, much higher than that season's average attendance of 3,500. In 2010, the NBA All Star Game attendance record was set when 108,713 fans jammed Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. This shattered the existing attendance record previously held at Ford Field on Dec. 13, 2003 when 78,129 attendees watched Michigan State play Duke.
Fans vote on the starters for the game, selecting three frontcourt players and two guards from each conference. Prior to 2013, fans selected two forwards and one center instead of generic frontcourt players. The NBA in 2003 began offering All-Star ballots in three languages—English, Spanish and Chinese—for fan voting of the starters.
NBA coaches vote for the reserves for their respective conferences, none of which can be players on their own team. Each coach selects two guards, three frontcourt players and two wild cards, with each selected player ranked in order of preference within each category. If a multi-position player is to be selected, coaches are encouraged to vote for the player at the position that is "most advantageous for the All-Star team", regardless of where the player is listed on the All-Star ballot or the position he is listed in box scores. If a player is unavailable for the game due to injury, the NBA commissioner selects a replacement for the roster. If the replacement is for a fan-selected starter, the all-star coach chooses the replacement in the starting lineup, and is not limited to the commissioner's addition to the roster. It is also possible for more than one All-Star to be selected from one team, but there has never been more than 4 All-Stars represent a team in the game. Most recently was the 2017 Golden State Warriors who had 4 players represent that team (Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson.) This has only occurred 8 times dating back to 1962 Boston Celtics and the 1962 Los Angeles Lakers.
The Game is played under normal NBA rules, but there are notable differences from an average game. Since the starting All-Stars are selected by fan vote, players sometimes start the game at atypical positions. For instance, in 2007 Kobe Bryant and Tracy McGrady had the two highest fan vote totals among Western Conference guards. As both players normally play shooting guard, Bryant, who is 6'6" (198 cm), started the game as a point guard, despite him also manning the shooting guard position on his team.
The player introductions are usually accompanied by a significant amount of fanfare, including lighting effects, dance music, and pyrotechnics. Special uniforms are designed for the game each year, usually red for the Western Conference and blue for the Eastern Conference, but the 1997–2002 games allowed players the opportunity to wear their respective team uniforms, and until 2009 and from 2015 to the present, the host conference wore light uniforms. Originally players from the same team who share a number have the option to either keep or change numbers (e.g. Patrick Ewing trading his familiar #33 for #3 because of Larry Bird wearing the same number), but since 1997 players from the same team can keep their customary uniform numbers even if they share them. A major recording artist typically sings "O Canada" and "The Star-Spangled Banner" prior to tipoff. One of the more memorable performances was given by Marvin Gaye during the 1983 game; Gaye was accompanied by Gordon Banks, who played a tape from an all night session that used numerous elements of soul music and funk, and Banks still has that historic tape of the music to which Gaye sang his soulful version.
Gameplay usually involves players attempting spectacular slam dunks and alley oops. Defensive effort is usually limited and the final score of the game is generally much higher than an average NBA game. The coaches also try to give most of the reserve players some time on the court instead of using a limited rotation as they would in a normal game, but giving the starters more minutes because that's who the fans want to see most. The fourth quarter of the game is often played in a more competitive fashion, if the game is close.
Halftime is also longer than a typical NBA game due to musical performances by popular artists. Recent guests have included Justin Bieber, Michael Jackson, Snoop Dogg, Ariana Grande, Elton John, Beyoncé, Mariah Carey, OutKast, Alicia Keys, Shakira, John Legend, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Kendrick Lamar, and Christina Aguilera.
This is a list of each All-Star Game, the venue at which it was played, and the Game MVP. Parenthesized numbers indicate multiple times that venue, city, or player has occurred as of that instance (e.g. "Michael Jordan (2)" in 1996 indicates that was his second All-Star MVP award). As of the 2017 All-Star Game (the 2016–17 NBA season), the Eastern Conference leads with a record of 37 wins and 29 losses.
Note: Stadium names are named based on the name at the day of the All-Star Game.Notes
* denotes a city without an NBA team in play during that calendar year.
** denotes game played at the "third" Madison Square Garden on 8th Avenue between 49th and 50th Streets, which the first three NBA All-Star Games played in Madison Square Garden (1954, '55 and '68) were.
*** denotes game played at the "fourth" (or current as of 2016) Madison Square Garden that runs from 31st to 33rd Streets from 8th to west of 7th Avenues above the western half of Penn Station in Manhattan that opened in February 1968, approximately one month after the 1968 game was played in the "old" MSG.
† denotes an NBA All-Star game that is held at an NFL or MLB stadium.
§ denotes a stadium or arena whose venue name has since changed AND the venue has hosted a subsequent NBA All-Star game under the alternate name.
Portland, Sacramento, Memphis, and Oklahoma City are the only current NBA cities that have not yet hosted an NBA All-Star Game.
New arenas that have not hosted the All-Star Game in markets that have hosted it previously are The Palace of Auburn Hills in Auburn Hills, Michigan, the BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee, United Center in Chicago, TD Garden in Boston, American Airlines Arena in Miami, Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, American Airlines Center in Dallas, Spectrum Center in Charlotte and AT&T Center in San Antonio.
# Arlington, Texas does not have an NBA team within its city limits, but it is a part of the Dallas–Fort Worth metroplex that has an NBA team (the Dallas Mavericks).
The All-Star Game is the featured event of All-Star Weekend, and it is held on a Sunday night. All-Star Weekend also includes a number of popular exhibition games and competitions featuring NBA players and alumni as well as players from the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) and NBA Development League (D-League).