The Decline of the NBA Media Guide

In 2015, the Golden State Warriors exemplified a basketball organisation that oozed excellence across all facets of the game.

Scintillating offence, stifling defence, a savvy head coach, a made-for-media star, a raucous fan base and a front office that carefully assembled the perfect supporting cast.

The Warriors were the  greatest basketball show on earth last season, a far cry from their recent decade long struggle to post a winning record (’94-95 onwards).

Despite returning the Larry O’Brien trophy back to the Bay Area for the first time in a long time, there is one area of their operations which has declined, sharply.

Their Media Guide.

The 2014-15 Warriors Media Guide, specifically the cover, in no way reflects the excitement and flair of the team it details, and is downright bland in comparison to the vibrant Media Guides of yesteryear.

Whilst album cover art has lived on despite the rise of online music, the downfall of creative (and at times bemusing) NBA Media Guide covers is a reflection of the printed guide’s diminished importance/value in the age of and at-your-finger tips analytics.

With NBA training camp and team media days already underway, we’d like to pay tribute (in no particular order) to some of the great and not-so-great NBA team Media Guide covers of the past. Judging a book by its cover has never been so easy.

The good…

Miami Heat 1990-91Yes, this was the actual cover. Welcome to South Beach.

Cue Crockett’s Theme.


Denver Nuggets 1986-87 and 1987-88
During this period, the Nuggets were dropping heaps of points, and also giving up heaps of points, night in, night out. Their media guide cover features:

  1. dudes who could get buckets in a hurry,
  2. that classic Rocky Mountain rainbow-Tetris appeal, and
  3. not the slightest hint of a defensive mentality.


Seattle SuperSonics 1988-89The jersey, the warm-ups, the cap, the shoes…to a lesser extent the product placement. It’s a damn shame this team no longer exists.


Phoenix Suns 1983-84For more, please see the 1984 NBA Slam Dunk Contest.

Let’s hope L. Nance Jr. can replicate some of his father’s highlights.


Atlanta Hawks 1987-88The Czar and Nique doing their best Armstrong and Miller impersonation.

’89-90 wasn’t too bad either:

Chicago Bulls 1988-89This Krause-assembled ’88-89 Bulls squad would go on to win three-straight rings, rocking Chicago Stadium aka the Madhouse on Madison, to the point where it was no longer structurally safe*, and subsequently demolished** in 1995.

*Not true.
** Very true.


Los Angeles Clippers 1990-91The film Goodfellas was released within months, if not days, of the publication of Los Angeles Clippers 1990-91 Media Guide.

There is a striking similarity between the artwork of Mrs DeVito featured in that movie and the arrangement of Manning, Smith and Kimble. 
Maybe not.


Los Angeles Lakers 1991-92Michael J. Taylor was responsible for some brilliant Laker Media Guide artwork through the 80s and 90s. This particular cover is inspired by LA’s participation in the 1991 McDonald’s Open in Paris, notable for being Magic’s last appearance* in a Lakers uniform prior to his HIV announcement later in that year.
* He would return for 32 games in ’96.


Indiana Pacers 1997-98

Though fans come to watch the players, a number of Media Guides in the past have featured the coach, and only the coach, on the cover. Whilst it’s not always easy to understand the rationale behind this, the Pacers had little choice but to showcase returning home-grown hero Larry Bird on their ’97-98 cover.

To be honest, anything would’ve been better than their ’94-95 guide, which suggested that the star player and the coach were directing the team in opposing directions.

Memphis Grizzlies 2003-04This concert-themed cover inspired by Memphis’ rich musical history is one of the better examples from recent times.

The publication of this media guide coincided with the meteoric rise of Memphis’ own Justin Timberlake as a solo artist. Pretty sure Pau Gasol is more of a Nino Bravo fan.


Cleveland Cavaliers 1999-00

This is due for an update. Sorry Shawn.

Artwork by of Alan Studt, the man responsible for some Upper Deck classics.


Seattle SuperSonics 1983-84Because “Downtown” Freddie Brown.


Washington Bullets 1987-88R.I.P. Moses.

And the not so good…

Milwaukee Bucks 1992-93

Patrick Ewing didn’t deserve this.

Todd Day appears to have just won a fifth consecutive NBA Championship.



Sacramento Kings 1992-93

This is how you lead the league in offensive fouls.


Cleveland Cavaliers 2002-03

Send help.


New Jersey Nets 1979-80Slogans for days.


Minnesota Timberwolves 1994-95They should’ve given this guy a jersey that year.


New York Knicks 1988-89 YearbookPatrick Ewing didn’t deserve this.

Author of the article

6 Responses

  1. Luuuc at |

    Loved it! Great piece.

  2. Andrew Harris at |

    Paul Vido - well researched piece, thank you!

  3. Harry at |

    Paul Vido - a very well researched and entertaining piece. Thank you!

  4. Scott Kneeskern at |

    Paul, your comment below the ’94-95 TWolves cover did not explain why you ranked it as a “Not so good”. I was the Designer of that cover. I was the Publications Designer for the Timberwolves at that time. That cover was really good. It was well thought out and executed exactly as I concepted it. We had only positive responses from the media that year. I have shown that piece in my portfolio ever since and always get great responses.

    What you have to understand is that the team had no star players to highlight in that era. The photography was given to us by the league and we were stuck with a 4th straight year of “What are we going to do with the cover?!” I came up with the idea of a real wolf on the court. I worked with the Wolf Foundation up in Ely MN to get that wolf down to Mpls for the shoot. The Foundation was awesome to work with! That wolf was 6 months old. We had to hope like crazy he’d wonder over to the logo because you can’t tell it to. I wanted to make the cover ultra simple and clean, like the Miami Heat cover you highlighted as a great cover. I didn’t want any text or our logo. Just the wolf standing on our logo. I won the no logo battle but lost the no text battle. But, I made it subtle and on brand and it works. If you look at the whole guide, you’ll see how I carried it through.

    This cover was, and still is one of the best the Timberwolves have ever done and I am proud of it. I’ll put it right up against that Heat cover any day.

    Scott Kneeskern

  5. Paul at |

    Dear Scott,

    Thank you for taking the time to respond and provide invaluable insight into the design of that cover.

    Straight up, that cover was placed in the “not so good” section for the very reason you stated - at that time, the Wolves had no one good enough on the roster to showcase on their own media guide cover.

    Not a single player was considered worthy.

    The lack of likeable “stars” (Rider? Laettner?) forced you to think more broadly when developing the design concept, which you executed flawlessly.

    It’s clear that my contempt for that squad (bar Doug West) prevented any objective design critique of that cover.

    And in all honesty, that image was sitting on my hard drive long before I even considered this piece, for the simple fact that I liked how it looked.

    Apologies, I should have provided justification or at least expanded on my one-line comment.



    NB: If you were responsible for ’95-96, well done on that too.

  6. Scott Kneeskern at |

    Hi Paul,

    Thank you for the kind words of praise for the design. It’s pretty cool that you had that cover image on your hard drive and liked how it looked. THAT is the best compliment a Designer can get.

    Yes, the Wolves were just a terrible team back then. I was pretty young and loved my time there and worked with incredibly talented people, but the loses and rotating door of coaches and players took it’s toll. I actually left the year after that media guide, one year before the Big Ticket arrived and many a media guide cover was solved!

    Cheers and best of luck. I’ll continue to follow your writing.


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