The Superstars was the brainchild of 1948 & 1952 Olympic Figure Skating Champion Dick Button. When Button was selected as the Sullivan Award winner as the nation's outstanding amateur athlete, he knew that he was not the nation's best all-around athlete. By the time that he was a television commentator in the 1960's, he began shopping his idea to the networks. None of them bit. However, when ABC lost the NBA contract, they needed something to fill their winter programming schedule.
In February of 1973, the first Superstars competition was scheduled for the planned community of Rotunda, Florida. Ten athletes from ten different professional sports were invited to attend the first competition. Each athlete was given a plot of land in Rotunda, in addition to his or her prize money.
By August, competition was held in Britain for the first British Superstars, and by 1974, 48 athletes were competing in the American Superstars, necessitating four preliminary groups before the finals. Superstars managed to attract many of the top athletes of the day.
Competitions continued to explode over the next several years. Women's Superstars and Superteams were added in 1975. Superteams featured the competitors from the most recent World Series and Super Bowl. 1975 also saw the introduction of a European Superstars championship. Celebrity Superstars premiered in 1976 and lasted for two years.
1977 saw the introduction of World Superstars competition as athletes from the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden, West Germany, France, Belgium, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand were eligible to qualify for the World Superstars. This was the Superstars at its peak.
Superstars competitions remained strong and plentiful through 1982. After 1982, preliminaries were dropped and so was the World Superstars. 1983 was the final year of the Superteams, and the 1984 saw an end to the Women's Superstars and the last year on ABC.
In 1985, NBC began a six-year relationship with the Superstars, which also saw preliminaries return. There were two preliminaries through 1993, instead of the four in previous years. Superteams was reintroduced in 1986 and lasted through 1988 and pitted teams from the AFC and NFC, held the week after the Pro Bowl. Veterans' Superstars were held in 1987 and 1988, although the winners did not qualify for the finals.
The Superstars returned to ABC in 1991 and lasted through 1994. They then disappeared for the next four years. Superstars appeared since 1998 as competitions are now held in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Unfortunately, the facilities do not have either a swimming pool or a track, which has resulted in a modification of some events.
Superstars has reappeared in Great Britain. A special was held in 2002, and a full scale competition in 2003 with four men's preliminaries and a women's event.
The Superstars is set to return to ABC-TV as a summer replacement series. Celebrities will be teamed with athletes in a Survivor-type elimination competition as one team will be eliminated over each of the six weeks of the series.