Thursday, September 4

Logo Talk

With Wednesday’s announcement of Oklahoma City’s team name and accompanying logo, it lead me to think about the logo universe, or, more specifically, the solar system of logos, if you will, of the NBA.

Which are the best? Which are the worst? And, what is the best way to go about ranking them? These are the questions, dear readers, which plague the mind of a man writing for a blog devoted to a team which no longer exists.

And so, I put pencil to paper and roughed out a plan. I thought of how I used to draw logos on my notebook as a kid, and what was it that made one logo better than another. With that in mind, I came up with four categories for rating the logos. They include:

1. Colors
2. Lettering
3. Image (e.g., the Wizard in the Wizards’ logo)
4. Uniqueness

Then, I graded each logo on a sliding scale (5 for excellent, 0 for horrible) in each category. After totaling the numbers, I split the logos up into four categories:

LOTTERY TEAMS – The worst of the worst
.500 CLUBS – Better, but not high art
CONTENDERS - Good, but not perfect
CHAMPIONS - Everything a logo should be

(If you’d like to play along, you can see a full page of NBA logos here, and the rankings here.)

Detroit, Lakers, Orlando, Sacramento, Charlotte, Miami, New Jersey, Phoenix, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Clippers.

The Clippers were the worst performer, rating only 4 points out of 20, and they were the only team to score a 0 in multiple categories (image and uniqueness). The only reason the Lakers fared any better than their neighbors was they at least at the idea first. Granted, the idea sucked, but they came up with it. Suffice it to say that writing your team name on the front of a basketball isn’t going to cut it in this system (I’m looking at you, Detroit). Sacramento’s logo is too purple for my tastes and a bit garish, Miami’s is boring, Phoenix’ looks like something from a European volleyball team circa 1985, San Antonio’s has possibilities but lacks excitement, and Charlotte’s is straight out of first-year graphic design. The less said about Oklahoma City’s logo the better. Did I forget to mention Orlando and New Jersey? That tells you how inspiring their logos are.

.500 CLUBS
Portland, Atlanta, Houston, Memphis, New York, Toronto, Utah.

These weren’t horrible, but they weren’t exciting, either. I love Utah’s lettering, but the lack of any image at all bores me. Portland’s colors are great, but does anything else about that logo stand out? The Hawks mediocre logo is saved by the Hawk design, which at least gives the viewer something to hold onto, unlike the Knicks, who sabotage their unique colors and strong lettering with a boring background. Houston gets points for the Asian-styled lettering, but not for much else. Some people really like the Grizzlies’ bear, but I think it looks like it came out of Microsoft Clip Art. Likewise, Toronto’s design gets more dated with each passing year.

Dallas, New Orleans, Washington, Chicago, Denver, Indiana, Philly, Cleveland, Minnesota.

Now we’re talking. The first five-pointers of the rankings begin to show up, including New Orleans and Washington (Who loves the Wiz? I do!) for their images and Denver for its lettering. In fact, I could be persuaded to move up the Hornets to the top tier if I looked at their logo long enough. I’m not as enamored of the wine and gold Cavaliers as others, but it’s still a nice piece of work. The Bulls strong colors keep them close to the top, and I’ve always been a sucker for that Indiana P: Stylish in its very simplicity and retaining the ABA flavor without getting too retro about it. Philly’s bold styling gets noticed here, and Minnesota’s combination of an average image and above-average lettering vaults them to the upper class. Dallas’, though, is the best of this grouping, because it manages to be strong and new, but not garish.

Boston, Golden State, Milwaukee.

Many will disagree with me, but I love the Milwaukee Buck. The purple is annoying, but you don’t get as much of it in the logo as you did on the jerseys. Plus, the lettering is pretty solid. I’ll admit it, it’s not as great as their old logo, but it’s still better than 90% of the competition. Face it, when was the last time you saw a pro sports logo that looked like it belonged at a state park?

As for the Warriors, the blue man logo is solid, the colors are great, and the lettering for “Warriors” is fantastic – classic and modern all in one go. Yet another reason why I’m beginning to think that – were I to follow the NBA this year and abandon my plans to stalk David Stern – I would follow the Warriors.

The ultimate champion, though, has to be the Celtics. First of all, the leprechaun is completely unique and well designed and the colors are, well, they’re classic NBA colors, right? The Celtics are the Yankees and the Packers and the Dodgers – they transcend mere sporting art and are part of our national heritage. And that is why the Celtic logo is the preeminent logo for the NBA.


Anonymous said...

I like the Nuggets logo. The ugliest are the Clippers and Thunder

Anonymous said...

I think on the night OKC plays their first home game, we should all leave flaming sacks of shit on the footsteps of Key Arena, City Hall and Starbucks headquarters. Anyone know if the NBA team shop will sell paper bags with the new OKC logo?

Anonymous said...

The worst logo of all-time was the Toronto Raptors god-awful design during the mid-'90s. That coked-up looking purple dinosaur was some insane shit.

Anonymous said...

No way, the worst of all time was the Cavaliers circa 1996. It was like somebody threw a bucket of powder blue paint on a driveway. That Raptors one was pretty bad, though. Just not as bad as the Cavs.

Come to think of it, the Grizzlies' unis were pretty horrendous for their brief lifetime in Vancouver. Must have been something in the water up in Canada in the late 90s (other than maple syrup and marijuana, that is).

Anonymous said...

This is definitely a fun thing to think about. I have to agree that Boston's logo is supreme. I'm not a Boston fan nor do I dislike them, but that logo is known throughout households world wide. I can't help but notice that it seems like the newer teams have the lesser liked logos, I wonder if this has been consistent over time. Like if fans were stoked on the Nuggets logo when they were first franchised (by the way, the old Nuggets logo was awesome i'd have to say).

This really is a great topic, I'd love it if you'd post something about it over at We're trying to build up the community and I really enjoy what you discuss on here.

Anonymous said...

I love the Sonics, but their logo in the mid 90's was butt ugly. But I still rocked my Kemp jersey with pride...

Anonymous said...

I'll ask for the hell of it: where would the most recent Sonics logo go in your rankings?

Anonymous said...

Not including the current Sonic logo was a big oversight. I would give it 5 for colors, 4 for lettering, 1 for image, and 1 for uniqueness, adding up to a total of 11, which puts it in with Knicks and all the other boring-ass logos that feature a basketball prominently.

Hey, NBA logo designers: We get it, the teams play basketball. How's about coming up with a logo OTHER than lettering imposed on top of a basketball? Is it really that hard?

Anonymous said...

The Pistons logo is terrible. It's clean, but so generic. The portland trailblazers logo is neat for its abstract quality. (It represents two teams of five going at it) The blood on the horns of the Bulls is great, and the old Jazz note was pretty cool. Spurs had a nice update.
The last Sonics one was a desperate cash-in on the retro trend, although the unis came out nice.

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