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ETB’s NBA Logo Report Cards, Part One

August 19, 2009

Classic NBA StickersBy: Zachariah Blott

If you’re poking around the Internet for something interesting about the NBA during this uber-slow part of the off-season (Magic Johnson’s 50th birthday was the big news this past week), take a look at sportslogos.net. The site has pretty much every sports logo ever, and it conveniently provides the dates they were used so a fan can actually pick up on the artistic trends over the decades.

I looked through the logos of all 30 NBA teams and would like to provide a little analysis as to which clubs managed to choose something nice and which, well, simply chose something.

Atlanta Hawks

Current logo: B

Best logo: 1972-1995

I’m not sure why the Hawks abandoned the red and yellow color scheme that defined them from 1972 until 2007—maybe they didn’t want to be associated with McDonald’s in any way. It doesn’t change how I view their logos over the years, but that was their unique identity for so many years. Their current logo of a pissed off hawk gripping a gray (huh?) basketball isn’t bad. However, they should have stayed with the simple Pac-Man head they used from 1972 to 1995; it’s less busy and instantly reminds fans of how much fun it was to watch Dominique Wilkins and Spud Webb in the 80′s. Yeah it’s mostly writing, but their logo for the 1971-72 season was a decent precursor.

Atlanta Hawks Classic Logo

Boston Celtics

Current logo: A

Best logo: Current

Boston Celtics LogoThe Celtics have a top-rate logo that management wisely doesn’t mess with for trivial reasons. Although the current one has only been around since 1994, its original incarnation was hit upon way back in 1968. You’ve got a leprechaun with a basketball and the name of the team. It is unmistakable to all sports fans and is straightforward enough that it doesn’t look crowded or forced, even though it has six colors. The color additions/changes in 1994 all enhanced this beautiful logo. What did the Celtics have when Bill Russell was winning 11 titles? A hideous cross between Jughead and an overly caffeinated college cheerleader.

Grading the Charlotte Bobcats through the Houston Rockets, after the jump…

Charlotte Bobcats

Current logo: C

Best logo: Current

Charlotte Bobcats LogoThe Bobcats have only been around for 5 years, so their only change was making their orange a little oranger a year ago. It looks OK, but there are a few things that bother me about Charlotte’s logo. The lettering of “Bobcats” is dark gray against dark blue so it’s not as readable as it could be. The whole thing is slanted and right-heavy. Also, it looks like a logo made by a high school student on MS Paint more than one a professional artist put serious time into.

There is no way their logo in 10-15 years looks anything like this one. Charlotte also has a script logo (usually used on merchandise and programs) that looks suspiciously Wheaties-esque.

Chicago Bulls

Current logo: A

Best logo: Current

Chicago Bulls LogoCongratulations to the Bulls for being the only franchise in the history of the world to a) actually make a nice, timeless logo in the 60′s, and to b) not make ticky-tack changes to it every 10 years. When nearly everyone else was producing crap logos in the 60′s and 70′s that are all terrible jokes to local sports fans now, Chicago made something crisp and good. So good, they’ve never changed it and have no reason to. The font is bold and plain. The bull has just enough detail to clearly look tough and determined without adding useless details. Bravo!

Cleveland Cavaliers Classic Logo

Cleveland Cavaliers

Current logo: B

Best logo: Current

Their current logo isn’t too bad. It showcases a large sword to remind you what a cavalier is and a basketball to remind you what sport they play. The name of the team is larger than the name of the city, which is fine. The font used for “Cavaliers” however is trash, especially the giant C with its barb. Thankfully it actually invokes some image pertaining to Cavaliers, unlike the logo from the Mark Price era (more accurately, 1983-1994). Cleveland’s first logo, used from 1970 to 1983, screams “high school” and never should have made it to the professional ranks.

Dallas Mavericks Classic Logo

Dallas Mavericks

Current logo: D

Best logo: 1980-2001

Dallas Mavericks LogoThe Mavericks’ current logo started being used shortly after Mark Cuban bought the team in 2000, and it reflects his personality. It’s gimmicky, has too many sharp edges, and looks like something that cost way too much. There’s a horse that lacks detail and should be on a chess board. The name of the team is written in a so-so font, is smooshed in the middle, and sits atop a star that appears to simply be filling space. The city name is an afterthought. You know what’s actually much worse? Their alternate logo. The logo from their first 21 years is simple, clear, and has enough of a theme tie-in with the cowboy hat. Dallas should go back to it.

Denver Nuggets Classic Logo

Denver Nuggets

Current logo: B

Best logo: Current

Denver’s logo is straightforward and simple, but possibly a little too simple. The lettering for “Nuggets” is blocky, but the color scheme changes (the yellow and blue are both darker, now) were good ones. The mountain is too blah; the Utah Jazz logo definitely uses the Rockies to its advantage much more so than Denver. Any mention of the Nuggets’ logo is incomplete without pointing out the ridiculousness of their Tetris/Rubik’s Cube logo of the 80′s (1981-1993). Dear god, how did that happen?

Detroit Pistons

Current logo: C

Best logo: None

Detroit Pistons LogoDetroit seems to get the short end of everything (unless you are a rabid hockey fan). Their crime rate is terrible. All of their economic indicators are terrible. The Lions are even worse. And this logo is nothing more than the name of the team and a basketball. Ugh. There’s a little bit of style to it, but it’s just kind of there. I’m not sure if it’s superior to the logo they used from 2001-2005, which included a flaming horse head and tailpipes, two things only vaguely connected to Pistons. Like the city itself, I have to think Detroit’s best logo days are ahead of them.

Golden State Warriors

Current logo: C

Best logo: Current

Golden State Warriors LogoWhen they retooled their logo in 1997 and wanted to include a picture of a Warrior, the PC police dictated that they present a non-Native American image of one. I understand why they did this, but they now have some sort of mystic sentinel right off the cover of an Ayn Rand novel. There are way too many color gradients and small details that detract from making this a clean image that reproduces well at all sizes. I guess it’s better than their last logo (1988-1997), which looked almost exactly like the previous three, going back to the team’s Oakland beginnings in 1971.

Houston Rockets Current Logo

Houston Rockets

Current logo: B

Best logo: Current

I like logos like this that find a way to use a creative font to invoke a theme (I’ve always been more impressed by the T-Mac logo than by the player). The R in the middle is a rocket—two maybe?—and a simple curve indicates an orbit. It’s a little vanilla, but overall it’s well done. The pointy-ness of some of the letters is awkward. Their previous logo was just too ridiculous and busy. It had a shark-rocket propelled around the name of the team written out in sword-like letters that used five colors.

Zachariah Blott is a teacher in Portland, not an Amish Charles Dickens character.

10 Comments »Posted by ETB Contributor on Aug. 19, 2009 at 1:01 am in NBA

10 Responses

Why did you give the Mavericks a D and the Pistons a C? Like you said the Piston’s logo is nothing more than their team name and a basketball. At least the the Mavericks logo has some artistic imagination. And you gave the Nuggets a B. Their logo looks like stacked blocks or that video game I use to play and I can’t remember the name.

Posted by: fuller on August 19th, 2009 at 8:32 pm

Fair questions. The Mavericks earn a D because it’s just a sloppy, jagged mess. It tries really hard to do a bunch of things, but it just looks poor. Although the Pistons logo is pretty lame, it doesn’t go out of its way to find ways to look stupid. The next installment (I to N) includes several teams in this category. As for the Nuggets, I could be easily convinced to give it a lower score. I probably should have grouped all 30 into grades ahead of time, but I’m actually grading each one as I go along, which is tough for consistency’s sake.

Posted by: Zachariah Blott on August 19th, 2009 at 11:01 pm

What’s wrong with the Houston Rockets logo of the Hakeem era? I think it looks good, well better and more creative than the current logo.

Posted by: Shehan on August 19th, 2009 at 11:53 pm

Great piece!

Though I must admit I’m a real freak for the 80s Nuggets logo.

Posted by: Anton on August 19th, 2009 at 11:54 pm

I’m sorry but you enjoy current logos entirely too much. The Warriors true logo, especially since the Thunder came into existence (that Randian character is named Thunder), is the flying W. ‘Salright, but how can you not like the beautiful “The City” logo? And that old Mavs logo was utterly laughable.

Also, if I have to hear one more person mention Ayn Rand, I’m going to flip out. Why does her evil residue linger on?

Posted by: Sylvan on August 20th, 2009 at 1:22 am

wow,you man did a good job! It must not be easy to get so much information! Thanks

Posted by: King of fans on August 20th, 2009 at 2:58 am

I was right there with you until the Warriors snafu. No hardcore Golden State fan over the age of 12 could prefer that unitarded dropout from the pantheon of Generica to the old classic design.

Could they?!

Posted by: Bart King on August 25th, 2009 at 7:56 pm

Whoa BIG surprise! The Celtics get an A!

this is ridiculous. How do the Timberwolves not get an A for their logo and some silly leprachaun gets an A.

It’s the Celtics. what the F is a celtic?

utterly utterly garbage

Posted by: KobesNeyeG on August 26th, 2009 at 9:59 pm

Oh, the horror! The outrage! The inhumanity!

Posted by: Brian Spencer on August 26th, 2009 at 10:20 pm

As a sports logo designer, I’m a big fan of the Houston Rockets’ logo identity and color palette simply due to the fact that not only a new logo was created for the franchise, but a new Chinese character was created as well. For basketball fans in China, the “RH” character/logo mark in between “Houston” and “Rockets” offers an immediate connection to the team for which an ambassador had played.

As for the Pistons, they once had pistons displayed in the logo mark back in the day when Fred Zollner owned the Ft. Wayne/Detroit Pistons. There are some teams that offer ambiguity, and with the Pistons this is a logo that offers a simplistic, straight-on approach with red white and blue and a basketball and text. It might not be the most creative in terms of connecting a nickname with a logo, but it had stood its ground in terms of marketing for many years.

Posted by: Chris on June 10th, 2011 at 2:49 pm

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