Category Archives: Logo Ranking Project

The NBA Logo Ranking Project:
#1 – The Boston Celtics

He’s cocky. He’s carrying a weapon. And there’s a good chance he’s drunk.

He is, after all, a Boston Irishman. And even when Boston’s Irish are sober, they’re quicker to anger and more eager to fight than even the most belligerent drunks anywhere else.

Just look at him. He’s laying back, chillin’ in a gold lamé vest and bow tie. And he’s winking at you as he spins that basketball on one finger. Why is he winking? Is it because he’s got the dexterity to smoke, lean on his shillelagh and spin the ball all at the same time? Is it because he knows he can keep that ball spinning as he pokes holes in you with the sharpened end of that stick? Is it because he knows he can drop the shillelagh and cross you over while blowing pipe smoke in your grill before finding the back door cutter for the dunk?

Yes, yes and yes.

Is there a logo that captures the city and the team better than the Celtics logo? No. Not even close. We all know leprechauns are small. They have no business being cocky or brash, but this little guy doesn’t care. From the outfit, to that smug smirk and wink, to the showing off as he gangsta-leans and balances that ball. When you really take a close look at him, you realize “Wow…That little sprite is a bit of a douche. I think I hate him.”

Unless you’re from Boston — then you love that little guy and his “fuck the world” demeanor.

It’s just like the team. You either love ‘em or you hate ‘em. There may be no other logo in all of sports that captures all of that quite as nicely as the Celtics’ logo.

John Karalis follows the Celtics and reminisces over Dino Radja at Red’s Army. He’s the tall, white dude with a shaved head who once made this video and one of the guys I often chat with on The 8th Seed podcast

boston celtics logo

The NBA Logo Ranking Project:
#2 – The Chicago Bulls

It’s probably impossible to be objective about Chicago’s logo as purely an element of design.

The mythos and success of Michael Jordan combined with the fact that the bull imagery accompanied the creation and rise of what was perhaps the biggest global marketing personality of all time means that when I look at the the Bulls’ logo, I’m not just looking at a logo. I’m looking at six rings. I’m looking at Mars Blackmon. I’m looking at the Double Nickel. I’m looking at ProStars. I’m looking at the Flu Game. I’m looking at Wheaties. I’m looking at 63 in Boston Garden. I’m looking at the Dream Team.

I’m looking at the hangtime. I’m looking at the flying motion.

It might not be quite as iconic as the Jumpman logo in this regard, but looking at the Bulls logo is essentially looking at the coat of arms for basketball perfection — or at least the memory of basketball perfection that my adolescent and teenage mind created, which is what really matters in this case.

For me, even more than a decade removed from the MJ era, trying to see the Bulls’ logo as just a cartoon beast of burden is as difficult as trying to see a swastika as a sacred emblem of Navajo culture; intellectually, I know it’s just a symbol, but my brain attaches an emotional memory to it that clouds rational thought. (Although the connotation and physical reaction to the sight of the symbol is obviously very different.)

Still, the Bull is undeniably hardcore. You definitely don’t want this guy chasing you through Pamplona. And if you’re the matador unlucky enough to run into this dude in the ring, you might just wanna hang up your cape before this happens.

chicago bulls logo

The NBA Logo Ranking Project:
#3 – Miami Heat

The Miami Heat have created a great brand through 21 years of mostly successful on-court performance, a rotating cast of memorable players and — perhaps most of all — a logo, color scheme and overall style that have nearly made me forget just how dumb their name is. Fortunately, there are plenty of horrible tattoos out there walking around that help remind me to “Never Forget.”

Still, from Rony Seikaly and Glen Rice toiling away in obscurity to Timmy and Zo making waves in the East to Flash and Shaq bringing home the Larry O’Brien trophy, the franchise has enjoyed a nice linear arc of success. And the team’s entire style, along with its logo, has transformed from expansion fly to champion iconic. For a team that once retired Michael Jordan’s “23″ in its rafters, today, the only jersey you’re going to see on South Beach is a Dwyane Wade — or maybe a Rudy Gay.

Looking past any of that, juxtaposed against other NBA teams that use basketballs in their logos (looking squarely at you, Clipps and Nets), the Heat have laid out blueprint plans for how any expansion franchise in sports should create and manage its logo:

Step 1: Create a logo that relates to your name. (Disclaimer: If you’re name is “The Thunder,” change name before beginning logo process.)

Step 2: Make your logo simple, sticking to the script of what has worked historically while also — and this is where most teams go astray — adding a singular, unique element that sets you apart.

Step 3: Don’t use more than three colors — or four if completely necessary and you can give a legitimate, well-articulated reason for it.

Step 4: Don’t use ephemeral color combinations, lettering or design principles that will be dated in a decade. The last thing you want is to wind up like the Spurs, who abandoned their timeless silver-and-black logo in favor of colors representative of an interior design fad during the South West population boom, only to later realize that, yeah, don’t do that. Not so coincidentally, the Spurs have reverted back to their original look. See also: 76ers, Philadelphia; Pistons, Detroit. (And, yes, I realize that the Heat’s lettering might start to look dated within the next decade — although not necessarily. Regardless, they should be able to launch a preemptive, minor redesign that will avert looking like an early-90s relic if necessary.)

Step 5: If after a few years you determine that the logo is not perfect, tweak it a little provided you first determine that the logo is worth preserving. This is always the ideal way of changing things. Never change just for change’s sake. Worse still is changing for marketing sake or to create a new revenue stream. Fans have and want to maintain a connection to the past and even if it’s only five or six years, a change will be jarring and ultimately unfortunate. Still, be honest with yourselves. If the logo needs aborting, don’t hesitate — kick that bitch down the stairs.

Step 6: Once you have a good look, remember the best part of Jay-Z’s Blueprint and apply it to your franchise: Never Change.

What up to my Miami and St. Thomas connects.

miami heat logo

If Hov don’t sign LeBron, him and Flash gonna get paper longer than Pippen’s arms.

The NBA Logo Ranking Project:
#4 – Portland Trail Blazers

Although I’m a huge Blazer fan and have their logo on plenty of things in my house, I have never been all that into that logo as art. I don’t know why. Just never did much for me.

What is it, anyway, a little spinny thing? Is that like an Oregon Trail wagon wheel on steroids? The media guide says it’s “a modern graphic interpretation of five basketball players from one side going against five basketball players from the other and rotating around a center circle.” OK, so even if I grant you a curved line as a picture of a player, we’ve got ten of them in our logo? And our five are dancing in a circle with somebody else’s five? Who’s the other team? And what are they doing in our logo?

And, more to the point, this being the artist’s intention … does anybody get that? Anyone look at this logo and see ten basketball players?

All that said, it’s easily one of the best logos in the NBA.

I’m not kidding. Before writing this, I scouted the competition, and it is weak. W-E-A-K. This is one of those tournaments where you might get on the podium just by showing up, because all kinds of people are sure to forfeit or be disqualified.

Every single logo that’s a picture of some goofy mascot? Toronto, Boston, Golden State, Memphis … I think that’s just asking too much of your mascot. That Grizzly bear (it’s from Vancouver!) does not say Memphis to me. That Raptor is clownish, and the Warriors logo is a human, but not a Golden State Warrior, which seems kind of strange.

None of them feel iconic.

Similarly, Dallas (ooh, sexy horse), Orlando (is that pixie dust?), Sacramento (kings with swords … should be sponsored by Medieval Times), Milwaukee (the perfect logo for the Christmas day game, but otherwise …), Minnesota (six evergreens? It’s a logo not a reforestation project), Phoenix (the sun is the one thing in this solar system that does not move, yet theirs has been shot from a cannon) and all those teams with some version of a shield (Oklahoma City, New Jersey, Cleveland) just seem to be very much also-ran.

None of them do, for me, what a logo is supposed to do, which is to represent the team in a way that makes them easier to remember.

Only a few do that. Atlanta’s is not bad. The Bulls. The Nuggets and Rockets are OK. Miami, the Knicks and the new/old Sixers … these are at least iconic. At least when you see those logos, you think instantly of the team. Even the Pacers’ goofy old letter P at least says “Pacers” to me, unlike that bizarro Golden State thing.

But in this context, hats off to Portland for its crazy ten-players-doing-the-maypole-dance number. It isn’t overloaded with fir trees or cartoon dinosaurs, and sports fans generally know what it means.

For that, it’s surely one of the greatest logos in the NBA.

Henry Abbott is … well, c’mon … you know who he is. Henry runs TrueHoop.

blazers logo

The NBA Logo Ranking Project:
#5 – Memphis Grizzlies

I’m not going to lie to you. I know that I’m not supposed to scare you, but I feel like you’re old enough to deal with the truth.

The Memphis Grizzlies’ logo would straight up fucking murder you. No shit.

Look, I know what you’re saying.

“But Mike Conley doesn’t even scare people on Halo!”
“Hasheem Thabeet’s coordination make Donkey Kong look like a ninja warrior!”
“It’s blue, for Chrissakes! The last blue bear was a Care Bear!”

I get that. I hear you.

“There aren’t even any grizzlies in Memphis!”

Yeah, well there’s no music in Utah, but the Jazz play on. And this logo will fucking kill you.

It’s not just the sheer size of the head. Though it’s a gigantic melon. I mean seriously, it’s like sputnik. Spherical but quite pointy in some places. But the head has itself a force field. You think that weak-ass zombie-buck has a force field? No. It doesn’t. But what you don’t know is the force field isn’t to keep you out. It’s to keep the Grizzly in. It’s a self-restraint, built to pacify this demon that has been sent to rend you from inside out, like a Joe Crawford foul call or the latest album from Pearl Jam. And you will know its wrath.

You know why you will know its wrath? Because of the evil eye. Seriously. Check out that expression. That’s no screaming wussy tantrum-throwing Bear. This bear isn’t surprised to see you. It’s just ready to kill you. And leave you for dead. Possibly take a dump on you before wandering off to go have sex with some farm equipment. And that’s if you get the good side.

What’s the good side? The good side is one that isn’t obscured by shadow like the dark side of the moon. You know what lives on the dark side of the moon? No, not terrific albums from 60s rock legends. Hell. That’s what. There’s even a movie.

So before you go running around thinking you can go dancing with that bear, sweetheart, you better check yourself before you disembowel and get shredded by the icy cold claws of wrath yourself. This bear lives in Memphis, and its sweet blues rhythms will be the last thing you hear before you’re swallowed alive.

Seriously, dude. Farm equipment.

Matt Moore is an all-around nice guy who when not reading to kids who can’t read good or helping old ladies with their groceries writes about the NBA at Hardwood Paroxysm, NBA FanHouse and BusterSports.

memphis grizzlies logo

And on the seventh day, Smoky the Bear said “You know what? Fuck it. Burn that shit down.”