The logo of the National Basketball Association is one of the most identifiable in all of sports. The story behind the logo is almost as compelling. Let’s take a look at how the logo was created and what (and who) the inspiration was behind it.
1969 NBA Logo
In 1969, design consultant Alan Siegel was contracted to create a logo for the National Basketball Association. The previous year, Siegel had created a logo for Major League Baseball and used that design as a base for his NBA logo. (That’s why the NBA and MLB logos look so similar.) Siegel looked through images of NBA players of the day and landed upon an image of L.A. Lakers point guard Jerry West. West was one of the biggest stars in the NBA at the time. West was 30 years old in 1969 and in the middle of a Hall of Fame career. Siegel used a picture of West as his inspiration for the logo. His logo turned out to be a silhouette of West dribbling the basketball driving toward the basket.
When Siegel presented the logo to NBA commissioner Walter Kennedy for approval, he loved it. Siegel never revealed that West was the inspiration for the logo, and Kennedy never asked. West was also never consulted on whether or not he approved of his likeness being used.
So the NBA had its new logo, and it was a good one. Then a strange thing happened. For years, the NBA refused to acknowledge that West was the inspiration behind the logo design. When Siegel was asked about it, he was straightforward about it and confirmed that West was indeed the inspiration. Even years later, when there was no doubt as to who was on the logo, NBA commissioner David Stern refused to admit publicly that it was West. Siegel postulated that the reason the NBA wouldn’t confirm it was because they feared West would want royalties for the use of his likeness for 50 years. But West didn’t want royalties. He didn’t even want to be on the logo.
Over the years, West became increasingly annoyed at his likeness being the logo for the NBA. While he acknowledged that it was a great honor, the logo became something bigger than just an honor. West felt that it took away from his legacy as a Hall of Fame player. He became “The Logo”, and an entire generation of fans who never saw him play knew him only as of the NBA logo.
Over the years, Jerry West has been a Hall of Fame player, coach, and NBA executive. During that time, he has become more insistent that the NBA honor his wish to remove him from the logo and update it to a more modern player. Over the past several decades, there have been continuing talks of updating the logo with all-time great players such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, or LeBron James. Then, with the tragic death of Kobe Bryant in a helicopter crash in January of 2020, the talk to honor Bryant with his image on the NBA logo renewed in earnest.
Why Kobe Should Be “The Logo”
There are many reasons why the logo should be changed to Kobe Bryant. The first is obviously his legacy as one of the best players in NBA history. Kobe was a generational talent in the NBA. He had the ability to take over a game by himself, evident by the fact that he once scored 81 points in a single game, the second-highest single-game point total in NBA history. Bryant was not just a great player, he was also a transitional legend between generations. He played alongside greats like Michael Jordan in his early days and played in the NBA long enough to play with greats like Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, and Kevin Durant. Kobe and his legend have reached at least three different generations of basketball fans. He played in three different decades, the 1990s, 2000s, and 2010s.
Another reason for the change is that it would be a great way to honor Kobe and his legacy in the wake of his tragic, premature death. The traumatic way that Kobe and his daughter Gianna died has left a lasting impression on NBA fans around the world. It was just so sudden and so final. Having Kobe’s image on the logo would be a great way to remember his legacy and ensure future generations of NBA fans can appreciate him.
Finally, Jerry West has been displeased with his likeness being the inspiration for the logo for years, and changing the logo to Kobe would be a way to honor Kobe, his family, and a way to satisfy Jerry West as well.
There’s one other aspect of the Kobe-Logo discussion that must be talked about. Early in his career, it was alleged that Kobe raped a young woman in Colorado. Kobe was charged with rape, but the trial never happened because his accuser refused to testify in court. Bryant settled with her out of court for an undisclosed amount of money. In the eyes of the law, Kobe was never found guilty of the rape charge. But the way the incident played out left doubt in many people’s minds. Is that enough to make the case that he shouldn’t be on the logo? I guess time will tell.
The logo of the NBA has endured for over 50 years. It’s one of the most recognizable logos in sports. Like it or not, Jerry West makes a great logo. But the fact that West doesn’t want to be on the logo, and Kobe was such a generational talent, combined with the fact that he was so tragically taken away from us, makes him a logical choice for the new face of the NBA.
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