NBA logos: If you are a basketball fan, these are the logos you know about. But if you aren’t, it’s hard to know what to make of them. Are they supposed to look like the cities where the teams play? Or are they supposed to look like the teams themselves?
In fact, they do both: The team name is an abbreviation that doesn’t make sense when you look at it in isolation; its meaning is only clear if you see it as part of a longer text, such as “Atlanta Hawks.”
But when we look at those legendary logos today, we still don’t know what they mean. They live in a world of their own.
While the average person might think of the NBA logo as a stylistic choice, logos have their own history and meaning.
First, a brief history:
In 1946 the Boston Celtics played in the first official NBA game. The team was known as the Boston Celtics then.
In 1958 the Philadelphia Warriors changed their name to San Francisco Warriors.
In 1962 the Los Angeles Lakers were born.
In 1969 the Cincinnati Royals changed their name to Kansas City-Omaha Kings after moving to Kansas City and changing their name from “Royals” to “Kings”.
In 1972, the Portland Trail Blazers were born.
In 1976, the Los Angeles Lakers moved to a new stadium in which they would play until 1999 when they moved again, this time to Staples Center.
The Memphis Grizzlies were born in 1995 after being purchased by Michael Heisley and moved from Vancouver, British Columbia to Memphis in 2001. The team is now based in Vancouver but will play home games in Memphis beginning with the 2014-15 season.
The NBA logo is the most powerful symbol in basketball. It’s a modern version of the Olympics’ rings, but with a slightly different meaning: it’s the city’s team, not the country’s. Its use has changed over time to reflect changes in the game, in sports marketing, and in technology.
The earliest logos were just that: teams’ official sponsors’ logos. They were designed by art directors at ad agencies and made available to the teams free of charge. They didn’t have any particular meaning and they weren’t particularly distinctive. But they caught on with fans because they were free. You could print them up at home, put them on T-shirts, and wear them to games.
Then sports marketers began to see the potential for selling merchandise based on the logo itself, rather than just the company or product it represented. That led to advertising campaigns that featured logos as much as teams names; then licensing agreements; and eventually merchandising, TV commercials, and even movies based on logo designs.
Logos have become so popular that every major city now has its own team whose name is a logo — a way of celebrating local identity without having to invent one from scratch every time a franchise makes a change (the Portland Trail Blazers are one of these
In the NBA, you can find the names of the teams in a number of places, but most prominently in the logos on their uniforms. (The English name is on the front of the jersey and the numbers are on the back.)
But are the team names there just because they are called “New York” or “Boston” or “Los Angeles”? Should they be?
Historically speaking, not at all. There were originally thirteen teams in what was then called the National Basketball Association, which changed its name to the NBA after six years. The most recent change came in 1979, when four teams left for different cities: Buffalo (the Braves) for Atlanta; Milwaukee (the Bucks) for Chicago; Seattle (the Supersonics) for Oklahoma City; and St. Louis (the Cardinals) for Phoenix. Since then, four more have left or joined: Miami (the Heat) for Oklahoma City; Vancouver (the Grizzlies) for Memphis; Charlotte (the Hornets) for New Orleans; and Orlando (the Magic) for Toronto.
So today there are thirty-two teams in the NBA, but only twenty-six official names. The two additional teams, Charlotte and Orlando, have alternate names that don’t appear on jerseys. Those names are used primarily as
The NBA is like a street with three lanes heading in different directions: the lane for the home team, the lane for visiting teams, and the middle lane, where people are supposed to go when they have nothing better to do.
This middle lane is where you see most of the variation. In the first quarter of last night’s game, for example, only three things happened over there: (1) The Lakers scored 35 points; (2) The Knicks scored 33 points; and (3) The Bulls scored 44 points.
The middle lane is where you see most of the variation. In the first quarter of last night’s game, for example, only three things happened over there: (1) The Lakers scored 35 points; (2) The Knicks scored 33 points; and (3) The Bulls scored 44 points.
These symbols represent the city. They touch on the history of basketball as a national sport, and an expression of the city’s culture. If you want to know more about those things, you should look on-line.
The first major league basketball team was the 1886 Cincinnati-based five-man team of James A. Naismith, a Canadian doctor and professor at the University of Kansas. Naismith came up with the game in his spare time at a YMCA camp for boys, where he noticed that an activity there involved passing a soccer ball around a circle of players. He decided to adapt it to basketball, using peach baskets on posts set in a 50-foot arc.
The 18-foot radius was as far as he could get without special equipment, which he had to make himself. And he wasn’t much of an athlete anyway; he had trouble even getting off the ground — his legs were thin and weak, because he had grown up poor in Canada, where people didn’t have much money for food.
Naismith’s idea worked: his team took first place at the first amateur national championship, held in Chicago in 1891; they also won another tournament the following year. But it was not very profitable: Naismith thought that selling his inventors’ rights to a larger company would be more lucrative. It wasn’t.**