NBA Team Logo Changes

by September 30, 2010

by Kyle Stack / @KyleStack

There’s more that goes into changing a team logo than you might think. It seems that every season at least one NBA team alters its logo, even its uniforms, for branding purposes.

Five NBA franchises have changed the appearance of their logo this offseason, some more prominently than others. The Warriors made the biggest change by completely restructuring their color scheme and logo. The Magic, Cavaliers and Jazz refined logos already in use while the Clippers made merely a cosmetic change. (The Washington Wizards announced recently that they will wear different uniforms beginning with the ‘11-12 campaign.)

A talk with Christopher Arena, the NBA’s Vice President for Apparel, Sporting Goods & Basketball partnerships, revealed that teams have to file for a new logo two years ahead of when they want it to debut. There are over 300 NBA licensees globally and they each need a certain amount of time to prepare for the new designs, implement them into every item, manufacture it and ship it.

The NBA also works with teams on their designs at every stage. It’s a collaborative process because the teams do represent the League. It’s in the NBA’s best interest to ensure certain regulations are followed and that the team’s goals are met. Ultimately, the logo’s aesthetic qualities are driven by the team’s desires.

“They’re the ones who are managing their brand and have a vision for what they want,” Arena said.

There are a few prerequisites teams need to meet. “We do want to see the city name and the nickname in the primary logo,” Arena said. Exceptions do exist. The Wizards and Pacers don’t list their hometown in their primary logo but they feature it in their secondary versions. Arena pointed out that they want the city name in each logo to be visible enough that it’s readable on a polo shirt.

There’s also been a long-held belief (maybe among NBA logo nerds) that a basketball has to be represented in each team logo. Not exactly, Arena noted.

“I think the misnomer is that there is a rule that it has to be in the primary logo,” Arena said. “What we encourage is having a ball in your identity. That might be in your primary logo or that might be in your secondary logo.”

As much as the League and its official manufacturer, adidas, work with teams on their logos and uniforms, it’s ultimately up to each team how they want to determine their new look. A team’s logo is its identity, so it’s vital that it represents many areas of a team — its geographic region, its personality, its vision.

Let’s go through each team to discover the reasons behind their logo changes:

Golden State Warriors logoprimary_300x3292
The Warriors made perhaps the most drastic logo change of the five teams. As you’ll see with the Jazz and Cavaliers, their motive for change was based on exploring the rich history of their franchise.

Looking to capitalize on the popularity of the ’70s era The City uniforms they typically wore for the NBA’s Hardwood Classics program, the Warriors devised a modern twist for their classic threads. “We knew there was a time for a different look,” said Warriors president Robert Rowell of the change.

Given that the old City uniforms highlighted the Golden Gate Bridge, the new version of the City brings the Bay Area’s other notable bridge to the forefront.

“We felt that with the construction of the new Bay Bridge here connecting San Francisco to the East Bay, that it would be interesting to develop a logo around the new bridge span,” Rowell said.

The connection to the Bay Area is one which the Warriors felt needed to be enriched. The club is the only professional basketball team in the nation’s sixth-largest media market. Even though they’re located in Oakland, they still have a connotation with existing in San Francisco, where they played from 1962-71. Taking Golden State as their name, instead of Oakland, permits them to associate themselves with the Bay. “It was a unique opportunity to create a new brad to take into account that we represent all areas of this region,” Rowell said.

He conceded that people outside the Bay Area might confuse the Bay Area Bridge for the Golden Gate, since it’s the more well-known architectural symbol of that region. Time and a repeated message of the Bay Bridge will likely correct whatever confusion of the bridge exists.

Rowell also admitted the previous logo, which was introduced in 1997 with a Warrior-like figure holding a thunderbolt, didn’t mesh with the team’s style. “It wasn’t really representative of who we are, what we are and where we’re going,” he said.

So back to the old blue and yellow; the blue is the same shade as that of the old City uniforms. Other elements of the jersey, such as the number inside the logo, give it a retro feel.

While suspicion could arise that the Warriors made this move to coincide with new ownership, the two changes have no correlation. As stated by Arena earlier, teams need to apply for changes two years ahead of time. There was no way for the Warriors to know in 2008 that team ownership would change hands this past summer. The club actually wanted to unveil the new logo and uniforms last season. That wasn’t the only plan originally on the drawing board which didn’t come to fruition.

Like the Lakers further south in Los Angeles, the Warriors wanted to sport yellow jerseys at home on a full-time basis. Not so, said the NBA. “We weren’t allowed to do that,” Rowell said. “The Lakers are the only team that’s grandfathered into not having to wear white at home.”

Rowell emphasized that the new yellow jerseys could see the court at some point in the future. Meanwhile, their old yellow jerseys from their NBA championship season of ‘74-75 will be worn a “couple times” this season, according to Rowell.

As with every other team, the Warriors worked with the NBA and adidas throughout the two-year process. “It was a nice partnership between the three of us where we shared our ideas,” Rowell said. “At the same time, you’re very in-tune to what the manufacturer wants to do because they’re the ones that create it. They have the practicality issues they have to deal with.”

Fans might assume that teams make these changes as part of a team rejuvenation. All Rowell would say to that is when push comes to shove, all that matters is whether a team performs on the court. Everything else falls into place if wins are posted instead of losses. But either way, it pays off to look sharp on the court.