Three years ago in this blog, I ranked every NBA mascot from 30 to number one. Two years ago, I did the same thing with team names. Last year, I offered my thoughts on each of the logo packages (one just isn't enough any more it seems) rolled out by the franchises that make up the Association.
Team names are pretty much a constant so I don't think I'll be needing to update that countdown any time soon. But mascots and logos are an entirely different story. I've had to update my mascot rank each of the last three years because the NBA owners can't leave well enough (or bad enough) alone when it comes to sticking some dude in a costume. I rolled out my revised mascot rank last month. This month I'm tinkering with my logo rankings because well, folks keep tinkering with these things. Here's what the same and what's new and how I believe this all stacks up this year starting with the bottom of the bottom.
30. Los Angeles Clippers
One year into their 2015 re-brand, the Clippers logo package looks as terrible as it did when it was first rolled out. I struggle to believe Steve Ballmer sleeps well at night knowing he paid some good money to have a group of marketing folks come up with the awful wordmarks and graphics that the Clippers sport. Going to be difficult to convince me the Clips are ever going to climb out of last on this one.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder
On the other hand...the Thunder aren't much better than the Clippers. I still don't get the design of the Thunder's logo. I love the nod to native American imagery that the bulging triangle represents but it's just not doing it for me. I'd prefer a cartoon grey cloud to what they have now.
28. Denver Nuggets
For me, the Nuggets have one of the golden oldies of the old ABA in their miner with a pickax in one hand and a red, white and blue ABA ball in the other. Recently, the Philadelphia 76ers, Washington Wizards, Atlanta Hawks and Golden State Warriors have re-worked their old beloved logos to spectacular effect. Please, Denver, do the same here. The bulging Nuggets wordmark topped with the mountain ain't doing it for me.
27. Detroit Pistons
Detroit, just like Denver, had one of the best NBA logos of all time. All they had to do was, well, nothing. Just leave it alone. But instead, they had to go get some hack logo designer to draw them a new horse with tailpipes logo in some amazingly bad shade of dark teal. About a decade later they realized the error of their ways and went back close to the original logo (the NBA doesn't allow exact resurrection of old logos since for marketing rights they are all owned by a separate division of the NBA...or something like that) but the small differences make all the difference. Top 10 logo for sure mutated into a bottom five logo. Smh...
26. Dallas Mavericks
I could easily put the Mavericks further down towards the bottom of this countdown. I think they are saved by the fact that they have never had a super exciting logo that they've tried to resurrect and screwed up like the Pistons. The Mavs are pretty much the definition of boring in the graphic design department. Although I have to confess, I have no idea what's going on with the sideways leering "M" logo that looks like something out of a Spy Vs. Spy comic. Time to re-brand. Just don't do what the Clips did.
25. Cleveland Cavaliers
Boring in Dallas is preceded by boring in Cleveland. I hate the font the Cavs have elected to use here, almost as much as I hate the team itself. The Cavaliers have never had a good logo in their entire history and I think now that they have won a title (God, I hate writing that!) I think we are stuck with this sort of mediocrity for a while.
24. Orlando Magic
Ummm...it's a basketball with some stars. Doesn't seem that magical to me. However, it's better than six other logos in my opinion. Might be higher if it weren't for that terrible font the Magic insist on using.
23. Phoenix Suns
In 1968, the Phoenix Suns joined the NBA and rolled out the logo above. WHY WOULD YOU EVER CHANGE THIS LOGO??? It's simple, it's clear, it's a sun (the Suns aren't always that clear on equating their name with symbology - check out their mascot) and it's of its time. It looks like it's straight out of the late 1960s. I love it. I'd take this logo over any logo in the NBA today. Keep this intact and the Suns would be number one. As it is, they go with a flaming ball with their airport code. Pass!
22. Houston Rockets
Houston, we have liftoff. Unfortunately, the current Rockets logo doesn't do it for me. It's not the worst logo the Rockets have ever had by a long shot but it's not good all the same.
21. Minnesota Timberwolves
Rounding out my bottom 10 are the Minnesota Timberwolves, a team with a logo so complicated and intricate that there's no way a kid sitting in study hall could quickly and easily draw this thing (I spent a lot of time as a kid drawing sports logos in study hall - it's like a litmus test). Word is that Wolves owner Glen Taylor is exploring a rebrand. They have to move up, right? I mean they just have to. Dear Mr. Taylor: don't hire the folks the Clippers hired.
20. Brooklyn Nets
The Nets are the anti-Timberwolves. They have definitely erred on the not complicated side of the equation. For sure. And this definitely passes the kid in study hall test. The problem? The kid can't spend ENOUGH time drawing this thing. Love the black and white. Don't love how simple it is.
19. Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks, like the Pistons, decided to resurrect and update one of the NBA's classic logos, the so-called Pac-Man Hawks logo. They had to change it a bit but it looks pretty much as good as it did when the team abandoned it 21 years ago. Way better than the Pistons. Bravo! But then the Hawks went off the rails with a secondary logo that looks like a winged teardrop missing the top part of the drop. I don't understand this thing at all. Big drop because of the secondary logo, Atlanta. If I were a Hawks fan no way I'd wear anything with this weird thing on it.
18. Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers logo is classic, simple, understated and boring all at the same time. However, they have won 16 NBA titles so that's good enough to get them almost in the top half of this ranking.
17. Sacramento Kings
The big news of the offseason this year in the NBA logo department is that the Sacramento Kings finally, mercifully abandoned the tired and clunky crossed lances logo they've been using for the past 22 years. Last year, I had the Kings ranked 26th among NBA teams logo-wise. This year, they move up nine spots.
The Kings, much like the Golden State Warriors, Washington Wizards and Philadelphia 76ers have done recently are drawing on their past in determining their future. In other words, they are going back to what worked, which in the Kings' case, is totally smart. When the Kings moved to California, their logo consisted of a basketball topped by a crown which sort of doubled as a mountain range (see above left). I love the mountains and how they relate to the mountains around Sacramento, even though the team first used this motif when the franchise moved to Kansas City. I've been to KC and there are no mountains around there so I don't quite get that but it totally works in Sacto.
The new primary logo (above right) is pretty much a copy of the old one but in purple and gray. These are just horrible colors for this logo but maybe it will grow on me. While it's a huge step in the right direction for the Kings, I greatly prefer the proportion of the old logo to the new one and the font in the new logo quite honestly is not very good; waaaaaay too boxy. The old logo's not perfect; it's just better than the new one.
Of course since it's 2016 and the more logos you have, the more merch you can sell, the Kings have produced not one, not two, but three alternate logos which are shown below. Very briefly (left to right): I don't like it (too heraldic - I get that's the point - and that lion looks worse than the clumsiest big man ever dribbling a basketball; I hate it (just lose the crown logo - it's just way too simple); and I kind of like it (I like how the seams of the basketball integrated into the lion's mane).
Much improved, Sacramento, but I think at least half the NBA is still ahead of you.
16. Indiana Pacers
Top of the bottom half and the Pacers are about the cusp of the logo sets that I actually really like. But they are not quite there. I like some aspects of the Pacers logos, but the font is off-putting for sure.
15. Toronto Raptors
The Raptors deserve a ton of credit for turning things around in the logo department the last couple of years. and for that, I'm moving them up two spots over last year's ranking. For the first 20 years of their existence they were convinced the way to get people excited about their team was to roll out a logo that looked slightly (and I really mean slightly) more scary than Barney. Their new raptor claw marks on a basketball logo is way better. Their name still sucks though and they should still change it. Huskies, please.
14. Milwaukee Bucks
I love pretty much everything about the Bucks' re-brand of last year from the colors right down to the logo package. I love how Wisconsin-centric it is to include more than just the city of Milwaukee. Can't help thinking of a deer's head on a wall when I see their primary logo though. It's going to take a long time to get over this one. Maybe like forever.
13. New Orleans Pelicans
The Pelicans have a primary logo, a partial primary logo, three secondary logos and an alternate logo that comes in four different color schemes. No other team has even close to this many truly different logos. I would say I dislike their primary logo (and partial primary), one of their secondary logos and all of their alternate logos. But I so intensely love the Crescent City Hoops and the Pelican-de-Lis logos that they make up for all the failings of all the other members of their logo family. If I were a Pels fan, I'd load up on apparel with the logos I like and aggressively boycott the others.
12. Philadelphia 76ers
I love the current 76ers primary logo. Unfortunately for the Sixers, it's not quite as good as the one they replaced which is pretty much the exact same thing but just a bit better. Also, the Ben Franklin dribbling a basketball is not a good image. Lost points for that one, Philly.
11. Utah Jazz
So let's start this with my standard disclaimer or complaint or whatever you want to call it when I discuss the Utah Jazz: worst nickname for a team given the location ever. I cannot think of a bigger disconnect between a state and a thing than Utah and Jazz. But these logos...damn they are works of art. The Jazz have made them even better this year. Not a complete re-design; the Jazz refer to it as "refreshed brand identity."
First, let's go back to last year. My biggest complaint about the Jazz logo when I first ranked all the NBA teams' logos was the one on the left above. Like everything about it. Well, now it's gone. No more Jazz wordmark like it's going down a ski slope with some mountains on top of a basketball in the background. See ya! Good riddance!
The rest of these logos? I mean what can I say. I'd be quibbling with any negative feedback. Sure I'm not crazy about the font but I love the colors, I love the musical note and I love the reductive form of the note as a simple basketball. I love all of this.
Except I can't get beyond Utah and Jazz. For that, these works of art finish 11th. Up five spots from last year but I'm still stuck on the name thing.
10. Portland Trail Blazers
What on Earth is the Trail Blazers' logo? It's unlike any other logo in professional sports in that it's an abstract artistic statement about the game the team plays and has nothing to do with the city or the nickname of the team itself. For that reason alone, it's timeless and never needs changing in the slightest (although the Blazers have tweaked it from the original). Rather than being confused and angry about it's lack of laterality, embrace the statement that it represents.
9. Charlotte Hornets
Depending on how you view the Hornets logo package, you might be able to argue that they have as many as the Pelicans do. But I disagree. I think the Hornets have four different logos and I think most of them are pretty good to pretty great. I don't like the C-H logo with the strange crown on top of it. Ditch that thing and the Hornets might be top five for me.
8. Miami Heat
I have a strong dislike for four Eastern Conference franchises and three of them are in the top eight in my logo rank (see 25 above for the other). Miami is the first of these three. Simple, clean, no fuss, no clouding the picture with a series of other logos. The Heat logo does the job. So why aren't they higher? Well, just like the Pelicans and Hornets, the Heat had to go tinker and introduce a second logo which is about as unimaginative as they come.
7. Golden State Warriors
I don't love the Dubs' rebrand of 2010 as much as a lot of people out there but I think it's still pretty good all the same. It bothers me tremendously that the cables on the bridge in their logo (which I assume is the Golden Gate Bridge) run diagonally not vertically as on the real thing. I like the "SF" secondary logo which they'll need if they ever finish designing and building a new arena on the San Francisco waterfront.
6. San Antonio Spurs
Silver. Black. Spur. This is the image of the Spurs that I love. It's simple, to the point and I don't even mind their reductive partial logo that they introduced in 2002. Most people I talk to about NBA uniforms and logos generally view the Spurs uni and logo design unfavorably. I think it's awesome. It's non-fancy and it wins. Just like the Spurs the last couple of decades.
5. New York Knicks
New York City Subway token logo? A+!! Basketball logo? A+!! Knicks primary logo with the triangle behind it? D-!! The Knicks are sort of the like the Pelicans here for me: two incredible logos and the rest are just bleh! Fortunately for the Knicks in this ranking, they only have one logo I dislike as opposed to the Pelicans' four to seven objectionable logos.
4. Memphis Grizzlies
The grizzly bear head is the best logo in the NBA today. So why not number one? Well, because they have other logos which are diluting the product. Not the one with the text underneath it. Just the head. Don't change the head, Memphis.
3. Washington Wizards
Go ahead, tell me this is yet ANOTHER homer pick (see my year after year mascot rank that has the Wizards at number one). I won't quite believe it 100%. I think the Wizards 2011 repackaging was well done, ditching the horrible Wizard jumping over the moon logo while also harkening back to the past of the Bullets without actually having to change the name. Maybe it's just so good to me when compared to the Wiz blue, black and bronze color scheme days. Regardless, they are number three for me.
2. Boston Celtics
The Celtics are one of those franchises that I truly dislike and yes, it's all because they beat the Wizards (and historically about everyone I guess) more often than not in front of a pro-Celtics crowd at Verizon Center. So I truly hate that I think their logo is better than the Wizards logo. But it is. Some of my best memories at Verizon Center came sitting in Section 402 when the Cs had Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen and watching the Wizards beat Boston while seemingly surrounded by Boston fans. Those memories take the sting out of me ranking the Celtics at number two here.
1. Chicago Bulls
50 years. One logo. Got it right the first time. Winner!!! I'd have a difficult time believing the Bulls will ever be anything but number one in this ranking. The only thing that can possibly screw this up is if they decide to start introducing alternate or secondary logos that dilute their brand. Don't do it, Chicago.
About 12 months until I do this again. I guarantee someone will change something in the next year.