The NBA (National Basketball Association) is the USA’s premium, professional basketball league and, along with the NFL and MLB, the single most popular sports organization in the country.
Its logo was designed in 1969 by Alan Siegel, the founder of the branding consultancy firm Siegel+Gale. The recognizable silhouette is modeled after Jerry West, a legendary Los Angeles Lakers player and Hall-of-Famer.
Siegel was also in charge of designing the MLB logo only a year prior, from which the NBA logo borrows similar color and graphic design cues.
Since the NBA’s ascension in the 1970s, the league has been propelled to international popularity thanks to its roster packed with ever-revolving basketball superstars – Jerry West being one of them.
The inclusion of one of the sport’s greats in the league logo signals this main attraction the NBA has in capturing the imagination of hundreds of millions of fans worldwide: unforgettable names that made the league what it is.
West’s white silhouette together with the red and blue in the background form the colors of the American flag and make NBA logo one of the most identifiable images in sports.
When it was founded in 1946 under the name Basketball Association of America (BAA), the league was the third basketball organization in the country.
The two in the top spots, the American Basketball League (ABL) and the National Basketball League (NBL) were the formidable competition. The BAA unified with the NBL to form the NBA, which was facing more opposition from the up-start American Basketball Association (ABA).
Siegel’s NBA logo helped rebrand the league in a way that it also saw it come out on top of the ABA. It was effective in capturing the fandom of the US audience — many of whom weren’t prone to following more than one league for a single sport.
Eventually, the NBA’s popularity reigned supreme and led to it being the only professional basketball league in the country – partly thanks to its eye-catching logo design.
The NBA’s logo is remarkably simple. Instead of the complex lettering and wordings that make its name, it uses US flag colors and the contours of one of its iconic player representatives.
It is in this player outline where the elegant dynamism of the game is represented. It depicts a basketball's actionable spirit through a silhouette, pacing across the court, going for the basket.
The NBA logo is sometimes used with the “NBA” lettering in blue — a font that was actually slightly updated in 2017 to be taller and leaner – a change “that embodies the game and its athletes,” according to the NBA’s official website.
The white NBA lettering is located in the bottom left corner of the logo, against the blue pre-silhouette background. As West’s figure veers and swivels to the right, the extra space coming from his body’s position made this a suitable place for the league’s acronym.
Along with the typeface update, the logo also got new, more saturated and darker shades of blue and red.
The perspective and proportion of the NBA logo make it suitable for multiple medias and channels. It works just as well in the digital sphere as it does emblazoned on merchandize, along with jersey manufacturer’s logos and other insignias.
The NBA logo has the value of being highly recognizable as fans of the game everywhere associate it with a very particular (and superior) game of basketball.
It stirs the nostalgia of glory years gone by, days present and years to come.
The logo, now in use for more than half of a century, has had enough time to create a connection between itself and the spectacular game, in the minds of consumers.
The NBA belongs to a range of professional sports leagues that have generated an impressive amount of athletic legends over the years. Using one such legend to sum up the most attractive traits of the game in a logo is not something most sports leagues do.
This is also what makes the NBA logo unique.
The National Basketball Association’s logo is timeless, memorable, versatile and completely on-brand – all the necessary traits of an effective logo design.
Recently, there have been rallies and cries to update the NBA logo with the silhouette of the modern superstar, the tragically deceased Kobe Bryant.
West has never hidden his disdain for the fact that he is the logo, while the public demands that Bryant is honored with the logo update. The stage seems all set, but where NBA logo will head next, remains to be seen.