The Story Behind the NBA Logo

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Design firm Siegel+Gale shares a great story behind the creation and inspiration of the logo for the National Basketball Association on its Website (click here). It was 1969 and the NBA commissioner J. Walter Kennedy was working to make the NBA the “go-to” national league of basketball, rather than its upstart rival, the American Basketball Association. Recognizing the power of branding, Kennedy turned to Alan Siegel of Siegel+Gale to develop an “instantly iconic, patriotic, easy to market” logo for the NBA.

Siegel found this photo of the All-Star Jerry West (shown above), which was dynamic, was vertical, and captured the essence of the game.

“Our design team streamlined the image, and turned West’s silhouette into a white shape in motion—encased in red and blue halves, mirroring the treatment of the MLB logo. With the letters “NBA” at the bottom, the abbreviation took hold in the public’s consciousness.”

Obviously Siegel’s design was a huge success. “More that 40 years later, the NBA logo is one of the world’s most recognized symbols of sports, and an unmistakable emblem of American culture. Today, this classic image generates $3 billion a year in licensing, and the NBA name symbolizes the pinnacle of excellence in professional basketball,” states the firm.

The NBA today is reluctant to support this story, according to the LA Times, who interviewed Siegel, current NBA commissioner David Stern, as well as former NBA player Jerry West. Siegel states that he understands the NBA’s reluctance to recognize the resemblance between the iconic logo and the photo of West. “They want to institutionalize it rather than individualize it,” he states.

Read more at LA Times and Siegel+Gale. For more great stories behind logos, visit Logo Design Love, where this story originated.

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Author: Mani O'Brien

Mani O’Brien is the Online Editor for the FIDMDigitalArts Blog and the Social Media Marketing Manager for FIDM/Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising. She earned her bachelor of arts degree in print journalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism & Mass Communications at Arizona State University in 2006, and Associate of Arts degree in Graphic Design (Professional Designation) at FIDM in 2010. When she’s not brainstorming social media marketing ideas or writing about the graphic design and digital media, she enjoys practicing yoga, reading magazines, and hanging out with friends and family in Los Angeles.

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