The NBA logo is one of the most recognizable logos in the world. Basketball fans know it depicts Jerry West - here's why the man who designed it decided West was the perfect choice for making the NBA stand out.
NBA vs. ABA
Obviously, the establishment with the logo would seem more professional and creative.
And that is exactly what the NBA wanted back in 1969 in order to differentiate itself from the ABA (known back then as the American Basketball Association). The NBA wasn’t the only basketball league in America during the 60s and 70s as it was competing against the ABA, who at that time employed basketball legends like Julius Erving and Moses Malone.
However, In the early days of the NBA, there were already multiple players that brought popularity to the league like Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, among other names. It was on the same level as the ABA but what stood out was that several players in the NBA had more potential to show to the world. So the NBA wanted to take advantage of its talent and showcased this for their branding.
The commissioner of the NBA at that time was Jay Walter Kennedy, who will always be remembered for making the NBA the focal point of basketball. Kennedy’s goal behind the logo was to also make the NBA more recognizable and celebrate its 25th anniversary with style. And so he approached Alan Siegel of Siegel Plus Gale to design the famous and iconic logo in 1969.
Simple, powerful, dynamic
Siegel had many players to choose from, but he eventually pivoted to West as the inspiration for the logo. If you take a glance at the logo, it’s West dribbling, looking determined and elegant in a high-speed-in-motion play. Siegel, who also made the MLB (Major League Baseball) logo, said that West’s style of play was the perfect symbolism of basketball at that time.
“It’s a really elegant, powerful presentation of basketball...It’s hard, graphically, to do something that is static like this. To have tension in it, movement and grace. It’s very hard...It has to be simple. It has to be powerful. It has to be dynamic. This has all these elements.”
Alan Siegel, Sportskeeda
Picking West to be the inspiration behind the logo wasn’t a bad choice, especially since Siegel wanted the logo to be based on simplicity and grace rather than achievements. But in West’s defense, he had both — an elegant style of play and the achievements to back up his resume.
West was a perennial top-five player and the best point guard in the league in the 70s. The Los Angeles Lakers legend was a 14-time All-Star for all the 14 years he played in the NBA. West also went to the Finals eight times and was the only player to win the Finals MVP while playing for the losing team. Aside from his one title, West had also scored 25,000 points and was part of the Top 25th best players in history list.
He was at that time the perfect depiction of what the NBA wanted to advertise and be known as — its exquisite and professional style of play along with its elite superstar talents. So, looking back, it’s safe to say that the NBA succeeded in becoming the focal point of basketball — not just in America but also in the world.