What Happened to the NBA Logos?

What happened to the NBA logos? Back in the ’90s, the NBA logos were awesome – they were colorful and featured unique designs, that often included big block letters and/or animals and symbolic features related to the team name.

But as time went on, and as we approached 2010s, the unique logos are all gone and teams now utilize bland, generic logos that mostly involve circles and generic fonts. No more animals and symbols (mostly). Definitely no cartoon looking creatures. And no more bold, block lettering.

One of the greatest logos and jerseys in sports history – the Raptors got rid of the red and purple dinosaur look in 2015, in favor of a generic circle with a boring gray basketball that has, what, dinosaur claw marks it seems?

Congrats to the Raptors on winning the 2019 NBA Championship. It’s just such a shame that Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry had to wear these boring black uniforms and the red ones that read “north”. Yes, we get it – Toronto is in the north. Cool.

But you know what else is cool? The Raptors are DINOSAURS. Rep the dino, not the direction.

When the Grizzlies moved from Vancouver to Memphis in 2001, they maintained the same logo, just changing the city name. But in 2004, they went from fun cartoon grizzly to boring corporate grizzly.

As a result, they went from awesome, fun teal jerseys to boring, generic very unexciting jerseys.

I would pay a ton of money to own a Ja Morant teal jersey. I couldn’t be paid a ton of money to own the jersey on the right. It hurts to even look at, it’s so bland.

The Rockets used to have a literal rocket in their logo. I used to love this one because it had so many elements – the block Rockets, with the outline in the team colors, hovering over a red basketball, with the rocket ship ready to take off. In 2003, they moved towards the general “R” logo.

I am a huge fan of anything light blue, so when the Nuggets transitioned from ugly navy blue and brown jerseys, to light blue jerseys I was a huge fan.

Since 2008, the Nuggets have transitioned away from baby blue and focused more on dark blue and have now gone back to the traditional navy blue and brown look, with the a little bit of yellow/gold.

If the Raptors have the best throwback jerseys in the NBA, the Jazz might be a close second. I love the Rocky Mountain jerseys that John Stockton and Karl Malone used to wear. Especially, when you compare them to the generic Donovan Mitchell jerseys today.

So much bad here – they got rid of the mountain, got rid of the excitement, and they got rid of the purple. These dark blue jerseys with a yellow trim are very unappealing.

Think about this – your team name is the Hawks and your logo is an awesome hawk. Right? But then, one day you wake up and someone suggests changing your logo from an actual hawk (the team name) to Ms. Pacman’s second cousin. How would you feel about that? Apparently some felt pretty strong about it and decided to do it.

In 2015, why in the world did the Hawks get rid of the hawk??

When it comes to the Warriors, I like today’s logo. Even though it’s a generic circle, at least it has character with the Golden Gate Bridge. It still includes a symbolic symbol and not just a basketball.

I love both sets of jerseys, but actually lean towards the throwbacks. In this case, the block letters work perfectly as the logo, while throwing the full modern day logo on today’s jerseys make them a bit busy.

Do you know why the Timberwolves have one playoff appearance in 16 years? It’s because the two-toned scary wolf used to live in the forest, surrounded by trees. Now, the wolf is howling inside a basketball with a green eye.

The red, white, and blue color scheme is an obvious fit for DC’s basketball team. But once upon a time, the Wizards utilized a dark blue, black, and brown color palette. The Michael Jordan-era Wizards rocked these colors.

Comparing today’s logo against the old wizard man, this is actually a rare case where I prefer the modern logo. It fits the brand better.

Kudos to the Bucks on their modern day logo. They evolved from a triangle to a circle (like everyone else) but they maintained the buck inside the circle. They also sacrificed the big block letters, for today’s generic font.

Hornets are one of the NBA’s rare teams that includes an animal (or symbol) AND no circle. Their modern day hornet is fine, it includes a stinger and wings but nothing beats the ’90s hornet, with the pattern under the sneakers, the H across it’s chest and the basketball in one hand.

Today, the Pistons are where they started 40 years ago. The Pistons logo in 2020, is the same logo they used from 1979-1996. In ’96, they evolved into a firey horse, over the block letters and completely changed the color scheme, using teal as a primary color. That only lasted from 1996-2001, before they went back to the red and blue color scheme, but kept the firey horse logo. In 2005, they evolved into a more traditional basketball, and by 2017, the font was generic and the block letters were all gone.

Bonus logos

Bobcats weren’t a ’90s logo, which makes the inclusion of an animal even more unique. Bobcats replaced the Hornets in 2004, and lasted 10 years (doesn’t feel that long) before re-branding to the new-era Hornets logo above.

I miss the Sonics. Who doesn’t? They had several different logos before moving to Oklahoma City, but I always loved the one on the left for it’s inclusion of the Space Needle, a symbolic picture of the city of Seattle. At least the one on the right was more than just a circle (but included one) and also had block letters.

Mike is a member of the FWAA (Football Writers Association of America) and an alum of the University of Cincinnati.

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