There is nothing wrong with the NBA’s logo. It’s timeless, smooth, and instantly identifiable.
That it happens to be Jerry West’s silhouette is meaningless to most of the people who see it. The logo was designed off a silhouette of West dribbling, but designer Alan Siegel didn’t pick the image because of who it was — even though West, John Havlicek, and Oscar Robertson were his favorite players — but because a particular photograph grabbed him.
“It had a nice flavor to it,” Siegel said in a 2010 interview. “So I took that picture and we traced it. It was perfect. It was vertical and it had a sense of movement. It was just one of those things that clicked.”
The logo has been the same for nearly half a century, and while there’s been occasional talk about changing it — possibly to honor Michael Jordan — the West silhouette has hung in there. It’s always possible to do something better, of course, but change for change’s sake is not the way to go when a change is not really needed.
Kyrie Irving now believes that the logo should be changed to Kobe Bryant, posting an image on Instagram this week that he captioned: “Gotta Happen, idc what anyone says. BLACK KINGS BUILT THE LEAGUE”
Irving does have a point about honoring Black excellence, but Bryant is not the answer.
“I know that it probably was met with some people that love it — that love the idea — and some people that don’t love it,” Irving said on Thursday night after the Nets’ win over the Magic. “But, my thing is paying homage to the example that has been set by that man.”
It’s been more than a year now since Bryant’s tragic death in a helicopter crash with his daughter Gianna and seven other people. While it was understandable in the immediate aftermath that people wanted to honor the impact he had as a hero to this generation of players and his support of women’s basketball, there’s never been a reckoning with the fact that Bryant only escaped a rape trial because the alleged victim told prosecutors that she could not go on with the case after receiving death threats, and he eventually settled a civil suit out of court.
“Although I truly believe this encounter between us was consensual, I recognize now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way that I did,” Bryant said in a statement in 2004.
There’s a huge difference between honoring the positive impact that Bryant had on the NBA and on so many in and around the game, and making him the image that defines the league for decades to come. We don’t get to forget about rape just because we liked someone.
Further to Irving’s point here in Black History Month, if you want to talk about “BLACK KINGS BUILT THE LEAGUE,” honor someone who helped do the building. Wilt Chamberlain dunking would be a fantastic choice. Or Bill Russell taking flight. Or Walt Frazier dishing a pass. Or Robertson.
There are plenty of great choices. But the NBA can take its time, because, after all, there’s nothing wrong with the logo as it is. Whatever change they make, if they even do so, they need to make sure it’s an improvement, and making Bryant the logo would not be it.