Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Illustration for article titled Ranking the Best Logos in the Four Major Sports - Part I (The Good)
Illustration: Eric Barrow

Ever feel like ranking all 123 primary team logos from across the four major sports leagues? Well, now that we’re all shut-ins and those leagues aren’t playing, it’s a nice way to pass the time in a way that isn’t explicitly worrying about the pandemic or any of the other crises in the world. So, yay for this. And if you disagree with any of the rankings here, please know that you are wrong. With so many logos to look at I broke this down between The Good / The Bad / and The Ugly. First up?

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THE GOOD

1. Los Angeles Dodgers

With only minor tweaks since the flying baseball was added to the Brooklyn Dodgers’ logo at the end of World War II, it’s iconic across multiple cities on opposite sides of the country.

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2. Miami Heat

The Heat’s logo predates “NBA Jam,” yet is evocative of the arcade classic. So many basketball teams use a basketball in their logos, none better than this: a fireball going through a rim. There was every chance for this to be ridiculous, but they nailed it.

3. Las Vegas Raiders

From Oakland to Los Angeles, back to Oakland, and on to Las Vegas, the “Commitment to Excellence” might not always be evident on the field, but it sure is in a logo that captures everything the organization is about. The only way they could’ve done better than the eye patch man in the old-time, no-mask football helmet is if the logo had been Al Davis in a tracksuit with two middle fingers up, but that probably wouldn’t pass muster with the league office.

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4. Boston Celtics

Circles with team names in the logo tend to be very stupid and redundant (see the very large group of them at the bottom end of these rankings), but the leprechaun just wouldn’t feel right without it.

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5. Pittsburgh Penguins

It was the right move for Pittsburgh to bring back the skating penguin after a 1990s dalliance with a stylized pigeon-like illustration. The only regret is that they did away with the scarf that the penguin wore in the team’s first year as an expansion team.

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6. St. Louis Cardinals

The bird on the bat is dignified, unique, and historic. Changing the beak from red to yellow made the whole thing pop in a way that you would not expect from such a small tweak. It’s not as busy as some of the historic logos with two birds on a bat, which works a lot better on their jerseys than it would as part of a primary logo.

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7. Montreal Canadiens

The “H” stands for “hockey,” not “Habs.” Club de Hockey Canadien. It’s not the most exciting logo, but there’s not a single flaw with it, and it adorns the best jersey in the sport—Montreal’s home reds with the blue stripe.

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8. San Jose Sharks

If the shark is biting through the hockey stick and breaking it, doesn’t that render it useless? Maybe that’s why San Jose still hasn’t won the Stanley Cup. It still looks cool as hell.

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9. New York Mets

It’s virtually unchanged since the team’s inception, a perfect homage to New York’s past in the National League with the Dodgers and Giants, as well as the city itself with the incorporation of the skyline and bridge. Taking out the interlocking “NY” cleaned up clutter.

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10. Boston Bruins

Another timeless NHL masterpiece, the spoked “B” works for its boldness, even nodding to Boston’s “Hub” nickname.

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11. Calgary Flames

The flaming “C” looks fantastic on a jersey, on the ice, on whatever you want to put it on. They’ve messed around with it a couple of times, but there’s no way to improve on the original classic..

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12. New Orleans Saints 13. Dallas Cowboys

A fleur-de-lis and a blue star. That’s all they are, and yet they’re instantly recognizable as representing these teams. Simplicity goes a long way sometimes.

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14. Detroit Tigers

The Olde English “D” is synonymous not just with the Tigers, but with the entire city of Detroit.

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15. Pittsburgh Steelers

They seriously took the U.S. Steel logo and made it a football team logo. Red and blue are officially among the Pittsburgh Steelers’ team colors. That’s weird, and somehow, it works.

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16. Detroit Red Wings

Even when the Wings are as bad as they’ve been this year, they still look good with the winged wheel on their chests. Loses points only because it’s difficult to sketch accurately with all the intricate details.

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17. Philadelphia Flyers

The letter “P” manages to convey the identity of an entire hockey team and an entire city all at once: aggressive, mysterious, seemingly easy to copy yet easier to spot a fake version of it. If that isn’t Philly and the Flyers… just ask yourself, would Gritty fit anywhere else?

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18. Toronto Blue Jays

This straddles the line nicely between lifelike and cartoonish—a logo that could be a kid drawing or artist sketch. The maple leaf reminds you that this is the team that plays in Canada.

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19. Minnesota Vikings

One of the few sports logos that depicts a human manages to depict stoicism and strength, while being just cartoonish enough to be fun.

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20. Chicago Bears

It’s a simple “C,” but the little wishbone pip lifts the logo from pedestrian to bold. Orange is a good choice, too, even though it’s an accent color for Chicago’s uniforms.

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21. New York Islanders

It’s busy as can be, but it all comes together because of the intense attention to detail that includes the “I” in “ISLANDERS” pointing at the exact location of Nassau Coliseum on Long Island. The thing about the ‘90s fisherman is that it was a good logo—it was just bad for the Islanders because their logo was better than just good.

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22. New York Rangers

Maybe this is bias of having grown up in New York, but this just looks like a hockey logo. Or maybe it’s that the NHL logo also looked like this for a long time. Either way, it’s old timey in all the right ways.

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23. Baltimore Orioles

It’s goofy, fun, unique, distinctive to the Orioles, and the cartoon bird is wearing a different Orioles cap.

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24. Dallas Mavericks

Big “this team is owned by Mark Cuban” energy from the logo, but the team is owned by Mark Cuban, and whatever you think of him, he’s put a kind of brand on the entire organization. Even the horse looks like it’s ready to go down to the sideline and yell at a ref.

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25. Toronto Maple Leafs

The Leafs went retro with their logo a few years ago, and while it works fine, it really was a step back from a better, simpler leaf. The way to turn back the clock, if they had to, was to go with old school lettering on a maple leaf that was closer to the one on the Canadian flag.

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26. Golden State Warriors

There’s a big difference between words around a circle and words in a circle. This works, and the bridge speaks to the Bay Area well, without needlessly incorporating a basketball.

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27. New York Yankees

The stars-and-stripes top hat has, in its own right, become associated with the Yankees. The script wording has aged very nicely. The circle, as a baseball, not only makes sense, it’s accompanied by a bat.

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28. Utah Jazz

When you’re using a basketball as part of your basketball team’s logo, make it make sense. The ball as part of the eighth-note that becomes the “J” in “Jazz” makes infinitely more sense than the concept of “Utah Jazz,” but also the “UTAH” is thrown on there like it also has no idea what it’s doing there. It’s coincidental, because that once said “NEW ORLEANS,” but that doesn’t make it feel any less like it’s in on the gag.

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29. Green Bay Packers

“Why are they wearing the Packers logo?” — every University of Georgia or Grambling State game. The answer: because the Packers allowed it.

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30. Chicago Bulls

Turn it upside down and it’s a robot reading a book. Or a robot having sex with a crab. And then it also says “CHICAGO BULLS” upside down.

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31. Winnipeg Jets

Still wish they would’ve gone with the old Jets logo, but if they had to come up with something new…well, they didn’t really, because they basically ripped off the Canadian Air Force, but in true Canadian style, did so with permission. Anyway, it’s a good-looking logo, which, get this, for a team called the Jets, features a jet.

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32. Minnesota Timberwolves

The version on the ceiling of the Minnesota locker room is cooler, because the green really pops. The standard is good, too: turning a basketball into the night sky. It’s better the larger it is, because of the detail in the wolf’s eye.

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33. New Jersey Devils

It’s an interlocking “NJ” with devil horns and a tail, but also looks like its own form because the “J” is sharing the slope with the “N.” It’s a great adjustment from the look at the press conference that announced the team’s move from Colorado.

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34. Kansas City Royals

The crown is fantastic, the logo is classic, and the “KC” is contained within a home plate pentagon, which then became the inspiration for the Jumbotron at Kauffman Stadium.

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35. Seattle Seahawks

A very good logo of the Pacific Northwest that would be ranked higher if it incorporated the neon green that has become so identified with the Seahawks and Seattle sports in general.

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36. Phoenix Suns

You can do worse than emulating the Miami Heat. In fact, every team ranked below this did do worse than emulating the Miami Heat.

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37. Memphis Grizzlies

A step backward from the Vancouver Grizzlies’ amazing logo, but still quite good. Who would think that a bear in two shades of blue would work?

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38. Cincinnati Reds

The drop shadows work in a way that you wouldn’t really expect, and the wishbone “C” is iconic to the point that it’s weird when you see, say, a vintage Cleveland logo with it.

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39. Jacksonville Jaguars 40. Carolina Panthers

Inextricably linked by the fact that they came into the league at the same time, play in the southeast, are named after cats, and have vaguely triangular logos depicting roars. Both are fine, and a whole lot better than the particularly stupid logos that came on the scene at the same time (hello Broncos, Patriots, and Rams).

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Check out Part I here.

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