OK, so the regular season is over, the playoffs are done, we made it through the draft and free agency and Summer League. Now what do we do? Well if you are me, you spend your summer weeks writing about useless drivel like NBA team logos and mascots and names. Hey I gotta do something with my time between the end of Summer League and the announcement of the next season's schedule in early or mid-August. So let's go.
No mascot or team name rankings this summer because there have been no mascot or name changes in the NBA that I can see (although there have been in the D-League or I guess what is now the G-League). But there are plenty of logos to rank this summer. Let's start with the big boys and then let's tackle the G-League, shall we?
30. Los Angeles Clippers
Just like I said last year, unless the Clippers abandon their rebrand of two years ago or some other team rebrands with a worse package of logos (which quite honestly I can't imagine that anyone can do), they are going to be stuck in dead last for a while. Even Chris Paul got tired of wearing these logos and got himself traded to Houston. Still the worst look in basketball.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder
Still super boring and uncreative. Still saved from last by the Clippers.
28. Denver Nuggets
About a mile better (or maybe more accurately 4,000 feet higher) than OKC's drabness but still mired in the 28 spot. Sorry, Denver. Heed the call other teams have been hearing and go the throwback route. It's worked wonders for the Sixers, Warriors, Hawks (until they screwed it up by lack of self-restraint) and Wizards. It can work for you too. If done right.
27. Dallas Mavericks
Last year I wrote of the Mavs' 26 spot in this countdown that the only reason that they were that high was that the Piston screwed up so badly. This year, the Pistons (mostly) corrected their error. That drops the bland and unexciting Mavericks logos down to 27.
26. Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cleveland Cavaliers have added a new secondary logo to their family of logos. It's a shield. I thought knights used shields, not cavaliers. Cleveland drops a spot in this year's ranking not because of their shield necessarily but because in my opinion 25 other franchises have a better look.
25. Orlando Magic
For me, it's all about the font. The M and the A having one square corner drives me nuts. These two letters are symmetrical; they shouldn't have rounded corners on one side and a square on one the other. Plus the middle leg of the M not dropping all the way down like the outside ones do just sucks all my focus up when I look at this logo. Other than that, I don't think the Magic's logo is that bad.
24. Phoenix Suns
Every time I see the Phoenix Suns' streaking sun logo combined with the capital S I cringe. It looks like someone took an already not attractive font and just and threw it against a wall which caused a some how uniform and singularly unattractive shattered effect. Can't stand this one. It's pulling the Suns way down.
23. Houston Rockets
An R made out of rockets. Not exciting. Not exciting at all. Now that the Rockets are up for sale, maybe they'll get a new logo look, once the new owner realizes he or she has paid north of $2 billion for a basketball team, that is.
22. Brooklyn Nets
Once upon at time in Brooklyn, Jay-Z was a part owner. An owner of a super super super super small part of the team but an owner nonetheless. He allegedly had something to do with the design of the team's image when the Nets up and moved to Brooklyn. Now he's no longer an owner. There's no need to keep most of this branding around either. Not sure what the solution here necessarily is because I don't love any of the Nets' historical logos (except maybe the Jetsons-like ball on shield in hoop logo from the last Jersey days) but something needs to change.
21. Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks are the first of many teams in my ranking who have recently looked to the past for inspiration for stuff to put on their swag. Bringing back the Pac-Man logo was great. Then they added a whole series of weird secondary logos in mostly neon yellow. Head scratcher. Hawks at 21 this year.
20. Los Angeles Lakers
By all rights, the Lakers should be one of the lowest ranked teams on this list. I mean their logo is not really that creative and it looks a little dated (I know, some would say classic; I say dated). But to the Lakers' credit, they have not gone and gummed up the works by inventing a bunch of really awful secondary logos. Their awful primary logo gets them just inside the top 2/3 of the league.
19. Sacramento Kings
As much as I love the idea of ditching the old Kings' crossed lances logo, the dusting off of the old Kansas City Kings' look is not aging well. And it's only been a year. I think it's the clumsy font and the very very simplistic crown. I have a feeling this isn't going to survive the test of time.
18. Minnesota Timberwolves
The Timberwolves are the only team to undergo a complete branding transformation this offseason. No more giant wolf head staring out over a line of coniferous trees. This new package of logos is a bit of an upgrade for me.
Like many teams over the last five years or so, the Wolves have gone with a circular logo as their primary look. Their main logo isn't that much different from the one used over the past 10 years or so: it's basically a mirror image with the white and the trees gone and the North Star added in the basketball patterned sky. It's cleaner and darker. The wolf in this version is howling beneath a starry sky and not the unseen moon of the pre-2017 look.
The strength for me in this new look is the North Star and the simplicity. The alternate logos follow this theme, with a simple basketball-and-star as their best secondary logo (at the top of this post). Minnesota kept it simple here. And it works for me.
17. Toronto Raptors
Here's my annual plea for the Toronto franchise to change its name permanently to the Huskies, who played just one year in the BAA, which was the forerunner of the current league. The Raps have celebrated that old name with a throwback night or two recently and there's a website advocating the exact same thing I pull for every summer. Until the team decides to do that, they continue to get credit for eliminating the Barney logo a couple of years ago. They sit at 17 this year, dropping two spots due to the Pacers and Pistons trying something different.
16. Indiana Pacers
Earlier this year, Larry Bird delivered the Pacers' bid for the 2021 (!!) NBA All-Star Game to the NBA's offices in New York City. Bird delivered the envelope to HQ that day in an Indy Car, complete with NYPD motorcade, featuring what appeared to be a new secondary Pacers logo (shown above). I love this thing. It's geography based (I LOVE maps!) and features a star right where Indianapolis is, making it place specific to the city that hosts the team with the state's name. High praise for the Pacers from me for this simple but super effective secondary logo.
But here's the problem: I'm just not sure if it IS a secondary logo or if it's just an All-Star logo in the event the city wins the '21 game. I can't find it on the Pacers' website as a logo at all that will be used in circulation. For the purposes of this post, knowing the answer here is huge and there's no definitive direction, here's what I'm going to do: I'm going to guess and give the Pacers partial credit. I'm moving them ahead of the Raptors this year. If it's not official this time next summer, they are at risk of moving backwards.
15. Milwaukee Bucks
Still can't get the image of a deer mounted on a wall as a hunting trophy out of my mind. As much as I like the Bucks' rebranding as an upgrade over their prior look, that still bugs me. Also the font is just terrible. If it turns out the Pacers' new secondary logo is legit, I'm moving them ahead of the Bucks next year.
14. New Orleans Pelicans
Logos! Logos! Logos! The Pels still lead the league in number and variety of logos. And most of them are pretty good. Except the one that they use the most. While that one is totally New Orleans, it's still too dated for my taste.
13. Philadelphia 76ers
With the exception of the Charlotte Hornets at 9, the Memphis Grizzlies at 4 and to some extent the Washington Wizards at 3, the top 13 spots in my ranking are occupied by teams that have either (a) found something a long time ago that worked and are sticking with it or (b) have figured out what they had a while ago worked really well and have brought the old logos back. The Sixers resurrected their old look (mostly) but are the sitting a the 13 spot because they couldn't leave well enough alone and invented a Ben Franklin dribbling a basketball logo which just doesn't work for me.
12. Detroit Pistons
Last year the Pistons were 27th in my ranking. This year they are 12th. Something big happened here. And what happened was the Pistons looked to their competition for inspiration.
In 1979, the Detroit Pistons unveiled what I consider to be their classic logo, a stylized red basketball inside a blue circle with the words "Detroit Pistons" in simple block letters in the center of the ball. It was a variant of a logo that went all the way back to their move to the motor city. It was simple, it was clean, it was effective.
Then in 1996 they decided that awesome look wasn't good enough so they switched their logo to some kind of flaming horse with tailpipes and accented the whole thing in some sort of dark aqua. They also switched their font to some sort of thing that has some letters with pointed ends now and then. Terrible stuff. Unbelievably, it lasted nine seasons before they switched it back to a red, white and blue basketball logo, albeit with the terrible font intact. That basketball though was rotated from the old logo and the words were curved.
So now things have come full circle and the Pistons are back close to the 1979-1996 look. Mostly. The font is still a bit different and there's silver border around the whole thing. I'll take it. I actually like the silver lining and the font's not that objectionable when the letters are small.
In case you are wondering why the Pistons (and all these other teams that are adopting something close to their past branding) don't just go back to what they had, they can't. All the retired logos belong to the NBA's Hardwood Classics brand and they don't let teams reappropriate them once they give them up the first time. That's why the Pistons, Hawks and Sixers all have logos that are 95-99% (but not 100%) identical to past logos.
11. Utah Jazz
Speaking of awesome reinventions of the past, I love the Jazz logos. I just don't love them at all in Utah. Please find another name for this team.
10. Portland Trail Blazers
The Blazers have one of the most unusual logos in professional sports. It's an abstract representation of a five on five basketball game that could only have been cooked up in the late 1960s or early 1970s. And I love it. The Blazers have tweaked the original version a couple of times and they have done it again this offseason. Gone are the tapered ends to the swirl lines (I just made that term up) which is an upgrade for me. Also gone is the lines dying into the other side of the swirl. Not sure that change works better or worse for me. Still one of my favorite logos out there. Just got good enough to move them inside number 10 this year.
9. Charlotte Hornets
8. Miami Heat
7. Golden State Warriors
6. San Antonio Spurs
5. New York Knicks
4. Memphis Grizzlies
3. Washington Wizards
2. Boston Celtics
1. Chicago Bulls
So the top nine in my ranking last year did something smart: they didn't change a thing, although the Knicks did roll out a 70th anniversary logo that is super sharp. And that means that this year's top nine is the same as last year's. I still think the Hornets and Dubs have too many choices in their logos but honestly the secondary logos are in many ways better than their primaries. I still hate the fact that the Heat are in the top nine and my growing distaste for the Celtics had me for a minute considering sliding my beloved Wiz ahead of them before realizing I have absolutely no good reason for doing so.
The Bulls are still number one. If there's message about the value in never changing, it's the Bulls consistently being in the top spot. 52 years, one logo. 'Nuff said.
G-League logos up next. What a mess that collection is!