August 29, 2015

NBA Logo Rank, Part 5

August is almost over, that means my logo rank is also almost over. Actually when you have read this (or just looked at the pictures), it will be. Let's find out who I have number one. But first…number six.

6. San Antonio Spurs
How great is the Spurs franchise? They have five titles in the last 15 or so plus years, they are the model of consistency and team play and they have this awesome logo. Sometimes, it really is about the simple things and you can't get a whole lot simpler than the Spurs have here. I mean it's really nothing more than a boot spur doubling as a "U" in the Spurs name but it just works perfectly. No fuss, nothing fancy. Just like the team it represents. No complaints here. Nothing but praise.

5. New York Knicks
If this ranking were about primary logos only, the Knicks would do about as well as their team did last year, which if you weren't paying attention, would be just about dead last. The Timberwolves kept the Knicks out of the NBA basement last season. The Clippers would certainly keep the Knicks out of the 30 spot on this rank based on primary logo alone.

So the primary logo is a basketball with the word Knicks in astonishing three dimensional font above and a triangle in back. Not good. Not really anywhere close. The logo used to not have the triangle. I hope the team didn't pay too much for someone to re-vamp their image and end up with just a triangle to add. I'd ask for my money back if that's what happened.

But the other two logos? Stunning. The "Knicks" in the basketball is so super simple and obvious but it's graphically brilliant. It helps that the Knicks colors are blue and orange so they can use the actual color of the basketball as a background to their team name.

And then there's the subway token logo. Long long ago before paper or plastic slide or touch subway cards, pretty much all subway systems in the United States used a token, something resembling a coin that you placed in a slot that allowed you to walk through the turnstile. Now, of course, most of these are all gone, although I did get to use some in Philadelphia when I visited last year to watch the Wizards take care of the Sixers. New York's subway tokens had a large central "Y" shaped cut into the center of the token with an "N" on the left and a "C" on the right. The Knicks have used that exact same token design substituting the "K" for the "C." It's absolute genius. The New York City subway is the most famous in the United States. I can't think of a better way to honor the city than converting the token into this logo. I love it.

4. Memphis Grizzlies
My list of all-time favorite NBA logos is pretty short. I haven't actually made one but it's not a bad idea to write about that subject in some later August. If I had made one, the Memphis Grizzlies bear head logo (the center one above - minus the words below it) would be very near the top of that chart. I love this graphic. It's abstract without being cartoon-y, stern and serious without being too scary and I love the half sun / half shadow thing its got going on. I was in Memphis in 2007 and actually thought about buying a shirt with this logo on it in the team store before I came to my senses and realized I couldn't really wear any other team's apparel. I think this is the best logo in the NBA today. No question about it.

BUT…this ranking is a list based on all of each team's logos and honestly, the yellow-orange ball in the blue bear claw just doesn't do anything for me. Pass. This logo drops the Grizz from first to fourth. The Celtics, Bulls and Wizards thank you for it.

3. Washington Wizards
Homer pick? Maybe. But I really like this set of logos that the Wizards introduced in 2011. They completed Ted Leonsis' re-brand this past offseason by killing the Wizard jumping over the moon logo which had served as the primary logo for the team either in the original blue, black and bronze scheme or the slightly tilted red, white and blue scheme since the team ditched the Bullets name. That move bumped the Wizards up a bunch of spots into the number three spot.

The "Unity Hand" logo (above, center) is a throwback to the old Bullets logo, which featured the two "l"s in the middle of the word as hands reaching skyward to catch a basketball. Since there are no double "l"s in either Washington or Wizards, this is the re-interpretation we ended up with. I like how it echoes the past, especially with the retro looking basketball. I don't particularly like the font but the letters clearly spell out "dc" which is good enough for me.

The "Monument Ball" logo is a number of things all at once. It's a basketball but also includes the Washington Monument which is so prominent on the city's skyline and a star echoing the three stars in the flag of Washington, D.C., a design patterned after George Washington's personal coat of arms. I loved the Monument Ball since the day it was released and I was pleased this past spring when the team elected to make it their primary logo. I find this choice surprising since this logo is not featured on the court but whatever.

There's nothing weak here. I love the designs and the colors. I'd say a strong number three. Who you got below the Wizards that is better? Name one and let's have it out.

2. Boston Celtics
You can't get much more classic a logo than the Celtics primary logo. For as long as I can remember this has been the Celtics logo and for good reason. This HAS been the Celtics logo since 1968 which is the year of my birth. True, until 1996 the logo just had two colors (green and white) and before 1976 there was a reddish basketball behind the figure but as far as I'm concerned, the C's have just had one logo. I mean, if it ain't broke, why fix it? Classic works, right? Don't mess with a good thing.

And so that's just the thing with the Celtics logos. They went and messed with it. Until 1998, the Celtics primary logo was good enough. Better than good enough, actually. Maybe the best in basketball considering design and tradition (I know I've just said the Grizzlies head is the best logo in the game today; that logo didn't exist in 1998). But marketing or whatever else got the best of the C's and they felt like they needed to add a shamrock logo. OK, not disastrous. They can probably still finish on top.

But then a year ago, Boston went and introduced the silhouette Celtic logo. I mean OK, it's not horrendous but it's weak enough that for me, it dilutes the branding. Everyone's got to have a second and third logo, right? Well, almost everyone...

1. Chicago Bulls
50 years. One logo. That's right the Chicago Bulls are the only franchise that has never ever ever changed their logo or added a second logo. With this design, they don't need one. I don't know what else to say here. This image is just about perfect. It's an angry bull with red tips on its horns. It's mean, threatening and is one of the classic sports logos ever. I hate that the Bulls ended up number one here but I don't know who else can do any better than this. 

That's it. That's the end. Don't agree with any of my opinions? That's fine. You don't have to. I'm always open to discussion about this subject or anything else about the NBA. Give me a heads up and I'll meet you before the next Wizards game.

August 19, 2015

NBA Logo Rank, Part 4

Now things are getting good. Part four of my logo rank is peppered with some excellent graphic designs and for the first time, we actually see an entire family of logos with no missteps. Still some clunkers out there but the quality is greatly improved over part three. Let's see what we got.

12. New Orleans Pelicans
The New Orleans Pelicans are one of two franchises where three logos just wasn't enough. Oh no…for them there's a full five spot of logos to choose from. Some hit and some definitely miss wide of the mark by a good distance. But overall, there's more good than bad here. Let's start with the bad news.

I don't like the Pelicans primary logo (top left). I get that it's very New Orleans; I could see this thing gracing the front of some old paddleboat steaming up and down the Mississippi while a boatload (pun intended) of tourists check out the scenery on the banks and chow down on gumbo or red beans and rice. I appreciate the local flair but I don't like it as a basketball team logo. There's too much New Orleans and not enough hoops; I'd have killed myself for writing that in some other posts, right?

I also don't care for the Pels' fifth logo (bottom right), a weak "N"/"O"/basketball motif that somehow the Pelicans made available to themselves in four different color combinations.

Getting better, but still not there, I'm not crazy about the "NOLA" logo except I think it's more like a basketball logo than the two I have trashed so far. I really believe the Pelicans made some smart choices with their color scheme. Most logos would look good in the red, dark blue and gold colors they picked for their team. This one might have benefitted from the uni colors.

The last two logos, however, are strong to freaking awesome. I like the Pelican-de-lis a lot. It's completely New Orleans and concise enough to be a basketball centric logo at the same time. Don't get me wrong, it's no fleur-de-bee like the old Hornets had when they were in town, but I like it a lot. I especially like how the Pelican's beak forms the bottom spur of the fleur-de-lis.

And then there's the Crescent City Basketball logo, which I absolutely LOVE. New Orleans was originally laid out on a crescent shaped bend in the Mississippi River and acquired the nickname based on its early settlement patterns. This logo pays homage to that moniker and reflects a crescent shape a couple of times in the shadow on the basketball and the negative space above it. I think this logo is perfect for the city and those in the know about one of the city's other names.

So why only 12th? Well, I'm considering all logos here and the Pelicans' bad logos aren't enough to allow their good ones to soar. I've spent enough time here; let's move on.

11. Philadelphia 76ers
Oh, Philadelphia, you had it so right and you went and messed it up.

I LOVE the old 76ers logo. It's a basketball looked at almost straight on with that gorgeous "76" and the 13 original stars from the first Stars and Stripes floating above. It's graphically balanced and it's a perfect reflection of a basketball team named the 76ers. Admittedly, the old logo is much like the current primary logo (above left). But the old logo placed the ring of stars so it doesn't break the seam of the basketball. It's the small things in life sometimes. The Sixers used the old logo from 1977 to 1997 and brought it back just six years ago before tinkering. Should have left it alone.

Having said all that, the current logo is almost as good and I dare say I like the alternate logo on the right above just as much as the old logo that I love.

But Ben Franklin dribbling a basketball? This thing doesn't seem right, plus an 11 year old kid can't draw that. No way. I predict Ben will be shelved in the next few years. Heart's in the right place. I'm just not getting it.

Good show from the Sixers here. If they'd have left things alone they would have been top ten for sure.

10. Portland Trail Blazers
Of all the logos in the NBA, there has to be more confusion surrounding the Portland Trail Blazers logo than any other graphic representing a team. Let me explain why this logo is good enough for 10th in the league in this particular ranking.

Look at any other logo in the NBA and you could probably take a shot at guessing the team nickname. OK, maybe not the Magic but you would at least stand a chance of saying "oh, I get it!" when someone gave you the answer. And maybe not the Thunder either but after some cajoling and explaining, you might get it enough to beg off whatever Thunder fan was giving you a tutorial on the subject.

But the Blazers? The team that was named after the folks who moved out to Portland on the Oregon Trail. No way can you make sense of this. It didn't always look quite this way but it's close enough to the original to make a strong connection and the Blazers have stuck to this look in a totally unwavering fashion with the possible (and I mean very possible) inexcusable introduction of a less sensical secondary logo in 2002 that they killed four years later. Hooray for tradition!!!!

The reason the Portland Trail Blazers logo makes no sense is that it was generated from a when, not a what. And that's just the exact same reason it is so awesome. It's a design that signifies a modern (and by modern I mean 1970 when the Blazers entered the league) interpretation of the game of basketball. The five lines on each side of the center circle represent two teams of players working against each other in a game of hoops. Get it? It doesn't necessarily matter if you don't. I think it's so awesome that they commissioned this type of logo and stuck with it exclusively for 45 years. There's no other NBA logo like it. And there likely never will because there will likely never be another 1970.

9. Charlotte Hornets
The Hornets are another team (like the Pelicans) who can't seem to have enough logos. They actually have six but the other two not shown above are just variants of the primary logo on the left above.

I love pretty much everything about the Hornets re-brand. Anything in Charlotte (well, except a Raptors nickname) would have been an improvement over the dreadful Bobcats name. They could have just brought back the old friendly hornet from the late 1980s but I'm glad they didn't. I like the newer fiercer Hornets collection of logos better than the cuddly cartoon one.

Just like the Pelicans, I think this collection of logos is a bit of a mixed bag, although far superior to the Pels' choices. I like the primary logo. I think it's visually stunning on a first glance although I do think the appeal wears off over time. I'm not a fan of the second logo above (what I'll call the "Queen City" logo) which is very reminiscent of one of the old Bobcats' logos. I'm not knocking it just because it reminds me of the Bobcats; it's actually pretty awful other than the hexagonal shaped "C". I'm not sure if MJ told his re-branding firm to give him a discount if they could re-use one of the old Bobs' designs or what. Memo to the entire Hornets franchise: don't ever go back to anything even smacking of Bob Johnson's ego drive nickname.

But the last two logos on the right I really like. The hornet in profile looks dangerous in attack mode. It's dynamic and forceful and I love both the basketball in the hornet's venom filled belly and the fact that the hornet's attack stance makes an abstract "C". I also like the Buzz City logo inside the hexagonal hornet's nest cell shape, although I don't believe Charlotte is actually referred to as Buzz City except as the home of the Hornets. I still like it. I'd wear shirts with this logo on it.

8. Miami Heat
I hate the Miami Heat. I hate that they swept the Wizards 4-0 in the second round of the 2005 playoffs (long memory here) and I hate that they conspired to stack the deck against the rest of the league by teaming up LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh to make four straight finals. If it wasn't for the state of Texas, they might have won all four. Ha ha by the way.

I love the Miami Heat's primary logo. It's only slightly different in color from the original 1988 logo and that's quite honestly because whoever designed this logo got it right the first time. You never need to change this logo, Miami. EVER! I've written about how difficult it is to represent abstract terms like Magic and Thunder in logos. The Heat have done it perfectly here with their nickname. It simultaneously represents their name, the concept of heat and references basketball by showing a shot from an "on fire" shooter dropping through the hoop. Yes, I know, there's no net.

So on that basis, the Heat should be like top one or two right? Well…no, because in 2008, the Heat decided to introduce the absolutely horrendous "MH" alternate logo. I don't even want to write about this thing. It's clunky, ugly and I hate the way the M and the H are merged. You are costing your team a top spot here, alternate logo.

7. Golden State Warriors
To this point in my countdown, there have been no teams who's set of logos I like across the board. The Warriors change that. 

In 1969, the San Francisco Warriors introduced a new circular logo showing the Golden Gate Bridge in silhouette with the words "The City" above the logo. The current Warriors logo introduced in 2010 is an updated more modern version of that logo and it's a killer design. It represents the Bay Area, reflects the tradition of the Warriors and is worn on their uniforms in a way that no other logo in the NBA is. I love it. And I think so do the majority of other people across the league. 

I also really like the other two logos introduced by the team as part of their re-brand. Yes, the "W" in a circle is pretty simple but it's straightforward and elegant. I love the California map logo also. I am generally in favor of putting maps in any sort of graphic representation. This one works especially well because the Warriors are (currently) named after the entire state of California.

So why aren't the Warriors higher? Well, it's because while I can enjoy each of the logos on its own and as a total collection, there's nothing that amazing about any logo except the primary logo.

The last six are next. In alphabetical order by city: Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Memphis Grizzlies, New York Knicks, San Antonio Spurs, Washington Wizards.

August 15, 2015

NBA Logo Rank, Part 3

Part three of my logo rank represents the halfway point of this journey. While we have seen some pretty good designs once or twice before this, I'm astonished by the overall lack of stellar designs produced for the tons upon tons of money that I am sure was paid from the teams to their graphic consultants. I'm not sure my opinion of all that is changed much by this post. Let's keep going.

18. Atlanta Hawks
Alright, Atlanta, I admit it…the Pac-Man logo (top left above) is awesome and its return to the Hawks family of logos has to be welcomed with open arms. It's slightly different than the 1970s version and looks quite honestly less like Pac-Man eating a dot than its predecessor but it's still an awesome design and conjures up memories of Dominique Wilkins battling Larry Bird in an epic 1988 playoff series. Kudos on the retro re-brand introduced earlier this year.

But what was the club thinking with the rest of these logos and these absolutely hideous colors? Yep, the Pac looks great in traditional team colors red and white, not so much in putrescent green and black which makes me think of Mr. Yuk more than Atlanta hoops. And we already know how I feel about airport codes in team branding from my rant about the Phoenix Suns in part two of this countdown; at least the Suns logo surrounding the airport code is reasonably attractive. What's the deal with this crazy wordmark? Is there some sort of subtlety that I'm missing?

Finally, I'm also not a fan of the golden snitch logo (top right). I get it's a basketball with bird wings but the truncated top of the teardrop shape is awful and it really does look like Harry Potter should be racing to grab it ahead of Draco Malfoy. Quidditch anyone?

The Hawks are 18th because of the Pac. Nothing else. Could have been way lower.

17. Toronto Raptors
If you had asked me before I started this ranking how the Toronto Raptors were likely to place among the 30 NBA teams, my answer would likely have been "not well" or something to that effect. This team has a huge image problem in my opinion, mostly due to their absolutely incomprehensible nickname. I'm still pushing for a Huskies name change.

But lo and behold when I started looking at all the current NBA logos, I found that the raptor imagery, which started out as a less cuddlier version of Barney, has mostly gone away and the Raps have focused their branding around a basketball which looks like it's either held by or has been slashed by a velociraptor. No more cartoon dinosaurs, no more logos dripping blood, no more fossil imagery and thankfully no more purple. And thumbs up to all of that.

Now, let's remember this is still just one logo repeated three times and the font is terrible and it is only in 17th place, but it's actually a decent design and it's not cluttered with inferior secondary and alternate logos. Well done, Raptors. Never thought I'd write that.

16. Utah Jazz
Put the franchise name out of your minds, folks. I know jazz doesn't belong in Utah. This is not about the name; it's about the logos. And talking about the logos is pretty simple.

I hate the Jazz primary logo on the left above. It embodies Jazz in absolutely no way whatsoever, unless you are going to make the case for the "J" being a stylized saxophone. I think the mountains are great for Utah but for me this thing is a dead loss.

The musical note "J" logo however is a freaking work of art. I love the simplicity, clarity and genius of this logo. It screams jazz and basketball at the same time and it's absolutely brilliant. The Jazz re-introducing this look a couple of years ago was a huge step in the right direction of branding this franchise. But there's still that pesky Utah disconnect.

There's so much potential here but ultimately it's about the entire collection of logos, not just one. And, yes, I can't put the franchise name out of my mind. Rename this team. PLEASE!!!

15. Los Angeles Lakers
I love tradition. I love consistency. I love simple clear designs. The Lakers have all three. Their primary logo on the left above is uncomplicated and dates back to the franchise's move to Los Angeles in 1960, albeit in slightly different tones. And in that time the Laker tradition is probably unmatched in the NBA, even by the Boston Celtics.

But graphic mediocrity had to catch up with the Lakers sooner or later and it does so at number 15. This logo is of another time, and I don't mean that as a compliment. It's a basketball with the team name in front and some movement marks on the name to give the illusion that the name is moving really fast. There's just not much here and despite its simplicity and consistency of message over the last 45 years, it's just not very inspiring.

The Lakers introduced the way clunkier and not graphically attractive at all secondary logo (above right) in 2001. While it makes their original logo look sleek and sophisticated, it doesn't help out the Lakers brand at all. Let's move on.

14. Indiana Pacers
Combine the Raptors (recycling one logo into three separate logos) and the Lakers (simplicity and tradition) and you get the Pacers. And in my countdown, they end up ahead of both. They finish ahead of the Raptors because the logo they are using is better than the logo the Raps are using; they finish ahead of the Lakers because they were wise enough to not introduce a terrible secondary logo which makes their brand worse.

The Pacers started out in American Basketball Association with an abstract "P" (for Pacers) logo made up of an arm and hand shooting a basketball. They adopted the current look in 1990 and have refused to change it since. It's a testament to how poor the NBA family of logos is overall that Indiana can finish this high in my ranking with so little imagination.

I do like the center logo above, by the way, a lot. It has a high school or collegiate look that somehow feels very appropriate for a team representing the state of Indiana. If the Pacers ever re-brand, I'd keep that one as an alternate or secondary logo for sure.

13. Milwaukee Bucks
In this offseason, there have been two teams that have undergone significant re-branding. The Clippers look like they rushed the whole thing and were rewarded with a set of logos nobody has claimed to like which got them the number 30 spot by a mile in this ranking. The other franchise was the Milwaukee Bucks, whose new set of designs is both pleasing and a HUGE upgrade over their prior look.

There are a number of things I like about the new look Bucks. First off, the green, blue and beige colors are way better than the green and burnt orange they had last year and way way better than the green and purple they had before that. I hesitate to compliment any color scheme that features beige as a primary component but this is truly a color upgrade.

The second thing I like about the new Bucks logos is the connection to the state of Wisconsin. I don't know that I've ever seen the state of Wisconsin extracted from the rest of the United States but I think it works to smartly connect the city's team to the state with two borders less than an hour's drive to two other NBA teams.

I also love the basketball imagery in the lower points of the Buck's antlers (on the left) which is re-iterated in their third logo (on the right). It almost makes the dot after the "EST" and the awkward looking "M" in that logo palatable.

There are a couple of negatives for me. First, the font is horrible, although considering the "antler" font the Bucks had before this, it's a big improvement. Finally, I can't get over the fact that their primarily logo looks like a hunter shot their mascot and mounted its head on the wall of his basement den as a trophy. Maybe I don't get the idea of a deer being ferocious. Wouldn't be the first time I've offered that opinion.

August 12, 2015

The 2015-16 NBA Schedule

Las Vegas Summer League ended on July 20. Since then it's been crickets for the true NBA fan. Unless your team had a minor signing or trade going on, let's face it, there's been nothing to pay attention to for the last three weeks or so. Until today.

That's right, today at 6 p.m., the 2015-16 NBA schedule was released. And while it's not like there's a ton of surprises in there (OK so there's one) there's at least something to study, dissect and talk and write about. O the joy! This is literally the best day in August.

But beyond the immediacy of the news and the excitement of poring over 82 dates over six months or so (I know, it's irresistible), the schedule release means there's something real to finally look forward to, a date on the calendar that can be circled and anticipated for the next two and a half months or so. And because I'm really really excited about the schedule release, here again are my annual seven takeaways from today's unveiling.

1. No Early Start.
For the entire summer, the NBA has been promising the players it would revise the schedule to cut down on the number of back to back games and the number of four games in five nights occurrences. I always figured they would do this by tacking on a week to the schedule and starting the season around October 20 instead of the normal, just before Halloween, season tipoff.

I was wrong. Apparently one fly in the ointment in this situation was TNT's stranglehold on Thursday night basketball. For the last few years the league has only been able to schedule two games on Thursdays so that network could show every game. This year, they allowed more than two games on the fourth workday of the week and that allegedly solved everything. Well, almost anyway. 

The number of four in five nights situations dropped from 70 occurrences last year to just 27 this year. Of course the Wizards are not one of the three teams without one of these. And in a strange twist despite the league's best efforts, the Wizards back to back situations actually increased, from 16 in the 2014-2015 season to 19 this year. Go figure. Should have known with the Wizards only playing three Thursdays.

On the flip side and on a personal note, if the season had started a week earlier than normal, I would likely have missed the home opener watching cars turn left around a 2-2/3 mile track in Alabama, but that's a story for another time. I guess I'm happy for now that TNT relented on the whole Thursday thing to keep the overall schedule the same length, even though it seems to not have benefitted the Wizards much at all.

2. Road Opener
Yep, for the tenth time in the last dozen years, Wizards fans get to watch our favorite team on television for their season opener. Well, unless we want to travel to Orlando on October 28. I'm not sure what the league's reluctance to let the Wiz open at home is, but it sure doesn't happen too often. The Milwaukee Bucks got their first game at home this year for the first time in 31 years. Maybe all it takes to make it happen is a new stadium deal?

Despite the first two on the road, the Wizards first dozen games this year doesn't look so bad, something I always check out for an historically slow starting franchise (can't figure this one out - players change, the result doesn't). Yes, there are games against San Antonio and Oklahoma City in the first 12 but they are both at Verizon Center. Of the remaining ten, nine are against Eastern Conference teams who finished sixth or worst in the conference last year. A slow start is a wasted start this year.

3. No Respect.
During the 2013-2014 season, the Wizards made the playoffs for the first time since 2008 and advanced to the second round for the first time since 2005. John Wall made the All-Star Game as a reserve. Things seemed to be headed in the right direction. And the Wizards were rewarded with ten appearances on national TV (in this case meaning TNT, ABC or ESPN; NBA TV doesn't count here). Finally we had arrived.

Last season, the Wizards again made it to the second round of the playoffs and might have advanced past the Atlanta Hawks if John Wall hadn't broken his hand (useless speculation, I know). John Wall STARTED in the All-Star Game and he made an All-NBA Defensive team. So now the popularity of the team is really picking up, right? And that has to follow with more national television exposure, right?

Umm…not so much. There are just five Wizards games on the national TV slate this year! FIVE!!!! The Minnesota Timberwolves and Los Angeles Lakers make their national debut on October 28. I have to wait until February 3rd this season to see the Wiz on TNT, ABC or ESPN. The Timberwolves (who were the worst team in the league last year as an aside) get the same number of appearances nationally as the Wizards. How is that even possible? The Lakers make 19 appearances this season. That's two fewer victories than they had all last year. Shouldn't be possible.

I'm not surprised. The NBA always cares about the teams which are the most popular, not the ones who play the best basketball. I just thought the Wall as an All-Star starter might have changed things. Guess not. And it doesn't really matter to me anyway. No other broadcast team can top Phil and Buck anyway.

4. A Lump of Coal in our Stockings.
Before tucking into some turkey and all the trimmings for Christmas dinner last year, I got to watch the Wizards take care of the miserable New York Knicks in a laugher in New York City. What an awesome Christmas present. How about a repeat this year? Yeah, not so much. I've complained enough already in this post. I'm not going to do any more. See number 3 above. Of course the Lakers are playing on Christmas. Sorry. Couldn't help it.

5. Welcome home! Or not so much.
For as long as I've been a season ticket holder, the Wizards have never fielded the same team two years in a row. So that inevitably means that some players who suited up for our home five one year are wearing a different jersey the following year. And some of those guys are bound to take the court against the Wizards sometime during the next season. Go down the list of returning players over the last 15 years and you'll find Richard Hamilton, Larry Hughes, Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison, Gilbert Arenas, JaVale McGee, Nick Young, Andray Blatche and Trevor Ariza. This year you can add Paul Pierce, Andre Miller and Kevin Seraphin to the list.

Now usually I have a policy that if you turned down a Wizards re-signing offer and went with another team, you are getting booed; conversely, if you got traded away, I'll consider some polite applause to a standing ovation for you upon your return. I got yelled at by some dude behind me for applauding DeShawn Stevenson when he played for the Hawks and I know my former seat neighbors Adam, Brian and Jill cursed me silently inside when I showed up in my Brendan Haywood rookie t-shirt. Yes, I gave Gilbert some hearty clapping when he returned to VC with the Magic. And yes, I broke my trade and praise rule for Nick Young and JaVale McGee. I'm booing those guys every chance I get.

I'm not sure how I'm going to react to this year's crop of returnees. No doubt I'm not dissing Miller and Seraphin. I'll always be grateful for Andre's last second pass to Bradley Beal last year in Orlando and Kevin was for a while my favorite Wizard based on personality alone. But Paul Pierce? I'm torn. He did so much for the team's confidence in the playoffs last year, said he wanted to stay and then bailed. This is going to be a game time decision. First trip back to VC for Andre is March 25 with the Minnesota Timberwolves; I expect the New York Knicks will have #KSLife playing a prominent role when they hit town for the home opener on October 31; and the Clippers game is December 28. I'll decide by that point if I boo or politely clap for The Truth. He won't get more from me I know that.

6. The Only REAL Surprise…
Every year the Wizards play each team from the Western Conference twice. That's 30 games. We also play each of the four teams in our division four times. That's another 16 games. The remaining 36 games are split between the other ten teams in the Eastern Conference who are not in the Southeast Division, meaning every year there are four teams in the Eastern Conference we play only three times. 

While there's real fun to be had today in examining when we play other teams, when we have long home stands and road trips and when we battle teams in our own division (three Atlanta games in the last month might be huge for a potential Wizards' Division title - I'm still hoping), the most basic thing we didn't know before 6 p.m. today was who the Wizards are playing just three times.

This year, the Chicago Bulls and Brooklyn Nets will visit Verizon Center just once and the Indiana Pacers and New York Knicks will be visited by the Wizards just once each. I'm not upset about the lack of a fourth Bulls game, although I'd rather have two at home, but I'd feel pretty good about getting all four games against those other three teams. Indiana, Brooklyn and New York all finished in the bottom five in the Conference outside the Southeast Division. We are being robbed of a potential easy victory or two here.

If you ever travel to Toronto to watch the Wiz or for any other reason, go here for some food. And beer.
7. Traveling Time.
So here's the best thing about today's schedule release. Today's news is going to structure my life schedule (and therefore my travel schedule) for the six months from late October to mid-April. In those months, I'm going to need to get away for at least one pretty good length trip in addition to renewing my quest to see the Wizards play in all the NBA arenas in the league. That means I'm looking for long gaps in the home schedule and Friday or Saturday night road games where I can spend a couple of days out of town.

For long vacations, the time around the All-Star break looks wonderful. The Wizards are out of town or  just not playing at all from Saturday, February 6th all the way to Thursday, February 18th. Good road trip candidates to me this year look like Friday, December 11 at New Orleans; Saturday, January 30 at Houston; Saturday, March 12 at Denver; and/or Sunday, April 3 at the Los Angeles Clippers. Who's coming with?

So that's what I got this year. I'm refraining from an in depth analysis of the Wizards' chances to take the Southeast Division this year because, well, you know… October 28 is just 77 days away.

August 8, 2015

NBA Logo Rank, Part 2

Last Saturday I posted part one of my five part ranking of NBA logos, which is serving as my distraction or methadone (whichever you prefer) for the lack of NBA activity this month. I have to do something to keep my mind occupied. I expect the NBA schedule to be released sometime in the next week or so. Until then, let's get to part two of this countdown.

24. Cleveland Cavaliers
It's no secret that I have no love for the Cleveland Cavaliers franchise, their star player, their second star player, their fans or their owner. That lack of love is not, however, the reason why I put the Cavs 24th on this list. Their logos just aren't very good. I dislike the diagonal wordmark and the huge basketball in their primary logo in addition to the sword running in the opposite diagonal direction. There's no refinement or grace in this logo and it's just too busy.

The secondary or partial logos are a little better although I don't understand how the flag is staying on the razor sharp cavalier's sword unless it's just dull. My favorite by far would be the center logo above. Without my glasses on it looks like a red cocktail onion on a miniature sword toothpick, which is an image far more appealing than anything to do with the Cavaliers, especially if I haven't drunk the martini I'm imagining the logo came from yet.

I just think the Cavaliers branding is clumsy. Better than the Clips, Thunder, Nuggets, Pistons, Kings and Mavs but that's about it. And I wouldn't blame Mavs fans for being upset that they fell one spot behind here.

23. Orlando Magic
Let's get this out of the way right away: I actually think the Magic's partial logo is OK. Maybe even more than OK. Maybe good. It's difficult to draw these non-tangible names like the Thunder, Heat and Magic so on that level, I think the folks who designed Orlando's logo actually did a pretty good job. There are some teams ranked way higher in this list who have one good logo as their saving grace. 

But for me and the Magic, I just have one question: is that it? I mean all you have is a shiny basketball with a swooshy looking lightning bolt thing with three stars. Really? That's all you got? I need more out of my basketball team logos. I'm sorry but I just do.

I'm also offended by the font in the primary logo, especially the word "Magic". Where did they find these letters? I'm especially irked by the middle leg of the "M"; why isn't it as long as the other legs of the letter. I'm disappointed by the lack of complexity here. Good effort but it's like getting a naked hamburger patty when I really want a complete sandwich complete with all the trimmings.

22. Phoenix Suns
Why the Phoenix Suns roll out the logos above when they have one of the best NBA logos of all time stashed away in their closet is beyond me. But let's imagine I let that go and evaluate the collection of images based on their own merits relative to the offerings from the rest of the teams in the league.

I'm actually OK with their primary logo. The suns have been using some variety of the streaking skyward basketball sun for a while now and I think it works. I'm not sure I'd put it in the sort of leaning parallelogram with two rounded corners but it's still alright.

It's the other two logos I have a real issue with. The design on the right is especially awful. The colors are terrible (yes, I know they are the Suns colors), the shape of the logo is weird and the negative space sun looks like the logo has been scratched and bitten my some hideous unseen monster. It reminds me of the really really really bad Syracuse University "Artsy SU" logo that the school adopted in the early '90s which most students compared to a stylized dollar sign, which is all the University seemed to care about back then.

Finally, I have to take issue with the "airport code" logo. The graphic of a basketball on fire with a phoenix rising from the image of the flames is I guess acceptable. But an airport code? Really? The concept makes me shudder, especially when I think about the YYZ Raptors or the MSY Pelicans. Not sold. Please, Wizards, never adopt a DCA uni, although I guess it would be better than IAD.

21. Houston Rockets
The Rockets are a team that's suffering from the same sort of malaise that the Magic are suffering from: one logo recycled over and over again, only they do it just a little bit better, even if it's just in the font that they chose. I think the primary Rockets logo is actually fairly pleasing. Depending on the day, I either see the design as two rockets shooting towards space or one rocket on the rise with the scaffold holding it in place next to it.

For those of us who can remember back this far, this Rockets logo replaced one of the worst logos in NBA history, the vicious cartoon rocket racing around a red basketball Earth. Sort of creepy. For that fix alone, the Rockets deserve the 21 spot, no matter how inventive or un-inventive they are. The logo was created when Houston was anchored by Chinese star Yao Ming, which explains the sort of Chinese calligraphy feel to the letters spelling out the name of the team.

If the primary logo here is a success, the secondary or alternate logo is a bit of a fail. The three rockets in the "HR" logo look more like a bank of surface to air missiles ready to shoot down an aircraft invading whatever airspace they are protecting. Good to have in real life maybe but I can do without them in my hoops branding.

20. Minnesota Timberwolves
When I was a kid, I used to spend hours in study hall, mostly in sixth grade, drawing sports logos, mostly football and hockey. Back then, it seemed like all the logos were fairly easy to draw which made them appealing as simple expressions of something that could bring fans together. 

The Minnesota Timberwolves logos are the exact opposite of those logos I used to draw as a kid. How can any 11 or 12 year old possibly draw these things? Just look at how complicated they are. For that reason and that reason alone, the Wolves are relegated to 20th place here. I admit, I'd struggle as a budding architect with some drawing ability to hand sketch the Cavaliers primary logo or the Phoenix Suns airport code logo, but I know I could take a shot at the cocktail onion on a sword shaped toothpick or the ugly Suns graphic pretty easily.

There's nothing necessarily that wrong with Minnesota's logos, they are just too complicated for kids to draw. OK, so I really don't like the wolf howling at the basketball moon. I'm just not into it. Can't quite explain why. Next!

19. Brooklyn Nets
If the Timberwolves logos are too complicated, here's some relief: Brooklyn's ain't. These things in fact might be a little too simple. But somehow they work well enough to crack the top 20 on my countdown.

When I've assembled these lists of mascots, names and logos over the past two years or so, there have been some teams in whichever countdown which move around a lot from their initial placement. Brooklyn is that team in this ranking. I initially had the Nets placed at 27th, but the more I look at these designs, the more I'm convinced that simple is OK here.

Don't get me wrong, the shield shaped logo is poor at best and there's no way any of these things work if they are represented in any colors other than just plain old black and white, but there's an appealing straightforwardness to the "B" in the ball with or without the text ring around it that seems to represent what Brooklyn is all about. And I love the fact that the text in the center logo says "Brooklyn New York" rather than "Brooklyn Nets." It's all about the simple blue collar borough here. It works well enough to place 19th, which in reality is not that much to be proud of.

August 1, 2015

NBA Logo Rank, Part 1

It's August 1, the first day of the slowest NBA month of the year. Admittedly, I could consider September the slowest but at least we are getting really close to training camp in September. Maybe it's a tie. Anyway, die hard fans who live off NBA news get no satisfaction in August other the release of next season's schedule and no satisfaction in September other than it's closer to October. So to kill the boredom each of the last two years, I've ranked all the NBA mascots (2013) and all the NBA team names (2014). This year, it's time to take on each team's logo and rank them 1 to 30 (or really 30 to 1 would be more accurate).

Unlike team names which rarely change, especially in today's era of non-relocation, and team mascots which seldom change (although I did have to re-rank mascots last year and I will again this year), team logos are seemingly constantly in flux. At least for most teams anyway. Whether it's a small tweak, the introduction or change of a secondary logo or a wholesale re-design, it seems like these days there are at least a handful of franchises which are introducing new branding each offseason. Because of that, this rank may be a yearly moving target.

Generally speaking, I love sports teams logos. Growing up in England, I found football (soccer) teams' emblems rather dull. They were mostly centered around some sort of heraldry-like theme in a badge type format. They strike me as almost like the equivalent of college seals over here in the United States: stately, dignified, tradition-filled, venerable, sometimes sporting a saying, boring and NO FUN! Logos of American sports teams are not no fun; in fact, to a kid moving to this country at the age of 11, they were a breath of fresh air, especially considering the abundance of cartoon like logos around in the 1970s. No way we would see the smiling Baltimore Oriole or the swinging for the fences San Diego Padre or the old Milwaukee Buck twirling a basketball on his hoof in the UK.

Cartoon logos seem to have been a trend in the 1970s and I think there are trends today. There have been a number of (mostly unsuccessful) franchises recently who have deliberately changed their branding to harken back 20, 30 or 40 years ago when NBA times were happier in their cities. A few years ago, the Golden State Warriors changed their loges and uniforms to evoke their old "The City" uniforms. In 2010, my beloved Washington Wizards changed their color scheme, logos and uniforms to re-invent the old Washington Bullets teams of the late '70s. Last year, the Atlanta Hawks brought back the Pac Man logo. We'll get to all that.

The other fad that seems to be happening in the NBA is franchises taking existing circular logos and adding a ring around them with the team name. I'm not necessarily a fan of these types of logos but the Brooklyn Nets, Philadelphia 76ers, Washington Wizards, Toronto Raptors, Milwaukee Bucks and Atlanta Hawks have all added this type of logo to their branding in the last half decade or so. But enough chatter…let's get to the good stuff. First up, the Los Angeles Clippers.

30. Los Angeles Clippers
Last summer, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer bought the Clippers from the exiled Donald Sterling for a cool $2 billion (yes, that's with a B). Apparently, Ballmer didn't want to waste any time carrying around the Clippers 30 year old logo and so he set about getting someone to re-brand the team in record fashion, taking just under a year before rolling out a new set of logos and some new unis to match.

The result? You're looking at it above. Congratulations, Mr. Ballmer you now have absolutely, hands down the worst logos in the NBA. I mean it's not even close and you can probably already see the less than impressive Oklahoma City Thunder logos awaiting you below. Now I admit, the previous Clippers logo was pretty poor and was really just sort of an adaptation of the Lakers' not much better logo. But these things above? Did you actually pay money for someone to design these? You would have gotten a far superior product by opening up a public competition and offering a couple of sets of Clippers season tickets as a prize. Heck, you might have even done much better with like a $500 cash prize and some credit for a job well done.

Some people have pointed out that the primary logo (on the left above) is pretty much just the EA Sports NBA Live logo and I don't think they are necessarily far off. This is an epic fail. I think the only question about this set of designs is how long until Ballmer pays for a better set. Hopefully he gives it two years this time.

29. Oklahoma City Thunder
For the longest time (OK really just since 2008 when the Thunder arrived in Oklahoma City), the Thunder has had the worst set of logos in the NBA. Thanks to the Clippers, they are now sitting at number 29 on my list and they are pretty safe given the Clips' lack of vision there.

I'm not sure exactly what the deal with the Thunder logo is. I get that it's connected to the native Americans who inhabited the open plains of Oklahoma before the United States government decided to round them all up and make them live (generally speaking) in a confined and maybe totally foreign part of the country. I think that's an honorable gesture on the part of the team. But this logo? A bulging triangle with a partial basketball and two swoopy marks going behind the triangle? I'm not sure they are honoring anyone with that look. I understand it's difficult to convey thunder in a logo since it's a sound but they did a hell of a job with their mascot; just adopt a bison as a logo.

As if the logo itself wasn't bad enough, the team has added insult to injury by rolling out a "secondary logo" and a "third partial logo", all of which are exactly the same with the exception of some words being added or taken away. This is the laziest, cheapest form of having multiple logos. Just keep one. Somehow adding two more with little imagination makes the whole thing just way worse.

28. Denver Nuggets
I have to confess when it comes to the Nuggets, I'm at a bit of a loss for words. This franchise has been horribly mired in mediocrity in the branding departure since the 1970s. After they ditched their excellent prospector with an ABA ball nugget, they've lost their way. First came the 1980s to early 1990s Tetris rainbow logo then they rolled out the primary logo on the above left in gaudy dark blue and copper colors before changing their color scheme to the garish colors above and just re-coloring the same logo in the new colors.

I like the connection between the Rocky Mountains and the Nuggets franchise in the primary logo and the picks and partial mountaintop in the secondary logo help reinforce this theme. But the font in the logo is just terrible (why is it arched?) and the banner with the word "Denver" on it sort of draped on the front of the mountain doesn't work for me. I don't get it.

The Nuggets rolled out a snowy mountaintop third logo (at the top of this post) but this thing can't really stand on it's own and appears custom designed to go on the backs of the player's jerseys in the spot where they moved the NBA logo this past season (to make room for advertising on the fronts of the jerseys). That logo now seems sort of homeless to me. The Nuggets sit at 28 because none of their logos work for me.

27. Detroit Pistons
In evaluating all the logos in the NBA, I came across a team or two with one or two pretty pedestrian and uninspired logos and then one awesome super spectacular logo. Some of those teams ended up higher in my ranking than a lot of teams with solid across the board logos none of which are really going to make a top 10 logos of all time list.

The Pistons are sort of in the opposite category from those teams. The Pistons' primarily logo is really pretty OK. Indeed, I'd say it's better than any of the other logos in this post, even the teams ranked ahead of them. But I have a real issue with the "DP" secondary logo. It's literally just the "P" taken off their main wordmark with then a "D" placed where the hole of the "P" would usually go. This is Clippers logo bad; it's like a joke that someone who was less successful at logo design would invent before the idea got summarily rejected. Only this one never did.

I don't like anything about this secondary logo. Nothing. It's a complete graphic disaster to me. If I were a Pistons fan, I'd refuse to wear any clothing with this abomination on it. Good middle of the pack primarily logo. Worst secondary logo probably ever.

26. Sacramento Kings
If there's a franchise out there with worse overall branding (meaning name, logos, uniforms, colors and product on the court) than the Sacramento Kings, I'm not sure what sport they play or what town they live in. The Kings have been anything but kings for most of their history. Success since they moved to Sacramento seems to be confined to the early years of the 21st Century when they were battling the Lakers in the playoffs. Even back then, their uniforms, colors and logos were still terrible.

Are either of the logos above even remotely palatable for a professional basketball franchise? True, there are basketballs in both designs. But take away the balls and the images would look way more at home in the Tournament of Kings at the Excalibur Hotel in Las Vegas than they do in the National Basketball Association. You might be able to leave the balls back in even. There's nothing modern or taking about the Kings' current logos. These things need a ton of work.

I don't know how to fix the Kings situation. There's no easy answer. But I'd nix the lances to start and make the whole thing less heraldic. It's just not necessary. Surely Vivek can hire someone (or a team of someones none of whom agree) to try to sort this mess out. The Kings ought to feel lucky they finished as high as 26th here.

25. Dallas Mavericks
I love Mark Cuban and everything he does and has done to get his team in position to win an NBA Championship as frequently as possible. But I don't like the Mavericks logos one bit. They are not the abandoned after one game alternate silver unis the Mavs rolled out some years ago, but they are pretty uninspiring.

I'm actually OK with the partial logo shown in the center above, which shows a horse's head in front of a basketball. And I've already rationalized the use of a horse as a Maverick (rather than a cow) in a past post on this same blog. I guess if I were a Mavs fan, I'd look for this logo to be on all my shirts.

But the other two logos, I don't know. I don't understand the whole shield motif on the primary logo and the "Mavericks" wordmark exploding out from the bottom of the design is distracting. But it's a damn sight better than the alternate logo on the right above. I'm not sure what this thing is about. I get the M and the shield and the basketball. I just don't know what's going on for sure.

The horse and the basketball is good enough for the Mavs to finish at the top of the worst list but these designs need work.