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NBA: The story behind the famous basketball logo

Dan Johnson
CONTRIBUTOR
Feature
855   //    Timeless

NBA Logo inspired by Jerry West
NBA Logo inspired by Jerry West

"The Logo" - This is the nickname for former Lakers great and current board member of the Los Angeles Clippers, Jerry West. In 1969, nine years into his Hall of Fame career, designer Alan Siegel used a model of West dribbling the basketball to make the white silhouette shadow in a blue and red background.

This picture has been the official symbol of basketball for almost half a century at this point. Or for about 30 to 40 years if we're going, to be honest.

The symbol for the National Basketball Association for the better part of a quarter century has not been Mr. Clutch dribbling but the black shadow silhouette extending his long, slender arms in a white background that is Michael Jeffery Jordan.

The image was first used in 1988 to promote Nike's new Air Jordan shoe, the Air Jordan III. Jordan, who was entering his fourth season in the league in 1988, had established himself as the most explosive and excited player in the league already, and that season, would win the Most Valuable Player and Defensive Player of the Year award.

Air Jordan XVI
Air Jordan XVI

But let's not get ahead of ourselves and go back a few years. Michael entered the NBA in the Spring of 1984 as a dynamic, champion two-guard from the University of North Carolina. He would be selected with the third pick in the draft by the Chicago Bulls after Houston and Kentucky big men Akeem Olajuwon and Sam Bowie.

By comparison, Nike was desperately attempting to stay afloat in the NBA landscape against the big companies of Adidas and Converse. At the request of his agent David Falk, who wanted Jordan to sign with Nike because they pair could negotiate at a higher ground than with the other companies, Jordan and Falk went to the headquarters and were impressed with the company.

Falk, who had spent the early 1980s representing tennis stars, wanted Jordan to branded like the tennis players; focusing on the individual instead of a team. Falk was right in the fact they could negotiate at a higher position and convinced Nike executive Rob Strasser to give Jordan his own brand of shoe named "Air Jordan".

At this point, Nike had essentially won the lottery twice: The signed the best young player in the league to a shoe deal and had given him (and themselves) a popular shoe line. Then NBA commissioner David Stern and the NBA league office gave Nike their third winning ticket for banning the first Jordan shoe over its red and black color that did not match with the rest of the NBA. Nike spun this into their famous "banned" advertisement with the idea that the shoe is too good and gives wearers an unfair advantage. The rest, as they say, is history.

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Air Jordan XXI Launch Event
Air Jordan XXI Launch Event

Nike and Michael Jordan became the rulers of their respected fields of competition and as prevalent in the lives of average Americans as milk and eggs. 32 different types of Air Jordan shoes have been released by Nike. Michael Jordan remains one of the most recognizable faces in the world today.

In 2015, Jerry West was asked if anyone could replace his logo. He replied by referring to the one player whom everyone knew could be a proper replacement. "I hate to say it's not a Laker, but Michael Jordan. He's the greatest player I've ever seen."

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