The timeless NBA logo has loomed over hardwood heroes for decades. But who is the silhouette based on, and how was this classic emblem created? This guide dives into the logo’s design origins, examines speculation over its player inspiration, and explains why it remains beloved by generations of basketball fans.

When Was the NBA Logo Introduced?

The now-iconic NBA logo was first introduced at the start of the 1969-1970 season.

Designed by creative visionary Alan Siegel, it has gone essentially unchanged over 50+ years, a testament to its classic, enduring aesthetic.

The logo helped symbolize a new visual identity for the league as it entered a golden era.

Who Designed the Original NBA Logo?

Logo designer Alan Siegel sculpted the original NBA emblem:

  • A creative director at the branding powerhouse advertising firm Ogilvy & Mather.
  • Hired in the late 1960s by NBA Commissioner Walter Kennedy to create a coherent league logo.
  • Settled on the silhouette concept to capture compelling player movement in minimalist form.

What Design Elements Comprise the NBA Logo?

The NBA logo features:

  • Black silhouette of a basketball player dribbling with one hand.
  • The player’s body faces right but head looks left.
  • Clean, simple lines echoing 1970s design principles.
  • Blue and red colors reflecting those on the American flag.
  • The white basketball contrasting against the body and background.
  • The bold ‘NBA’ letters with underlined basketball below player.

Its minimal elements encapsulate the sport’s graceful athleticism.

Who is the NBA Logo Based on According to Designer Alan Siegel?

According to Siegel, the logo is a composite not based on a specific player:

  • He stated it represented just a generic player in motion and not any individual.
  • The goal was avoiding favoring any one athlete while creating an idealized, universal image.
  • But many have theorized it strongly resembles one 1960s superstar.

Is Jerry West the Model for the NBA Logo?

Most basketball experts believe Lakers legend Jerry West is the logo’s model:

  • The player’s silhouette bears an uncanny resemblance to West’s playing form.
  • The high cheekbones and widows’ peak hairstyle mimic West’s facial features.
  • The player goes to his left, just as the right-handed West so often did off the dribble.
  • No other player of the era matches the logo image as strongly as West in terms of appearance and playing style.

West remains the consensus inspiration despite the designer’s claims to the contrary.

Does Jerry West Endorse the Logo Speculation?

Jerry West has provided mixed responses on whether he embraces the logo flattery:

  • Initially stated a reluctance to take credit out of respect to other players of the era.
  • Reportedly believed early on that his rival Elgin Baylor was the model.
  • Eventually acknowledged to his son it does resemble his playing image and style.
  • More recently has indicated feeling honored to represent basketball’s image with his likeness.

While never completely confirming his role, West seems to have developed an appreciation of the honor over time.

Why Was Jerry West the Ideal Player Model for the Logo?

As one of the 1960s NBA superstars, Jerry West exemplified ideal traits:

  • Stylish high-scoring guard play.
  • Clutch moments like his iconic buzzer-beating shot.
  • Dynamic drives to the basket.
  • Poise under pressure.
  • Excellence on both ends as tenacious defender.
  • Chiseled features and perfect shooting form.
  • Competitive energy and athletic grace befitting the league.

All indicators point to the man known as ‘The Logo’ representing his sport masterfully.

Has the Design Been Updated or Modified Over Time?

The NBA logo design has not changed since originally introduced in 1969:

  • The only alterations have been modernizing font styles from a period-appropriate retro look.
  • Color schemes have shifted only slightly based on reproduction methods.
  • Overall the silhouette, proportions, colors, and layout remain untouched.

A flawless original design achieved an incredible half-century of shelf life and counting.

Why Does the Logo Resonate as an Iconic Brand Mark?

The logo succeeds through:

  • Equal parts simple, graceful, and bold.
  • Evocative visual encapsulating the sport’s explosive athleticism.
  • Mystique surrounding possible player inspiration.
  • Distinctive enough for immediate identification and association with the NBA.
  • Timeless aesthetic never appearing dated.

The logo exudes everything dynamic and competitive about basketball. No wonder it has gone unchanged.

Other Team Sports Logos Modeled After Players

The NBA isn’t alone in embodying top athletes into branding:

  • MLB – Silhouette likely derived from Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew’s batting pose.
  • NFL – Figure adapted from Hall of Fame photo of running back Doak Walker.
  • NHL – Logo modeled on the stride, hair, and nose of Hall of Famer Gilbert Perreault.

Evoking elite playing forms adds energy and emotion to branding.

Why Do Logos Resonate When Based on Actual Athletes?

Associating logos with real stars carries advantages:

  • Connects and pays tribute to history.
  • Adds prestige and an air of authenticity.
  • Provides a recognizable, human element fans relate to.
  • Evokes the power, grace, and competitiveness of elite-level play.
  • Helps build stories, connections and lore to engage fans.

The extra intrigue gives brands added facets of meaning.

Key Takeaways on the NBA Logo

  • Simple timeless silhouette design introduced in 1969 by Alan Siegel.
  • Believed modeled after 1960s star Jerry West based on resemblance.
  • Designer claims it is just a generic player not one individual.
  • West seemed to gradually accept likely inspiration from him.
  • The logo’s style mirrors West’s famed playing image.
  • Clean aesthetic has resonated across generations with no changes needed.

The mystery and legacy surrounding the logo’s origins have only added to its nostalgic appeal across half a century and counting of NBA action.

Frequently Asked Questions About the NBA Logo

Does Jerry West confirm he is the basis of the logo?

No, West has never fully confirmed nor denied being the model out of respect to other 1960s players. But most evidence suggests his resemblance is too strong to ignore.

Did Jerry West ever pursue financial compensation for use of his likeness?

West never sought compensation and embraced the honor. He understood legal hurdles since logos receive creative license as artistic interpretations rather than precise depictions.

Has any other NBA player disputed they were the inspiration for the logo?

Oscar Robertson reportedly once claimed the silhouette looked like his signature jumper. But his stance appears isolated, with most signs pointing to West as nearly certain inspiration.

Has the NBA ever considered changing or updating the logo?

No substantive plans for a logo redesign have been reported. The clean simplicity maintains timelessness, so no urgency exists for an update. Minor modernizations to fonts and colors have kept it fresh.

Which current NBA superstar is considered most likely to inspire a future logo update?

LeBron James – As one of the most recognizable global NBA icons of his generation, many believe James’ dunking silhouette makes prime logo material someday.

Did other sports leagues copy the NBA’s use of player silhouettes for logos?

Yes, the NFL and MLB adopted similar player silhouette concepts shortly after the NBA logo debuted, wanting to achieve equally strong branding.

When did the NBA originally introduce any official league logo?

The iconic Jerry West silhouette debuted in 1969 as the first broadly marketed visual identity. Prior iterations were much more text based and non-uniform.

The unknown exact origins only add to the NBA logo’s mystique. But as legend goes, West modeled what world-class basketball excellence looks like for generations to come.


Categories: Basketball


  • Tom Eddy

    Tom Eddy is the founder and CEO of Poll Position, a leading sports news and opinion website. Eddy founded Poll Position driven by a vision of creating an innovative digital media brand focused exclusively on sports journalism. Under Eddy's leadership, Poll Position has grown from a solo blog into one of the most visited online destinations for sports coverage.


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