A logo is a team’s identity and it should be a great source of pride for the players, coaches, the organization, and the fans too. Many of today’s NBA logos lack character and personality, but this has not always been the case. Throughout history, many organizations have had some classic designs that have helped unite the entire city. These logos have been much more than just an image. Many of these logos came from the 90s, which was an era that utilized cartoon-like designs along with bold, colorful logos that added real character and personality to the league. Some of these were so good that they haven’t changed in decades.
10. Denver Nuggets (1981 – 1993)
This Denver Nuggets logo used between 1981 and 1983 is certainly one of the more unique and colorful logos in all of sports. Like a few other entries on this list, this logo is particularly good at creating identity, using the Denver skyline against a backdrop of white mountains. What is so distinctive about this logo is the multicolored blocks that create the skyline, making it almost appear as a Tetris style logo. The sky behind the mountains uses the same colors but has horizontal strips instead of blocks. This is all contained in half a circle, with “Denver Nuggets” in black script written beneath the image. This is a bold, fun, and colorful logo and also one which the entire city can happily get behind and relate to.
9. Minnesota Timberwolves (1996 – 2008)
A good logo should intimidate opponents, and the Timberwolves used one that achieved this whilst also remaining relevant to where the team hails from. The logo features two lines of pine trees that lead to the image of a large, angry wolf head that is half black and half grey, along with imposing yellow eyes. “Minnesota” is in grey text at the bottom of this image, along with “Timberwolves” in a jagged blue font which contrasts nicely with the green from the pines trees. This is a logo that the Timberwolves have used since the mid 90s, and they would tweak the design in 2008 by replacing the blue text with a neater white font. The current Timberwolves logo manages to retain the 90s cartoon-ish charm, while also remaining intimidating and relevant.
8. Boston Celtics (1996 – present)
Much like the New York Knicks, L.A Lakers, and Chicago Bulls, the Celtics are one of the cornerstone franchises in the NBA. This means that it would be wrong for them to tinker with their logo too much, as it has become as iconic and important as the league logo itself. This immediately recognizable logo features a Celtic in gold and black who is spinning a ball on his finger, whilst winking and smoking a pipe. He is leaning on a stick with his other hand, which helps to balance the image. There is then a green hoop behind him, with “Boston” written in white to the left hand side, and “Celtics” on the right hand side of the hoop. No team has won more NBA titles than the Boston Celtics, and their classic logo has become an important part of the city’s identity and its Irish Pride.
7. Houston Rockets (1995 – 2003)
Since rebranding in 2003, the Rockets have moved away from their iconic 90s look. There is now barely any reference to the actual rocket in their team name. During the 90s, Houston played in pinstripes and had this bold logo. While it polarized many NBA fans, it was certainly a look which developed personality and character. Like so many other franchises, Houston opted for a cartoon-like logo, using a rocket with a fierce face orbiting around a large basketball. There is then the word “Houston” in white bubble text across the middle of the basketball. Then in 2003, like many other teams, Houston abandoned the cartoonish design and instead opted for a rather bland logo that lacks any real personality. It is surely now time for Houston to once again rebrand and design a logo that the city can get behind, much like this classic design.
6. Seattle Supersonics (1975 – 1995)
Unfortunately the Seattle Supersonics no longer exist, but with such an enormous fanbase, hopefully they will eventually return. If they do, they will certainly their iconic green and yellow color scheme, hopefully paired with this excellent logo. This logo was used from 1975 to 1995, meaning that this was also the logo they had when they won their only NBA title. The logo features the Seattle skyline (complete with the instantly recognizable Space Needle) in green on half a yellow basketball, which sits above the text “Seattle Supersonics” in green. It is another simple, yet effective design which creates a strong identity through the color scheme and clear reference to the city. Hopefully Seattle will have the Supersonics back again someday soon.
5. Toronto Raptors (1995 – 2008)
This classic Raptors logo is now unfortunately extinct, as next season the Raptors will adopt a plainer and less cartoonish logo. Their previous logo will be sorely missed by many fans, as it is one which had great character and personality. The logo featured a red raptor in a basketball jersey, snarling and bouncing a ball. The raptor was in front of a black hoop with “Raptors” written in silver. Behind this is a purple circle which created an interesting and contrasting color scheme that the Raptors are famous for. Cartoonish yet slightly imposing, this epitomized 90s NBA and is an image synonymous with this era (even though the Raptors never enjoyed much success). In 2008, the Raptors updated the logo by changing the purple background to a red background to keep the image fresh, but they will now sadly move entirely away from this design.
4. Golden State Warriors (1969 – 1971)
The NBA champs went under a rebranding in 2010 that saw them revert back to their old-school color scheme, with a nod to their logo that was used from 1969-1971. This logo features a large yellow circle with a blue outline, with the image of the Golden Gate Bridge in blue in the circle. The design of the bridge only takes up the bottom half of the circle, and this gives it a spacious and unique look. The logo then has “The City” scrawled above the circle. It is a simple but effective logo, and the color scheme is also bold and unique which adds to the character of the team. The rebrand by the Warriors in 2010 essentially inverted this color scheme and instead of the entire bridge the logo features just one of the iconic towers.
3. Vancouver Grizzlies (1995 – 2001)
The Grizzlies now play their basketball in Memphis, but up until 2004 they had kept the classic logo that they used when they were originally situated up in Canada. This Vancouver logo is a classic 90s logo and one which epitomizes that entire era. The logo contains a snarling brown bear that has large, sharp claws and is clutching at a basketball in one of its paws (cartoon characters playing with the ball is a recurring theme). The brown, black, white and red from the basketball contrast well against one another. This is furthered with “Grizzlies” written in a large teal text above the bear (teal is a classic 90s NBA color). The word “Grizzlies” also features white claw marks in the text, and it is completed with “Vancouver” written in smaller text above this. The bold colors, snarling bear, and cartoonish yet intimidating quality make this an NBA classic.
2. Charlotte Hornets (1988 – 2002)
After a few forgettable years as the Charlotte Bobcats, the Buzz has finally returned to Charlotte and the entire city was thrilled to get their Hornets identity back. They have modernized their logo, kits, and court design, but it is all similar and a nod to their famous identity from 1988 to 2002. The Hornets use a purple and teal color scheme (very 90s), and this includes their logo. “Hugo the Hornet” is a cartoon hornet that is teal with purple eyes and stripes, and he is wearing white basketball shoes and bouncing a basketball whilst flying. The logo is then complete with “Charlotte” written above Hugo, and “Hornets” beneath, both in teal. This is a bold, loud, and colorful logo which creates a strong sense of identity (this is furthered by their home court aptly being called “The Hive”). Fortunately Charlotte has its buzz back, along with a modernized Hugo.
1. Chicago Bulls (1966 – present)
Perhaps the most famous sports logo of all-time, this logo has become so iconic that it can never be changed. Fortunately for Chicago, it is already a fantastic logo and one that has a strong sense of identity. It is cartoonish but also intimidating, and therefore it is an easy logo for players, the organization, and the fans to get behind. The logo is a scowling red bull with a thick black brow and white horns that are tipped with red (perhaps signifying blood). The Bulls have used this logo since 1966 and they will not be changing it anytime soon. It’s old-school and modern at the same time. The legacy of this logo and the entire organization is of course boosted by a certain player that wore the #23 jersey, but it is also a brilliantly designed logo and perhaps the most iconic in the entire NBA.
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