Ranking the Top 10 NBA Team Logos
The on-court product always matters most to an NBA team, but the logo on the court is significant, too.
One simple piece of art will forever be tied to an organization, since fans purchase hats, jerseys and other apparel showcasing that logo. There is real pressure to nail that design.
Several franchises have done exactly that.
Historical emotions and winning traditions were only a small factor in the following rankings. While the Los Angeles Lakers have a legendary logo, it isn't an especially memorable piece of art based strictly on the design.
10. New Orleans Pelicans
The most critical question of designing an animal-based logo is simple: Is the animal quickly and easily recognized? In the case of the New Orleans Pelicans, that answer is a resounding yes.
Fueled by the red eyes, beak and intimidating stare, the pelican immediately draws attention to the middle of the logo.
Plus, the subtle addition of a fleur-de-lis above "New Orleans" reinforces that the design represents the city as a whole. The fleur-de-lis also graces the helmet of the NFL's New Orleans Saints.
9. Atlanta Hawks
After 20 years of a hawk clutching a basketball with its talons, the Atlanta Hawks underwent a redesign in 2015.
Well, kind of.
The organization reverted to the "reverse Pac-Man" logo that emblemized the Hawks from the mid-1970s to mid-1990s. This time, Atlanta put a little more importance on defining the hawk, forgoing the predominantly straight lines in favor of sharper curves.
In the full logo, "Atlanta Hawks Basketball Club" circles the outermost portion and provides further emphasis on the hawk.
8. Philadelphia 76ers
The freedom is strong with this one.
Since the nickname itself is a tribute to the United States, it's fitting that the Philadelphia 76ers' design has typically incorporated a bit of American history. The 13 stars in a circle above the "7" represent the 13 original colonies of the country.
Additionally, the current logo utilizes the best parts of previous designs with the red "7" and blue "6."
The inside of the basketball also has free-flowing lines, which is both a contrast and improvement to the lifeless curves of past editions.
7. Golden State Warriors
Most designs put the focus on the middle of the art. That's typically for a great reason.
But the extra space surrounding the Bay Bridge on the Golden State Warriors' logo is unique. Leading lines direct attention to that vacant area—something my college professors would hate—but that's where a player's number is situated on the jersey.
The blue-and-yellow color scheme was also a terrific change from the orange, blue and red of the late-1990s and early-2000s Warriors.
6. Toronto Raptors
Yes, the purple-and-red dinosaur of the Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady era was sensational. However, the Toronto Raptors' original logo moved to the throwback rack in 2008.
The current design fits the category of "Simple, yet elegant." After all, it's composed of only three pieces: a large circle featuring the team's moniker, a basketball and a raptor's claw.
You won't find a dinosaur on the logo, but its impact is obvious—clutching the ball. The Raptors are the only animal-named NBA team without the actual animal prominently featured.
5. Miami Heat
Let's be real: There aren't an abundance of ways to skillfully sketch "heat."
Fortunately, the Miami Heat found one.
Rather than continuing to mimic fire using a vibrant orange as the original logo did, the flaming ball uses the team's primary color and complements that red with a trail of a lighter hue above the white rim.
Miami avoided overcomplicating an elementary idea. Sometimes, a straightforward logo is the best option.
4. Boston Celtics
The Boston Celtics' logo has remained largely unchanged over the last 40 years. The only substantial tweak was adding more color in the 1996 redesign.
And it's so perfectly Celtics.
The winking, smoking leprechaun—though sometimes criticized as an unflattering representation of Irish heritage—spinning a basketball gives off a smug, confident nature seen in former coach Red Auerbach, who built the first great NBA dynasty.
3. Charlotte Hornets
Logos rarely inspire actual fear, but the Charlotte Hornets logo probably comes about as close as possible.
When shifting from the Bobcats to the Hornets in 2014, the franchise reclaimed its prior name but could not use "Hugo." So, instead of the friendly looking, rounded flying creature, Charlotte unveiled a sharp, razor-like hornet seemingly ready to attack.
White text against a teal background also makes the words, wings and stingers pop nicely.
2. Milwaukee Bucks
The Milwaukee Bucks finally have a menacing symbol.
Originally, the franchise used a smiling buck spinning a basketball. The 1990s update—which underwent a color tweak in 2006—had a more aggressive, forward-facing eight-point buck. Still, it lacked the ominous (and 12-point!) look found in the 2015 redesign.
As a bonus, Milwaukee's designers tactfully included a basketball within the antlers and an "M" on the shoulders.
1. Chicago Bulls
If it ain't broken, don't fix it.
The Chicago Bulls have showcased this angry red bull as long as they've been in existence. Since the team's debut season in 1966-67, the only alterations have been cleaning up the edges and accentuating the determined eyes and flaring nostrils.
According to Matt Schwerha of the Chicago Sun-Times, the Bulls are the only NBA club still using its original logo.
And there's no reason to change.