At Fieldtrip, we love to debate. From rating Disney movies, to defending our favorite fast food franchises, it doesn’t take much to get us going. The NBA season kicked off this week, so in the spirit of friendly debate, we asked our Creative Director, Nathan Weaver, and our Art Director, Andrew Spalding, to sit down and discuss the merits of all 30 NBA logos. What follows are the combined rankings for all teams. Each logo is scored based on concept, execution and totally subjective opinions of the team’s current logo set. The logos are ranked in order of their combined averages, with individual scores listed in parentheses.
1. (Tie) Milwaukee Bucks
Andrew (1): It’s new, but it’s my number one. The Bucks logo is the perfect example of how to successfully refresh a logo and brand. From the color choices, to the hidden “M” and basketball in the horns, to the typography and the excellent secondary marks, this logo is an instant classic. This brand and logo really embodies how you personify a team, a mascot and a city.
Nathan (3): How many sports brands are brave enough to use beige/cream/khaki as one of their primary colors? The Bucks did it and it’s incredible. After just a couple years of existence, this new Bucks brand is an instant League classic. This modern brand that embraced a long tradition of great design heritage makes it an obvious pick for #1—Double Day Cartwright killed it.
1. (Tie) Chicago Bulls
Nathan (1): I used to practice drawing this logo as a kid; it’s so ingrained in my mind. I hope no one’s ignorant enough to think they can modernize this legendary mark. It’s fine the way it is and it always will be. I just wish they would use the Orlando Woolridge, early Michael Jordan days, Chicago Script type more often.
Andrew (3): This logo could be accurately ranked anywhere in the top four. Can you believe it was designed in 1966? It doesn’t feel like it’s part of any design era, and that’s the definition of timeless. It doesn’t hurt that the MJ years culturally cemented this mark forever. Never. Ever. Change it. The only sad part is that the man who designed the only logo never to change, Dean Wessel, never got paid.
Nathan (4): So… I rated this one high, but the “modernizing” of this NBA classic really annoys me. If you’re a true NBA fan, you know the difference between the Dominique, Spud Webb Hawks logo and this new “cleaned up”, curvier, premier league-looking version. Don’t get me wrong – this is still a really cool mark, but I miss the 80’s angular version. It’s just better. If we were rating these brands for everything other than the logo, Atlanta’s more recent brand would be near the bottom. The desperate attempt to be cool is one of the worst examples of American Sports branding. If you look at the Hawks brand on the court, it’s clear they sold out to fads and neon-trends that have already passed.
Andrew (2): Maybe it’s because I’m a soccer fan and a sucker, but I like the new update to the Hawks logo. I like the type, I like the framing circle and I like the word “club.” I agree with Nathan; their 70’s/80’s clean version is an all-time top five NBA logo and better than the current one, but I like this attempt at modernizing it. Besides, anything’s better than what they’ve had for most of the 2000’s.
4. (Tie) 76’ers
Nathan (5): Another one of the “please don’t touch” logos. If anything, bring back more of the classic brand elements. That 1997-2009 Allen Iverson-era Sixers logo was pretty garbage compared to the classic brand, but it gets a pass because teenage me loved it and it wouldn’t have mattered which logo Allen Iverson had on his jersey.
Andrew (6): This is my favorite of all the logos that feature a basketball. An awesome combination of their original “76” mark with an updated basketball and ring. This is the logo to look at when combining the old and the new, and integrates a ton of elements seamlessly. Trust the process.
4. (Tie) Portland Trailblazers
Andrew (6): This is an all-time classic. The ten lines intertwining, representing a game of basketball being played, is probably the coolest abstract mark in all of sports. The original 1970 mark is still the best, and their variations throughout the years have been up and down. I’m not sure about the font, but I like that they freed the logo from its box. As long as they keep that swoosh mark, it will always rank top 5.
Nathan (5): The original 70’s version is one of my favorite sports logos of all time. You may be picking up on my taste by now, but again, I wish they’d stick to the classic. But, I digress, this logo may be one of those marks you just can’t screw up too much no matter how much you mess with it.
6. Los Angeles Lakers
Andrew (8): It’s never really changed since they moved to L.A. and it never should. This logo is iconic and classic. But unlike some long-standing logos, it was actually executed pretty well from the beginning, and stands the test of time.
Nathan (7): A true American brand legend. Only in American sports does a team from the land of lakes move to LA and keep the name Lakers. I’m glad they did, it’s that weirdness that makes the NBA so great (we’ll get to the oxymoron Utah Jazz and the Memphis Grizzlies a little later). If you love basketball, how can you not love this logo? This is one of those marks that’s hard to describe: it’s not great, it feels outdated, it could actually use some modernization, but I like it the way it is.
7. Utah Jazz
Nathan (2): This is my #2 pick. SOMEHOW, it’s Andrew’s 14th—our second biggest discrepancy. It’s ok Andrew has embraced his occasional complete lack of taste. Anyway, I couldn’t be happier that the Jazz went back to the Classic Pistol Pete New Orleans / early 90’s Stockton and Malone look and got rid of their Mountain back drop and bruise-inspired color palette. Another one of those NBA anomaly brands, because everyone thinks of jazzy vibes when they think of Mormons and Mountains. BUT again, this is another great example of that charming NBA weirdness referenced earlier. Stay classic, Utah.
Andrew (14): Let me defend myself. I like the logo, and I still put it in my top half, but that logo was born in New Orleans. Sure, they made some nice subtle type and color changes on the original, but honestly, I don’t think I’ll ever get over the idea that a team from Utah is called “The Jazz.” It’s not fair but, Utah shouldn’t be able to just revert back to a logo that was made for New Orleans. Change the name, put some mountains back in it, just stop co-opting the Jazz.
8. (Tie) Toronto Raptors
Andrew (7): I know the 90’s version was magnificent, in all the over-the-top ways most 90’s NBA logos were. But the new design is about as classy and modern as you could make a logo themed around Jurassic Park. The type treatment is outstanding, the raptor reference is reasonably subtle, and the color palette is probably my favorite. Maybe a top 5 overall brand, but even the logo on its own deserves a spot in the top 10.
Nathan (11): Man… When I think of the Raptors all I can see is Damon Stoudamire in a purple pinstriped jersey with a giant red dinosaur plastered on the chest, and I love it. The mid 90’s expansion teams (Vancouver and Toronto) proved that the NBA’s tradition of weirdness would continue. This newer rendition of the brand takes itself a little more seriously. It’s nice and approachable, but the 1996 original is still so much better.
8. (Tie) New York Knicks
Nathan (8): Another classic. I would understand if an NBA outsider saw this logo and thought it was hideous, but like the Bulls, Lakers, Sixers, it’s just so burned in my mind that it’s hard not to like it. It’s King Kong-ish-looking type is kind of cheesy New York, but it just makes sense. The Knicks brand is definitely in the middle of the pack (or near the bottom) when it comes to ranking New York sports brands, though. Especially in a city that may have the most iconic set of team brands when considering the Yankees, The Mets, Rangers, Giants, Jets, Islanders and Nets.
Andrew (10): This is a great logo that should have been even better. Michael Doret created some incredible designs for the original Knicks logo, only to have them watered down to the current version. His designs were so good they were able to survive and remain a classic mark, but knowing the history makes it sad. The logo still captures the spirit of NYC and the sense of looking up at towering skyscrapers. The superhero-esque shield works brilliantly and the secondary marks are some of the best in the league.
10. Indiana Pacers
Nathan (17): I think my initial rating was a little harsh; 17 is a little low. This isn’t a bad brand ,I just don’t think it’s ever quite fully come together. Now, they slap the generic circled text seal around it and it’s supposed to make it better? I will say their new alternate logo and jerseys are definitely a big step in the right direction.
Andrew (4): Okay, what the Hell, Nathan…seventeen!? First of all, they didn’t just slap a circle around it, they’ve had that mark since ’05, and just promoted it to the primary logo, as it deserves. It’s clean, the lines on the ball hint at the mascot without being overbearing, it stays true to their classic looks, and their alternate logos are amazing. This is top five for sure.
11. (Tie) Sacramento Kings
Andrew (11): I’ve never been a huge fan of this brand. I hate purple and gray together—and their previous mark was an unmitigated disaster—but, I have to admit, I kinda love their new logo. It’s an excellent update to their old one, which goes all the way back to the Kansas City Kings. They’ve improved the line-work and spacing, and the new type fits the style, although I love the classic type. The only thing missing is to fully embrace their history and permanently go back to red and blue.
Nathan (12): This update is a decent improvement over the White Chocolate era, weird pointy cartoon Game of Thrones-looking emblem. They’ve definitely had better looks in the past, like the Mitch Richmond 90’s royal blue and red jerseys. Much like the actual team, the Kings and their brand are crap. I kind of think they need a complete reboot.
11. (Tie) Brooklyn Nets
Nathan (14): When the Nets moved to Brooklyn, I think we all assumed the new brand would be simple and clean, probably black and white. You don’t have to try too hard when you have “Brooklyn” in your name. But it looks like they wanted to avoid giving the team any personality. I like the simplicity of the entire brand but I’m judging them by this crest so they don’t get a high ranking. The dimensional ball doesn’t fit the style and if your name is the “Nets” wouldn’t you want some semblance of a net in your logo?
Andrew (9): This one is tough. The problem is that all of their alternate logos are better than the primary mark. It’s a great brand, and feels prestigous and modern in a way no other team pulls off, but the main logo is just badly executed. The spacing and type are tough to look at. It only ranks this high because we are ranking these as logo sets. The primary mark would be bottom ten otherwise. And just think we were so close to having the Swamp Dragons!
12. Detroit Pistons
Andrew (16): This is like trying to judge a blank piece of paper. Technically, it’s doing its job, but man is it boring. When faced with two past design styles, one gaudy, the other criminally bland, maybe it’s time to start from scratch. It is an improvement in execution over their most recent iteration, but man… it is aggressively boring.
Nathan (9): Nah, Pistons were top 10 for me. I appreciate the simplicity. I’m also really happy they got rid of the corniest logo in NBA history: the flaming horse combined with the S’s in the word Pistons that turned into mufflers, You don’t even have to know what I’m talking about to laugh at the way that sounds.
14. (Tie) Washington Wizards
Andrew (13): I didn’t realize how much I liked this one until we started. But it actually has some nice elements, and is well executed. Could be better, but it is a surprisingly pleasant logo.
Nathan (15): Formerly the Bullets, which is the funniest thing to think about, Washington DC’s first two pro sports team names amazingly were the Bullets and Redskins… For some reason the Redskins name still exists but we’re here to talk about the Wizards. This is a nice logo, it’s definitely better than the older version of the wizard in a Santa Claus hat doing a finger roll but it doesn’t matter because it’s still so odd. The Washington monument paired with a basketball and the idea of a magical bearded man will never be really cool to me.
14. (Tie) San Antonio Spurs
Andrew (15): I love this year’s update. It’s a nice way to modernize and clean up a classic logo, and freeing the words from the bulky plaque, combined with improved learning, lets it breathe finally. The simple mark fits the team’s character as well. It feels Western without beating you over the head. Writing this now I wish this one was higher.
Nathan (13): They should change the logo to Greg Popovich’s face. This is one of the NBA’s most lovable brands, on and off the court. This new rendition of the logo is a major improvement over the last version that was big, clunky, and too busy. I would love to see them use more of the turquoise, pink, and orange in certain spots. Those colors are so great, they make you want to eat tacos and drink margaritas.
16. (Tie) Charlotte Hornets
Andrew (12): I liked this one a lot more than you, Nathan. When they rebranded they smartly kept what might be the best color palette in sports, and came up with a pretty slick up update on the hornet. Yes, the old mark had more character, but go back and look at it. 90’s nostalgia and starter jackets have blinded us to the fact that it was actually a pretty terrible logo. Fun, but terrible. The new mark and supplemental logos are a well-done example of animal-based modern NBA logo design.
Nathan (20): Whatever Andrew… the old logo is so great. You make some solid points, yes I do get wrapped up in nostalgia but how could you not? The old logo was one of the greatest symbols of the greatest era in NBA basketball. Grandmama, Muggsy, Zo, the pinstripes, the colors. The logo needs to be a little obnoxious; a hornet is 1/1000th the size of a basketball. There are enough sports brands taking themselves too seriously, this new Hornets brand is just another one added to the list.
16. (Tie) Boston Celtics
Nathan (10): Top 10 for me… it’s so weird, so uncommon, and goofy that it’s good. At this point, it’s a very “understood” symbol. I would prefer they go back to just 3 colors, it looks way better with fewer colors. If the Celtics ever go away from this look it will be a bad sign for the entire NBA brand. You have to stay true to truly legendary brands like this.
Andrew (22): I’m glad this one fell near the middle because I had no idea how to rank it. On one hand, I love this history and character of this mark. On the other, should something bad get bonus points just for staying around for a long time? I said no, Nathan said yes, so sixteen is a good compromise.
18. Phoenix Suns
Andrew (20): Why did they drop the purple!? WHY!? The purple and orange combo was unique and fit perfectly. Fortunately, they’ve stuck with purple as the primary color in most of their branding, but if we’re only judging their main logo then they lose a ton of points for switching to black.
Nathan (18): I am with you, Andrew. The purple was crucial. If you look at the evolution of this brand, it reminds you that technology or modern style doesn’t usually improve the look of things; it actually makes it worse sometimes. The beveled font is unnecessary, the shadowing is unnecessary, and the clunky black box around the entire logo is unnecessary. Keep it simple.
19. New Orleans Pelicans
Andrew (17): Points for embracing a bizarre mascot. Points for a well executed set of logos. The problem is it doesn’t work for a sports team. The whole mark feels more like it belongs to a (pretty good) chain restaurant (maybe one that serves pelican), or as a movie theater marquee, just not a sports team.
Nathan (22): Yes, I love the strangeness of going with a local, slow, stupid looking animal with a pouch for a neck as your mascot, but the execution is just too much. It’s gaudy and it tries too hard. In an odd way, the Pelicans could’ve been a really cool brand but this logo is a flop.
20. Golden State Warriors
Andrew (21): A good logo until you actually look at it. One, I hate Copperplate Gothic, it should only be used by small-town banks and sketchy real estate firms. Two, this logo is the lame version of all the great previous Warriors logos (mid 2000’s excluded), just use one of those if you want. Three, I hate Copperplate Gothic.
Nathan (19): Can’t disagree with a word that Andrew said. Another example of logo idiocracy; they get worse over time. Why is “Golden State” so small at the top of the crest? Why is Warriors so much bigger at the bottom? Why use Copperplate Gothic? This is a brand you can’t go wrong with and it looks like an intern in the front office slapped the current logo together in 20 mins. It’s sloppy and thoughtless. If you look at the lineage of logos this current logo comes from (like Andrew said excluding the weird late 90’s tangent) it makes this logos current state a little sadder. Go back to “The City” logo NOW!
21. (Tie) Memphis Grizzlies
Andrew (18): Nathan ranked this one a lot lower than me. I do miss the old colorful version, but I think this is a decent execution of a modern animal-based sports logo, with a pretty unique color palette. I love that they mostly just use the tints of one color. Also, bring back Vancouver, this mascot makes no sense in Memphis.
Nathan (25): The original is just better. Again. I’m a broken record. This new one isn’t bad, but it lacks character. It looks like any Bear or Bruin mascot. And don’t get me talking about this color scheme. It’s boring, it has nothing to do with their very short history, and it’s the exact same color scheme as the Nuggets. They need a hard restart.
21. (Tie) Miami Heat
Andrew (27): This one earns difficulty points for representing the abstract concept of heat. You lose points for most everything else. I guess I like the typography and the colors, but the logo itself is not good.
Nathan (16): The logo isn’t terrible but the rest of the brand is just boring. I mean, it’s boring to the point I don’t even know what to talk about here. The team is named after a temperature. Their G League team should be called “Warm”.
23. Houston Rockets
Nathan (21): I’ll get this dad joke out of the way :”Houston, the Rockets logo has a problem.” Nondescript, amateur and dated. I actually hate the logo that Andrew is referring to (the mid 90’s -2000’s Rockets logo). I think it might have something to do with watching the dying careers of some of my favorite childhood players: Olajuwon, Drexler and Chuck. I say go with the bold Ketchup and Mustard color palette that represents the propulsion of a rocket. Plus, other than the Kansas City Chiefs, no pro sports team in America has been bold enough to adopt the Mickey D’s color scheme.
Andrew (24): Meh. Your mascot is a damn rocket. Give me a logo with at least a little energy. The 90’s version at least had attitude and energy that fit the idea of a ship using explosions to launch into space. The new mark is devoid of personality and energy. And what’s up with the thin black shadow behind it? Why?
24. Cleveland Cavaliers
Nathan (28): This is the quintessential American basketball team logo trying to look like a European soccer team logo and it’s failing. Please stop trying. The Cavs seem to be historically lost when it comes to design direction. They had a moment of brilliance with the orange and blue era during the mid 80’s-90’s, but they’ve been floundering ever since.
Andrew (19): You hated this one Nathan, but I think it’s alright-ish, and the new crest is definitely an improvement over the previous version. The main problems are the current color palette, and the “C” that looks like it came from a large scary man’s back tattoo that says “Charlene.”
25. Denver Nuggets
Andrew (26): Sigh… this logo has the opposite problem of the Pistons, the team’s two previous brands are both incredible and iconic. You could revive either one! Rainbow mountains! Insane basketball-playing miner! Use those! But nope, instead they chose a corny version of a wild west logo and stole Marquette’s brand.
Nathan (23): Becuase of Denver’s more recent reputation, the name is priceless but their logo leaves a lot to be desired. The design possibilities are endless and they’re stuck with a mundane expected look and feel. There isn’t a more obvious reboot brand in sports. It’s like the Nuggets have the coolest outfit ever that everyone compliments every time they bust it out in their closet but, they insist on wearing khaki pants. The Rainbow brand has to come back at some point, everybody is rooting for it.
26. Oklahoma City Thunder
Andrew (25): I love this year’s update. It’s a nice way to modernize and clean up a classic logo, and freeing the words from the bulky plaque, combined with improved learning lets it breathe finally. The simple mark fits the team’s character as well. It feels western without beating you over the head. Writing this now I wish this one was higher.
Nathan (27): Crap. When you lose one of the best sports brands of all time the Seattle SuperSonics for this….THIS… I don’t know how to talk about it. If it weren’t for some of their players, specifically Russell Westbrook, this team would have zero personality. When Russell leaves I see this brand collapsing (or maybe it’ll be time for a good rebrand).
27. Orlando Magic
Andrew (23): I should have ranked this turd lower. It’s about as 90’s as the pinstripes they use. Sometimes a retro feel can work, sometimes you end up with the Magic logo. I guess it’s sort of well executed? Are there even Orlando fans out there? Maybe that’s how they’ve gotten away with this nonsense for so long.
Nathan (29): I assume the idea to name the team “Magic” comes from being neighbors with Disney. That’s cool…. well, this brand sucks. Again, since they started as an expansion team, their look has only gotten worse and worse. It’s like whoever is designing this has no idea how to make the idea of magic look cool and they’re giving up.
28. Los Angeles Clippers
Andrew (29): Did you know the Clippers’ logo was done by the Miami Heat design team? No? Well, it was, and it’s trash. Why do you ask? Because the Clipper’s internal design team asked for a normal amount of time for the rebrand, so Gillian Zucker (the Clippers’ current President of Business Operations) had the Miami Heat team do it in 6 weeks. And it shows. Why is there black you ask again? Because Zucker thought Miami’s black uniforms were cool. akwjg;oahjwgh;owrghorweoh—Sorry, that was me banging my head against the keyboard. This logo checks every box of a nightmare project. The saddest part is that the old San Diego Clippers, and even the LA Clippers have a rich design history to draw from. There’s only one logo I thought was worse…
Nathan (24): In complete agreement with Andrew. The Clippers went from a team with some of the best design heritages (although, they were never any good at winning games) of any brand in the league to one of the worst in sports. And if you look into the story of how they got to their new brand it makes it even worse. Normally you at least applaud teams and management for making a bold move but when the Clippers revealed their new look I think every NBA fan with any brain booed loudly.
29. Dallas Mavericks
Andrew (30): This gets my vote for the worst logo of all. Somehow it’s simultaneously chalked full of fun things (horses, stars, basketballs) and yet devastatingly boring (I’ve almost run out of adverbs to put in front of “boring” for the bottom of this list). It’s confusing, and every single part of it is done badly all the way down to the typography. I mean, you’re called the Mavericks, is that horse a maverick? Do they know what a maverick is? I’m fairly certain horses wouldn’t be considered mavericks. This whole thing is making my head hurt. I hate this logo.
Nathan (26): The Mavericks style is a guy who wants to be a sneaker-head but only shops at Shoe Carnival. The Mavericks style is a 2013 Bud Light can. The Mavericks style is a Dallas strip-club steakhouse. Mark Cuban maybe be an entrepreneurial genius, but when it comes to branding a team, he’s clueless. This logo is a picture of what’s wrong with American sports branding. Please go back to the “M” wearing a cowboy hat ASAP.
30. Minnesota Timberwolves
Nathan (30): It’s bad when you just rebranded and you’re immediately in last place. While some of their jerseys are incredible, the Timberwolves have never been a phenomenal brand in logo form, but this brand new look is a pair of sketchers when you were expecting a pair of Jordans. There was so much potential here and they pooped out a little league, generic, watered down, poorly weighted, characterless crest. The only thing kind of good to come out of this new look is their new jerseys which are pretty sweet.
Andrew (28): Ugh… They neutered the wolf and stripped the mark of any personality. It vaguely recalls the original early 90’s logo, but feels closer to what a Walmart brand NBA logo would look like. Take note from Memphis if you want to know how to use two shades of blue and a highlight color. Take note from the Bulls or Bucks if you want an animal with personality. Just don’t take anything from this logo. The wolf is my favorite animal, so this hurts even more. Ugh, again.