Logos are a big part of the NBA games, and each one has its backstory. The NBA league has its unique logo that has stood for many years. The individual teams in the league also have their logos that can highlight their cities, connect from a fantastic team name or evolve from ABA lineage.
You’ll be surprised to learn some of the exciting histories of some of these logos and how they’ve changed over the years. Check out all you need to know about the G-League Logo, NBA logo, and the team logos in the NBA league.
Check out the history of all the teams’ logos in the NBA League.
NBA Atlantic Division Teams Logos
This team is about the history of Boston, where many people have Irish roots. In the 40s, the logo had a white shamrock on a green background which is the symbol of Ireland.
When the Celts got a mascot, it was an Irish leprechaun with a pipe and a cane. This logo carries the team’s identity to this day.
One of the teams in the NBA that has gone through several iterations of their logo is the Brooklyn Nets since when they were previously known as the New Jersey Americans. They’ve had at least eight logos in the past 80 years, with the one currently in use since 2012 when they moved to Brooklyn.
Before that, they used the same logo from 1998 with a shield design and a ring around the shield. Notably, its logo in 1997 only lasted a year, and it featured a red, white, and blue gradient with “Nets” written at the top of a basketball gradient.
New York Knicks
The Knicks’ origins go back to 1946, with their original Knickerbockers logo being “Father Knickerbocker,” dribbling a blue, orange, and white basketball. They made alterations to the logo in 1964, introducing “KNICKS,” which they have retained in the logo variations in 1979, 1983 and 1989, 1992 till date.
They have been using their current logo since 2011, which has a “NEW YORK”, the “KNICKS” below it and an orange basketball at the bottom.
The club started at Syracuse in 1946 with the name National and the logo was in the form of the United States map. The club was sold and then moved to Philadelphia in 1776, the year the American Declaration of Independence was signed, and the club was named Philadelphia 76ers.
They made the logo with a red and blue palette in the shape of 76 and stars forming a circle around it. The concept remains the same today with a few adjustments.
As a result of the movie Jurassic Park raising interest in dinosaurs in 1993, the Toronto Raptors have their origins in Canada. The initial logo consists of a raptor wearing a T-shirt with the letter R written on it with a ball shown on the logo. The designer used a circle decorated with rims to encase the raptor.
The logo has gone through several edits, and the team significantly changed it a couple of years ago. The most recent logo was unveiled in 2020 with a black, red and white color palette. It has a black background with a red basketball in the middle, white lettering and the badge in a wide white outline which gives it a classy look.
NBA Central Division Teams Logos
This is one of the most identifiable and expensive logos in the NBA, and it hadn’t changed since 1966 when they first chose it. The name is related to the history of Chicago, the location of a famous slaughterhouse.
The name vibrantly depicts how tough the Chicago Bulls players are, comparing it to the kick of a bull. They chose an aggressive theme with red, white, and black colors.
You can trace the first Cavalier’s logo back to 1970, which features a swashbuckling cavalier in red with “CAVALIERS” on the top and “CLEVELAND” on the bottom. In 1984 they changed to use “CAVS” on their logo and changed the logo again in 1995 to feature an orange and black basketball.
Today, they use a logo with a shield design, showing a wine and gold outline with their full name at the top of the shield.
When the club originated in 1939, it took its name from its owner as Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons club, but when he moved to Detroit in 1957, they changed the name to Detroit Pistons. The first logo had a cartoon character made of pistons.
From the end of the 50s, the logo has become more simplistic. It has its name “Detroit Pistons” written on the background, which was a ball, and only have made only minor changes till today.
The inaugural Pacers logos back in 1967 had a white hand grabbing a yellow basketball in a blue “P.” After that, they changed the logo in 1976 with just a minor color change. In 1990, they opted for a navy blue “P” and gave the basketball more lines with yellow streaks.
Today, they use the logo from their 2017 redesign, which has the same “P” from the 2005 logo in the middle of a gold ring and a white background.
In a competition held to determine the best name for the club by fans, “buck” is the name that won the contest because it is related to speed and agility; a buck has been the team’s mascot for many years.
Milwaukee Bucks have had four logos over the years. The first being the best, it was a deer in a sweater with the alphabet “B .”Then, 25 years later, the buck looked more aggressive and was given massive horns, but it still retains two significant components; the animal’s dicky resembles an “M,” and the space between the horns looks like hands holding a ball.
NBA Southeast Division Teams Logos
The Atlanta Hawks didn’t always have that name. This team started as Buffalo Bisons in 1946, New York, before they moved to Moline, III, changing their name to Tri-Cities Blackhawks.
It wasn’t until 1968 when the team moved to Atlanta, keeping the same Hawk logo from 1957 during their run as Milwaukee Hawks. In 1972, a “reverse Pacman” logo look had “Atlanta Hawks” transcribed in red at the logo bottom. Their current logo is reminiscent of that, but it has the “Atlanta Hawks Basketball” encircled in red.
Initially, Charlotte Hornets started as an expansion team in 1988. It started with a logo of a teal hornet dribbling a basketball. In 2004 they became the Bobcats, which was accompanied by adding “BOBCATS” to their logos.
However, in 2014 they went back to being Hornets changing their logo again to include a fierce-looking hornet with a menacing stare. Today, this is their current logo.
There haven’t been that many changes to the Miami Heat logo -they’ve had just two. Miami Heat’s first logo in 1988 is a flaming basketball going through a black hoop with the words “MIAMI HEAT” at the bottom and the “T” having a small flame at the edge.
The current logo of the Miami Heat basketball club goes as far back as 1999 and takes inspiration from the original concept. In this interpretation, the flaming basketball is red, and the end of the flame has a distinct orange color as it passes through a white hoop.
You can trace the first Orlando Magic logo back to 1989, mainly a spelling of “Magic” in blue, with a silver star replacing the “A.” This logo stayed till around 2000 when they got another logo with a smaller “Orlando,” which has a start in place of Alike the previous logo.
In 2010, they changed the logo yet again and ditched the trend of the stars replacing the “A” and “I.” Instead, this new logo uses a unique blue font with “Magic” and “Orlando” at the top in black. It also brings back the shooting-star basketball in the 2001 logo, but shorter this time. There has been no logo change since then.
The club was founded in the 60s with Chicago packers as its name, it moved to Baltimore a while later, and they changed the name to Baltimore bullets. The most identifiable logo for the club is the one with the letters “LL,” which became hands reaching for the ball.
They changed the name to Capital Bullets after the club moved to Washington in the 70s and later on to Washington Bullets; the negative affiliations of the word “bullet” made them rebrand to Washington Wizards. The logo is a patriotic red and blue ball, and its seams look like the Washington Parliament.
NBA Northwest Division Teams Logos
Like many other teams on this list, the Denver Nuggets changed their name, previously known as the Denver Rockets, as far back as 1967. Then their logo was just a red basketball with the words “ROCKETS” in black lettering and encased in a black rectangle.
It wasn’t until 1974 that they had their first “Denver Nuggets” logo with a miner with a red beard, an ax in his right hand, and a basketball on his left. The current logo that you and I are familiar with wasn’t until 2018. This had two gold pickaxes crossing each other with a mountain peak at the top where all the axes meet.
The original Minnesota Timberwolves’ logo has its roots in 1989 with an aggressive wolf in blue and white inside a green ring at the top of a gray basketball and blue outline. There was a revamp of this logo in 1996, incorporating elements of a half-silver, half-black menacing wolf on both sides.
Its current logo was unveiled in 2017 and featured a blend of navy and blue and gray colors.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Previously known as the Seattle SuperSonics, the logo unveiled in 1967 had a space needle in a green basketball. It had a revamp in 1970 and another in 1971 featuring an all-green logo.
The Sonics era ended in 2008 when they adopted the Oklahoma City Thunder name and unveiled a new logo. This one looks like a shield and has “OKC” written across in white and a basketball behind it.
Portland Trail Blazers
Portland Trail Blazers’ first logo goes as far back as 1970, featuring a trailblazing track, a black at the top and red at the bottom. It wasn’t until 1990 that they made another change, making the trailblazing path smaller and switching the colors from bottom to top.
From then, they had one-off logos in the years 2002 and 2003. In 2004, they slightly modified their logo, which stayed till 2017. Since 2017, there has been no change, and this is their current logo with an animated tail logo featuring red at the top and white at the bottom.
The history of this club starts in the 70s in New Orleans, which is one of the Jazz capitals. The homeland of the “Jazzmen defines the musical concept of their brand identity.”
The first logo was text-based and had the letter “J” look like both a ball and a note; the designers stuck the image to what Utah is known for, which is its mountains. In 2015, the Jazz mascot came back with some changes: using rich yellow, green, and blue colors to paint it.
NBA Pacific Division Teams Logos
Golden State Warriors
Originally called Philadelphia Phyllis, this team started in Philadelphia, but they changed its name to the Warriors two years later. They kept the symbol for 24 years.
The new name “Golden State Warriors” was given after the club moved to San Francisco. Ever since the move, the logo had always had a bridge or bay outline, except when they changed the logo to a warrior holding lightning.
Today, the logo remains a yellow ring in a dark blue background and an outline of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Los Angeles Clippers
This club’s name has gone from Buffalo Braves to San Diego Clippers to Los Angeles Clippers. In the 70s, it had a bull standing on a ball surrounded by feathers as its logo; the logo designers used three triangles to represent a sail and a circle for the sun when it sets.
In the 80s, they changed the logo to a ball with “Los Angeles Clippers” and some horizontal stripes. The concept hasn’t changed, but now the logo has the name “Clippers” written boldly and curved lines to represent the sea’s horizon.
Los Angeles Lakers
As a result of the many lakes Minneapolis is known for, this team got called the Minneapolis Lakers. The logo used to be the picture of the state on a yellow ball with the words “MLP Lakers” written on it.
They moved to Los Angeles in 1960 and rebranded, changing the logo to a golden basketball with the name “Los Angeles Lakers” written in purple, which is its official logo today.
Phoenix Suns have its origins in Arizona, and it sure shows in their logo. Arizona is one of the sunniest places in the United States. The company leaders didn’t like the first painting by the artist, which cost $5,000, but the one done and accepted later only cost $200.
The logo was a sun-shaped ball with the name “Phoenix Suns” drawn in purple and orange. Forty-five years later, the palette is still the same though they corrected it at different times. The team presented a different version with a black background in 2013.
This team has changed both its cities and names severally. It was initially called the Rochester Royals in 1945. The logo was made by writing the name on a purple logo shaped like a shield. They moved to Cincinnati, and the name was changed to Cincinnati kings, with a smiling basketball as its mascot.
The club moved to Sacramento, and they changed their names again but not the team’s identity. In 1944, they made the logo more aggressive. The crown had crossed spears, and “Sacramento Kings” was written on the frame, but they got a more modern shape a couple of years back.
The updated logo has a half-cut ball, the crown and a lettering of the ‘SACRAMENTO KINGS.’ Rodney Richardson, the designer, used a combination of purple and silver for this logo and expanded the white lines.
NBA Southwest Division Teams Logos
The Dallas Mavericks started with a logo in 1980 showing a light green basketball and a blue M on the top right as a cowboy hat. In 1994, there was an upgrade to the logo highlighting the “DALLAS MAVERICKS” in solid blue, completely removing the green outline.
Their most recent logo draws influence from the 2002 logo, including a shield, stallion head, and the name sweeping outward over the basketball. However, some slight color iterations have made the shield a darker gray.
The name “Rockets” was decided due to where the club originates; it was first in San Diego, where the “Atlas rockets were made, then moved to Houston, where Nasa’s space center is.
The design has changed six times from the 60s to the point of no recognition; different balls, rockets, and even a cartoon character with a rocket behind. The current logo is text-based. A letter R in red is the main attraction on a red and black ball circled by “Houston Rockets.”
This is a Vancouver team, and a grizzly became its mascot. They moved the team to Memphis, but they kept the symbol.
The grizzly logo has had fixed components since 1995. A grizzly growled and held the ball with its paw. Now there is a large nose with two shades of blue and yellow eyes.
New Orleans Pelicans
This team started in 2002 when former Charlotte Hornets owner George Shinn switched franchises and used the name New Orleans Hornets. Its original logo had “‘NEW ORLEANS” at the top with a hornet dribbling a lighter yellow-colored basketball.
In 2013, they changed their name to the Pelicans, upgrading their logo to the current one. The current logo features gold, white, dark blue and red colors with an inscription of “New Orleans” written at the top.
San Antonio Spurs
This team was initially called Dallas Chaparrals from the 40s to the 70s, later referred to as Texas Chaparrals. The name was changed to San Antonio Spurs as a tribute in 1973 to bring more fans.
Its first set of three logos had the Californian Earth-cuckoo with a ball. Since the 70s, the spur, which has a distinct letter “U,” has become its dominant logo.
Related Read: Basketball Teams in Texas (NBA & NCAA)
NBA League Logo
The NBA logo has been attributed to a player’s silhouette dribbling the ball for over five decades. However, before that, it had a ball logo with red writing of the National Basketball Association from 1950 to 1953. In 1953, there was another chance to the logo, which represented a red ball with NBA written in white across. This lasted until around 1962, when the logo changed to a white ball with black stripes and the NBA black.
It wasn’t until 1969 that the logo changed to the iconic logo we’ve come to know and love today. Alan Siegel designed the present logo with inspiration from Jerry West after searching through several editions of sports magazines. The NBA logo shows that it has red, white, and blue colors, which they chose to appeal to the patriotism of NBA viewers.
And even though Jerry West doesn’t get acknowledgment as the face of the logo, it is generally accepted that it is him. However, there have been recent movements clamoring for the change of the silhouette to Kobe Bryant’s.
Read More: NBA Teams Without a Championship
The G-league became what it is today after the partnership with Gatorade in the 2017-2018 season, effectively changing its name from the D-League. Its original logo in 2001 had a green and blue vertically oriented badge and a white silhouette of a basketball player jumping and putting the ball in a basket. You can see the white NBDL lettering on the bottom right corner of this logo.
In 2015, there was a new logo after a redesign that switched its color palette from blue to red, removed the lettering from the emblem, and positioned it on the right side of the logo on three levels. It had the “NBA Development League” wordmark in a bold sans-serif typeface with a bit of italicized letters.
However, the logo didn’t last for long, and in 2017 there was a revised logo marking their new partnership with Gatorade. This new logo has a white silhouette mid-dunking but against a white background in this logo. It has the outline of a basketball player framed by a vertical rectangle with rounded corners. Also, you will find a G in the logo with a lightning bolt in the right-hand corner. Since then, the logo has remained unchanged.
Also Read: What is the G League Salary?
There you have it! We have gone through the history of some of these logos, and some were quite interesting, considering how radically the logos changed. Name changes were not uncommon in the past, and that usually influenced the logo too.