The idea of changing the NBA logo to Kobe is a wonderful sentiment — but it’s not happening

Dan Wetzel
Columnist

More than two million people (and climbing fast) have signed an online petition asking the NBA to change its logo to feature Kobe Bryant, who was among nine people who died Sunday in a helicopter accident just north of Los Angeles.

“With the untimely and unexpected passing of the great Kobe Bryant, please sign this petition in an attempt to immortalize him forever as the new NBA logo,” the petition reads.

The sentiment is nice. The loss of Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gigi, has saddened and depressed millions of people around the world, basketball players and fans perhaps the most. And there is no question that Kobe was one of the greatest and most iconic players of all time. 

Over a two-decade career with the Los Angeles Lakers he won five NBA titles and inspired a generation of young players. That will likely continue, because it wasn’t just his ferociously competitive game that spoke to young athletes, but the concise and precise way he articulated his desire to work and win. Those messages will live on YouTube.

That said … it isn’t going to happen. 

Kobe Bryant shoots a jumper against Jason Kidd and the Knicks in December 2012. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)

Start with this: The NBA won’t even officially acknowledge that its current logo, which has been used since 1969, is based on former Lakers star Jerry West. This despite the fact that the logo’s designer, Alan Siegel, has often said he used a picture of West as the inspiration for the design. 

Doesn’t matter. The NBA has never said its logo features a specific player.

The reasons are myriad, mostly legal and financial. West has never tried to cash in on his likeness, and for the past few years even publicly wished the league would change the logo and use someone else. 

West was a great player, a 14-time All-Star who won a title with the Lakers in 1972. He later captured eight more titles as an executive, six with the Lakers and two with Golden State. At 81, though, he’s never felt comfortable being the logo of the NBA.

“I don’t like to do anything to call attention to myself,” West told ESPN. “And when people say that, it’s just who I am, period. If they would want to change it, I wish they would. In many ways, I wish they would.”

West has suggested in the past the league change the logo to Michael Jordan, considered by many the greatest player of all time and certainly one of the most influential players in league history. 

The NBA has never expressed any interest in that change. Again, it has nothing to do with Jordan. It has to do with picking anyone. 

Sources familiar with the league’s thinking said there is no interest in having an individual player as its logo because there are so many who have been instrumental in the growth of the game and the NBA. Generic is better.

Besides, the best logo for Jordan would have to be him soaring through the air, legs spread, about to dunk the ball. In other words, the logo for Nike’s Jumpman brand. So, that’s already taken.

If the league was going to pick a player, Bryant would certainly be on the short list, at least based on his accomplishments as a player. He isn’t alone. Magic Johnson was an impactful talent. So was Larry Bird. Bill Russell. Julius Erving. LeBron James. And so on. Tim Duncan won five titles during Kobe’s era as well, and while his game was based on being the “Big Fundamental,” how do you pick?

A rendition of what a Kobe logo might look like. (Yahoo Sports Canada)

You don’t. 

The NBA won’t even say what everyone thinks is true: The guy dribbling in the logo looks exactly like an old photo of Jerry West dribbling, which the logo designer says he looked at before designing the logo that is, in fact, Jerry West.

The NBA certainly isn’t going to now go with Kobe Bryant, no matter how raw the feelings or how pure the sentiment or how many people join the online petition.

The league should find a way to immortalize Bryant. Maybe it’s naming the All-Star Game MVP trophy after him (he did win it four times, tied with Bob Pettit for most of all time). Maybe it’s working with a legacy community service project in his honor. 

There is time to think it over, work with his family and come up with an ideal plan. This is a week for mourning. 

In the long term, though, the logo isn’t changing. 

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