It was 1969. The National Basketball Association was locked in a bitter battle against its upstart rival, the American Basketball Association. At stake: fans, players, media — and millions of dollars.
The NBA turned to Alan Siegel, founder of Siegel+Gale.
Seeking inspiration, Siegel pored through the photo archives of Sport magazine. A particular photo of the All-Star Jerry West grabbed his attention: It was dynamic, it was vertical, it captured the essence of the game.
Jerry West photo by the late Wen Roberts
The NBA is reluctant to acknowledge that it’s Jerry West in the logo, and Siegel, a lifelong basketball fan, believes he knows why.
“They want to institutionalize it rather than individualize it. It’s become such a ubiquitous, classic symbol and focal point of their identity and their licensing program that they don’t necessarily want to identify it with one player.”
NBA Commissioner David Stern, through a spokesman, declines to comment, saying he doesn’t know whether West is on the logo.
“There’s no record of it here,” spokesman Tim Frank says.
Today, this classic image generates $3 billion a year in licensing, and the NBA name symbolizes the pinnacle of excellence in professional basketball.
Jerry West wished it never got out that he’s the silhouette. “I don’t like to do anything that calls attention to myself.”
Top image via Michael Tipton.