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.
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.