Do you look at the official NBA logo and think, ‘Who’s that person?’ The person in the NBA’s certified symbol is Jerry West, a former league player. He was born in May 1938 in Cheylan, West Virginia. He also earned the recognition of being the symbol for the NBA because of his achievements.
Although Jerry West is the person in NBA’s logo, it was a complicated relationship at first. West was enamored to become the official symbol of the league. However, it’s also embarrassing for him.
Did the NBA start with the Jerry West logo? Will the league change the player in the symbol to Kobe Bryant? Why is Jerry West in the logo? Find out the answers to these questions (and more) as you continue reading the article.
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Who is Jerry West?
Born on May 28, 1938, in Cheylan, West Virginia, Jerry Alan West is one of six children of Howard Stewart and Cecil Sue West. As a child, West lived a relatively ordinary life playing with his siblings. However, tragedy struck the family while West was 12 years old. David, his older brother, died in the Korean War. According to the NBA’s official biography for West, this ex-NBA player stated that the event forced him to develop coping mechanisms.
The incident also made West into a shy boy. As a cautious teen, he didn’t have plans to join his junior high sports teams. However, one sport existed that still lingered in his mind – basketball. Despite his reluctance in joining his school’s sports teams, West started a training program to help improve his basketball skills.
It was as if West became possessed by an unknown entity as he dedicated his free time to enhancing his basketball skills. He would train during any weather, including rain and snow. At times, he would go home and sleep but forget to eat dinner. Sometimes West didn’t even know the meaning of the word ‘tired’ as he sometimes practiced shooting until his arms bled.
Nonetheless, West’s hard work paid off because he made his high school’s varsity team. He was also the first basketball player of the East Bank High School to score a whopping 900 points in one season. The educational institution became highly captivated with the achievement that the school changed its name to West Bank for a week.
Jerry West in the NBA
The league had high hopes for Jerry West when he entered the NBA because of his many basketball achievements. However, West describes the experience as being a ‘fish out of water.’ His rookie year wasn’t impressive, and he had a tough time catching up to his seniors.
Thankfully, West’s second year as a professional NBA player improved. He became accustomed to the environment as he almost doubled his scoring output from the first year. West pumped out an average of 30.8 points per game, which is quite a difficult achievement to attain, even for long-time NBA athletes.
Aside from his amazing performance on the court, West’s fans noticed another endearing quality of the famous basketball superstar – his pain tolerance. Those extended periods of practicing shots and dribbling in the rain paid off as West was able to stay in the court longer than his peers. Additionally, it would take a while before West would start to feel during long matches.
West then garnered awards after awards throughout his time in the NBA. But in 1974, West retired from the league at the age of 36. However, the league would see West’s face two years later, and this time the ex-NBA player entered the association as the head coach for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Why is Jerry West on the NBA Logo?
Understanding the reason why Jerry West became the symbol for the NBA requires knowing why the league made this move.
It was 1969 when the NBA needed a logo to gain the upper hand against ABA. The NBA asked the help of Alan Siegel, the CEO of brand identity consultancy firm Siegelvision on how to design a logo that would look better than ABA’s symbol.
Siegel dedicated himself to researching different design inspirations. One day, while Siegel was looking through photos from the league, he chanced upon Jerry West dribbling. It was a ‘eureka’ moment and the idea stuck. Since that day, the NBA used a silhouette of Jerry West dribbling as the league’s official logo.
But why did Siegel choose this photo out of all the pictures he found?
The brand consultant saw West embody the essence of the entire professional basketball association in one image. At the time of writing, the appearance of the NBA’s logo is going nowhere, even when people are suggesting that the association change the player to Kobe Bryant.
Did Jerry West Refuse to be on the NBA Logo?
Imagine someone walking up to you and saying, ‘You’re going to be the next person to become the NBA’s logo!’ Most people would become excited and proud to take on the role and the same holds true for Jerry West.
West didn’t refuse to be the NBA logo, but embarrassment filled his being instead of excitement. According to the writer of West’s biography Jonathan Coleman, he said:
“The logo, this is not something he was at all seeking. It was Walter Kennedy’s idea. Walter felt it was important to have a brand for the league. Jerry’s proud to be the logo, but it’s also embarrassing to him, in equal measure.”
Also, West felt proud to be on the NBA’s logo at first. However, this pride turned to disappointment as people remembered the league’s official symbol more than his legacy. He thought that most people saw West as the NBA’s logo and not West as the hardworking former professional basketball player.
Eventually, West became upset and frustrated that he told the league to change the logo. He even suggested that players like Michael Jordan or Kareem Abdul Jabar replace him in the symbol. Despite West’s attempts to persuade the association to change the logo, his voice fell into deaf ears. Today, Jerry West is still the iconic basketball player in the NBA’s logo.
Will the NBA Change the Logo to Kobe Bryant?
Kobe Bryant’s tragic and untimely death in January 2020 made people think that he should be the one to replace Jerry West in the NBA’s official logo. Some players in the league, including Kyrie Irving, had the same idea as he posted the following on his Instagram account:
Although the idea was sound and the purpose was pure, the plan gained little traction. Still, changing West to Bryant in the logo would solve many concerns. One, it would grant West’s wish of no longer being the league’s official icon. Two, the league would now have a person of color representing it, which can be a better way to represent the racial diversity of the association.
However, Adam Silver, the NBA’s commissioner, said that ‘there are no ongoing discussions right now at the league office.’ The statement is, of course, about changing the league’s logo. This announcement happened in March 2021, which is fairly new at the time of writing.
What did the NBA Logo Look Like Before Jerry West?
The NBA didn’t have the Jerry West logo when the league started in 1946. Its first logo was a white ball with the words ‘National Basketball Association’ on it. A few years later, it became an orange ball with the league’s abbreviations. In 1962, the symbol changed into a white ball with black lines, but it still had the letters NBA on it. That symbol lasted for seven years before the association decided to change it to the Jerry West logo.
Despite some embarrassments and frustrations, Jerry West became and is still the player in the NBA logo. This former professional basketball player worked hard to achieve his goals, but many people today remember him as the logo and not the athlete. West wanted to change the logo for someone else, such as Jordan or Abdul Jabar, but the league didn’t push through with his requests. Today, the NBA’s logo remains the same even after many decades.