DETROIT – Kyrie Irving is right.
It’s time for the NBA to change its logo by patterning it after one of its most notable Black players.
The only place where Irving might be wrong is in his choice of player.
The Brooklyn Nets guard on Wednesday launched the discussion with an Instagram post of a modified logo that featured late Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant as the logo model. Lakers star Jerry West served as the model for the NBA logo that Alan Siegel created in 1969 — though the league doesn’t officially recognize it’s West.
Half a century later, Irving thinks it’s time to update the logo.
“Gotta Happen,” he wrote to his more than 14 million followers on Instagram, “idc what anyone says. BLACK KINGS BUILT THE LEAGUE.”
During a postgame interview Thursday, Irving added more context about his proposal to feature Bryant as the logo.
“As a native Black man, as a native Black king,” Irving said, “I think it’s part of my responsibility to continue to push our generation, our culture, forward.
“I know that it probably was met with some people that love the idea and some people that don’t like it.
“He was the standard for our generation, and he will continue on, and I want that to be something in history that is changed forever, that our generation was part of that change.”
I understand Irving’s sentiment. He is smart to seize on the timing with Bryant’s popularity still sky high barely a year removed from his tragic death in a helicopter accident at age 41.
Bryant would be a fine choice, even though he has a complicated and controversial past that included a sexual assault case. But there are other choices that should be considered because the logo is a big deal with a complicated history and its fate and future deserved careful consideration. It shouldn’t be decided by a Twitter poll or any popularity contest of the moment. There should be a committee made up of past and present players, league executives and historians who can discuss options.
Former NBA commissioner David Stern never acknowledged the logo was based on West, even if everyone knows it is. But now there’s no going back. Removing a player as the logo would create a maelstrom of controversy.
There’s no question the logo must remain a player. And there should be no question it needs to become a Black player.
The NBA is overwhelmingly Black. According to a 2020 study by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports, 74.2% of the league’s players identified themselves as Black or African-American as of Nov. 1, 2019. But no one needs a spreadsheet to tell us what we already know. Black players are the backbone of the NBA and their contributions should be recognized and celebrated at the very least through the important symbolism of the league’s ubiquitous logo.
You won’t get much argument from West on this issue, either. He has never embraced being the logo and suggested during a 2017 ESPN interview it should be a silhouette of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s skyhook or Michael Jordan flying through the air or LeBron James dunking. ESPN went so far as to create some cool logo prototypes.
Irving, like any human, is subjectively biased to his own experience. He’s 28 and grew up watching and admiring Bryant. Come on, how can you not love a player known as the Black Mamba?
I grew up in Los Angeles in the 1980s hearing about how great Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain were. I watched Abdul-Jabbar’s beautiful and poetic skyhook, which Pat Riley accurately called “the greatest offensive weapon in sports.”
Magic Johnson helped save the NBA and was the happiest and most enthusiastic athlete I’ve ever watched compete in any sport. If there was a way to capture his smile and joy in silhouette, he might serve as the prototype for any logo in any sport on the planet.
But Jordan was the best basketball player I ever saw. When you consider his offense, his defense, his jaw-dropping athleticism and his dominance in the biggest of moments, he’s a tough act to follow.
In a 2015 interview with HuffPost, West first suggested Jordan as the new logo, even if he was loath to admit why. “I hate to say it’s not a Laker, but Michael Jordan,” West said. “He’s been the greatest player I’ve ever seen.”
Of course, paying royalties for a player’s Iikeness could be an issue. The NBA doesn’t pay West — it’s an unlicensed image. And getting the rights to use Jordan’s image would probably cost more than the combined net worth of Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Scrooge McDuck and Tony Stark.
I don’t know who the new logo will end up being. Any of these players make sense. Abdul-Jabbar is the all-time leading scorer. But James will probably pass him. Jordan was simply magnificent.
And then, of course, there’s Bryant. The timing could be perfect for making him the logo. The NBA has been one of the savviest leagues when it comes to public relations, and announcing a new logo will be modeled after Bryant during his May induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame may just be too good of a shot to pass up.
Wouldn’t that be perfectly fitting for Bryant’s legacy?
Follow Carlos Monarrez on Twitter @cmonarrez.