The best guide to all NBA team logos and their history
You don’t need to be an avid follower of the world’s biggest basketball teams to be familiar with NBA team logos. The emblems of world-renowned basketball leaders have earned incredible acclaim across the globe, thanks to their unique designs, bright colors, and fun mascots.
Brimming with passion, meaning, and power, NBA logos are more than just icons used to differentiate players in world leading competitions.
Just like leading companies around the world, teams in the National Basketball Association league use their logos to connect with fans and audiences on an emotional level.
These impactful emblems tell crucial stories about the origins of the teams, the cities they represent, and even the values of the individual players. Today, we’re going to be taking a closer look at the complete collection of NBA team logos from across the landscape.
Read on to learn how the best logos not only inspire players, but motivate and engage fans too.
Exploring basketball team logos: What is the NBA?
Before we dive into our list of all the amazing NBA team logos in the world today, it’s worth taking a closer look at the National Basketball Association itself.
The NBA is one of the most well-known professional basketball leagues in North America, composed of 30 teams (1 in Canada, and 29 in the United States). It’s considered the leading basketball league in the world today.
Initially, the league was founded in New York City, in 1946, as the “Basketball Association of America”, or “BAA”. In 1949, the name of the league was updated to the “National Basketball Association”, after a merger with the competing group, the National Basketball League.
In 1976, the American Basketball Association, and NBA also merged, adding additional franchises to the group’s seasonal runs. Today, the NBA is an active member of the USA Basketball group, recognized as the national governing body for basketball competitions in the US.
The complete list of all NBA team logos
As mentioned above, there are a total of 30 teams currently operating in the NBA today. Each team has its own unique logo, often inspired by the name of the team, and the city or location they represent.
Let’s take a closer look at all of the amazing NBA team logos in use today.
1. Atlanta Hawks
First founded in 1946, the Atlanta Hawks are a member of the NBA’s Eastern Conference Southeast Division. The team’s origins date back to the “Buffalo Bisons” of 1946. After a short time in Buffalo, the team moved to Illinois, and were renamed the “Tri-Cities BlackHawks”.
Though the team has changed location numerous times over the years, the “Hawks” element of the title has remained consistent with the group since 1946.
The Atlanta Hawks utilize a bold, badge-style symbol, featuring a red circle, with a white hawk design in the center. The name of the team is inscribed around the border of the badge in confident, serif-style letters.
2. Boston Celtics
The Boston Celtics also joined the NBA in 1946, as one of the eight initial teams in the competition. The Celtics original logo was designed by the brother of the Celtics head coach, Red Auerbach, Zang Auerbach.
Initially, the team used the colors of white, green, and black, before updating their mascot-style logo with more colors and details.
The mascot in the emblem, named Lucky, originally appeared with a large basketball as a background. However, today, the emblem is a little more fun and eye-catching, featuring the leprechaun spinning a basketball on his finger.
3. Brooklyn Nets
Introduced in 1967, the Brooklyn Nets compete as a member of the Atlantic Division for the NBA, within the Eastern Conference. Initially, the team competed as the “New Jersey Americans”, before they eventually changed their name to the New York Nets, and then the Brooklyn Nets.
The Brooklyn Nets NBA logo is one of the simplest on this list, featuring a monochrome color palette of black and white. The shield shape in the emblem demonstrates strength and protection, while the bold lettering within the design shows confidence and stability.
4. Charlotte Hornets
Established in 1988, the Charlotte Hornets were first created as an expansion team, owned by George Shinn. The first logo created by the Charlotte Hornets featured a purple and teal hornet, wearing a set of white shoes and gloves, and dribbling a basketball.
The team experimented with both their name and logo over the years, becoming the “Charlotte Bobcats” for a short time.
Today, the Charlotte Hornets stands out among NBA team logos with it’s bold coloring and sharp edges. The image features the shape of a hornet, made to look a little like a traditional shield. The design also features the name of the group, in equally confident letters, with sharp edges.
5. Chicago Bulls
Perhaps one of the most famous NBA logos in the world today belongs to the Chicago Bulls, originally established in 1966. The Bulls saw their biggest success during the 1990s, when they played an important part in popularizing the NBA around the world.
Compared to other basketball team logos, the emblem used by the Bulls is unique, in the fact that it hasn’t changed much over the years. The iconic red logo features the face of a charging bull, and was designed by an American graphic designer named Dean P. Wessel.
Referred to commonly as the Cavs, the Cleveland Cavaliers joined the NBA in 1970, and began to play as an expansion team. Though various variations of the Cleveland Cavaliers logo have appeared over the years, the most commonly recognized brand mark is the Cavs “C”.
The image used by the team today features an italicized “C”, with sharp edges on the top, bottom, and left-hand side. The design is depicted in a combination of wine red and gold – the core colors of the team’s uniform.
7. Dallas Mavericks
The Dallas Mavericks, otherwise known as the “Mavs” launched in 1980, and achieved fame with a collection of world-renowned players. Like many NBA logos, the Dallas Mavericks emblem features the core colors of the team’s uniform, as well as an animal mascot.
The Mavericks emblem includes a silver shield in the background, with the name “Mavericks” written in bold letters along the bottom of the design. The sleek horse design is placed on top of a blue basketball, with the word “Dallas” inscribed above it.
8. Denver Nuggets
Introduced in 1967, the Denver Nuggets started out with the name the “Denver Larks”, but changed their title to the “Rockets” before the first NBA season. The “Nuggets” name was then introduced in 1974, along with an evocative new emblem.
The Denver Nuggets logo is a circular badge, featuring the colors of dark blue, gold, white, and red. In the middle of the badge, we see two overlapping pickaxes, depicted in gold, with a mountain on the top, and a basketball on the bottom.
9. Detroit Pistons
Introduced in 1937, the Detroit Pistons compete in the Eastern Conference Central Division in the NBA league. The team is one of the few to have existed before the NBA was officially formed. The team’s logo is simple but evocative.
The image features a circular badge, in blue, with a red basketball placed on top. The name “Detroit Pistons” appears in a sleek, geometric font, with bold serifs on the edges of some of the letters. The color palette is extremely patriotic for the US landscape.
10. Golden State Warriors
The Golden State Warriors are an American professional basketball team based in San Francisco. Introduced in 1946, the Warriors won the inaugural BAA championship in 1947. Unsurprisingly, like many NBA team logos, the Golden State Warriors emblem references the city of the team.
The Golden Gate bridge appears in a gold yellow color on a blue, circular badge, with a matching golden border. The name of the team appears on the outside of the badge, creating a beautifully balanced emblem.
11. Houston Rockets
One of the most interesting basketball team logos on this list belongs to the Houston Rockets, a group introduced to the NBA in 1967, as an expansion team. The team’s logo is simplistic, and lacks a lot of the elements we’d typically expect to see in NBA logos, such as animals or wordmarks.
Within the design, we see a stylized letter “R”, depicted in red, with a circular border around the lower lines. The sharp serifs on the left-hand side of the letter are designed to look a little bit like a rocket, in reference to the team’s name.
12. Indiana Pacers
Established in 1967 as an original member of the ABA, the Indiana Pacers have won three championships with the ABA, and have a powerful presence in the world today. The team’s logo has always reflected the colors of the uniform worn by the players.
Today, as the uniform has been updated to gold, blue, and grey, the accompanying badge of the group has transformed too. The emblem features a circular badge, with a “P” in the center, featuring a basketball in gold. The letter appears to be angled towards the right to symbolize speed.
13. Los Angeles Clippers
Introduced in 1970 as the “Buffalo Braves”, the Los Angeles Clippers are a member of the Western Conference segment of the NBA. The LA clippers started life with a relatively simplistic logo, featuring a wordmark in blue and red.
Today, the Clippers still have one of the more simplistic NBA team logos on this list, but it features more unique elements, such as a basketball with its own monogram at the top of the badge. The main focus of the logo is the large wordmark, presented in almost three-dimensional letters.
14. Los Angeles Lakers
Another NBA team from Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Lakers were established in 1947. Compared to other basketball logos, the Lakers emblem is often considered one of the most recognizable, thanks to its bold color choices, of black, gold, and purple, symbolizing luxury.
The design is somewhat simplistic, with a golden basketball forming the background of the image, and the words “Los Angeles Lakers” inscribed over the top. The letters feature thin lines around them, to demonstrate movement and speed.
Locally referred to as the “Grizz”, the Memphis Grizzlies are one of the newer additions to the NBA lineup, first established in 1995, as the “Vancouver Grizzlies”. The team uses the colors of gold, blue, and grey in their logo, and uniforms.
Like many basketball team logos, the Memphis Grizzlies badge features a mascot. The bear face, with its golden eyes, is intended to look confident and a little aggressive, similar to a grizzly bear. The use of shadowing helps to make the design stand out on the courts.
16. Miami Heat
Another iconic example of one of the most famous NBA team logos comes from Miami Heat, a team established in 1988. The design of this logo is a little old fashioned compared to some of the other emblems here, but it still conveys significant meaning.
Alongside a stylized wordmark, with unique flourishes on the “A” and “T” letters, this emblem uses the image of a flaming basketball, moving through a white hoop, symbolizing the strength and power of the team.
17. Milwaukee Bucks
Known to some simply as the “Bucks”, the Milwaukee Bucks were founded in 1968 as an expansion team for the NBA. The team’s logo has consistently featured the deer head design, as well as the colors of green and white.
Today, the Milwaukee Bucks logo is a relatively modern badge, featuring a circular emblem with the buck’s head depicted in the middle. The design of the deer itself is intended to be relatively simplistic, with various sharp points to symbolize confidence and aggression.
18. Minnesota Timberwolves
Introduced in 1989, the Minnesota Timberwolves are a member of the Western Conference Northwest Division for the NBA.
Like many iconic basketball teams, the Timberwolves utilize a circular badge as their primary logo, featuring the name of the team, and the image of a basketball in the background.
The most interesting part of the Minnesota Timberwolves logo is the wolf mascot, which appears to be howling at the night sky, thanks to the dark blue background of the image.
19. New Orleans Pelicans
American professional basketball team, the New Orleans Pelicans were initially established as the New Orleans Hornets. After adopting a new mascot, perhaps to differentiate themselves from the other “hornets” in the NBA, the team updated its logo.
Today, the group uses a relatively ornate logo, featuring a flying pelican with a basketball clutched in its beak. The wings of the bird connect with a unique serif-style inscription on the top of the design.
20. New York Nicks
Actually, named the “New York Knickerbockers” initially, the New York Nicks have embraced their nickname over the years. The team was introduced in 1946, as one of the founding members of the Basketball Association of America.
Bold and powerful, the New York Nicks emblem is one of the most famous NBA team logos. It features a triangle in the background, with sharp edges to symbolize strength, as well as a three-dimensional wordmark, above an orange basketball.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder
Established in 1967 as the Seattle Supersonics, the Oklahoma City Thunder team are the only team within he major professional North American sports league from Oklahoma. Like some of the other NBA logos on this list, the badge used by the group is simplistic, but powerful.
The word “Thunder” appears in large letters above a triangle design with curved edges. The letters of the group’s acronym are then depicted over the top of this design, with lines placed behind the shape to symbolize speed and movement.
22. Orlando Magic
Introduced in 1989, the Orlando Magic team was established as an extension franchise, and attracted notable NBA stars such as Shaquille O’Neal. The team utilizes the colors blue, black, and silver in their emblem, which is a powerful combination mark.
The design includes the image of a basketball, with bold lines behind it to showcase motion, as well as a series of star elements. The design is impactful and evocative, with a relatively simple color palette.
23. Philadelphia 76ers
Otherwise known as the sixers, the Philadelphia 76ers are an American basketball team based in the Philadelphia area. The group was introduced in 1946, and has a prominent history, thanks to a selection of hall of fame players joining their lineup.
Among the famous NBA logos featured today, the 76ers emblem is relatively traditional, featuring the colors of the American flag, and a circular badge shape. There are also six stars along the bottom of the design, showcasing excellence.
24. Phoenix Suns
Introduced in 1968, the Phoenix Suns started life as an expansion team, with very few initial wins. However, their fortunes changed in the 1970s, when they began earning significant fame in the basketball landscape.
The Phoenix Suns logo is one of the more unique emblems in this list, with a rectangular background, rather than a circle badge. The image features an orange basketball, surrounded by a yellow sunburst shape, in a square border.
25. Portland Trail Blazers
Often referred to as the “Blazers”, the Portland Trail Blazers were introduced to the NBA in 1970. The team has enjoyed quite a strong following through the years, with numerous sell-out games.
The team branding has commonly utilized the “pinwheel” icon, designed to represent two basketball teams going head-to-head in a game.
Though straightforward, the Portland Trail Blazer’s emblem is one of the most modern and eye-catching designs among NBA logos today.
26. Sacramento Kings
Competing as a member of the Western Conference Pacific Division, the Sacramento Kings’ history dates all the way back to 1923, when they were established as the Rochester Seagrams. Over the years, the design of the team’s logo, and their name has changed numerous times.
Today, the Sacramento Kings logo is a simple shield-style emblem, which utilizes the bottom half of a basketball and the image of a crown to create a uniquely modern version of a traditional design.
27. San Antonio Spurs
Introduced in 1967, the San Antonio Spurs are one of the four former ABA teams to remain intact after the NBA-ABA merger in 1976. They’re also the only former ABA team to also win an NBA championship.
Though simplistic, the Spurs logo is certainly eye-catching.
The image features a wordmark, curved to symbolize motion and strength, with the “U” of “Spurs” replaced with the image of a silver set of spurs.
28. Toronto Raptors
Established in 1995, the Toronto Raptors are the only Canadian basketball team to feature within the NBA league. The Raptors compete as part of the league’s Eastern Conference division. The initial logo for the team was designed based on the success of the Jurassic Park film.
Today, elements of that initial inspiration still feature in the current version of the Toronto Raptors logo, which features a black circular badge, with a red basketball in the center, designed to look as though it’s been shredded by a set of claws.
29. Utah Jazz
Perhaps the most simplistic example of an NBA team logo on this list, the Utah Jazz team’s emblem features virtually no decorative elements at all. The team, introduced in 1974, use a variety of colors in their uniform, including yellow and purple, but the logo is depicted just in black and white.
The image features a basketball, with a line arching from the top, to transform the overall picture into something similar to a music note.
Like many basketball teams, the Washington Wizards utilize a circular emblem for their logos, featuring the Washington monument in the center, and the patriotic colors of red, white, and blue, as well as grey – which all feature on the team’s uniforms.
What is the most iconic NBA team symbol?
The enduring impact of NBA team logos demonstrate just how important logo design can be, not just for companies and corporations, but for any group or individual trying to reach a specific audience.
The NBA team logos we’ve look at today all have their own unique, distinctive elements, from animal mascots to bold and emotionally engaging color palettes.
The logos of NBA teams have inspired and captivated fans for decades. Ever since the NBA was initially established in 1946, as the BAA, teams have been taking advantage of the power of branding to differentiate themselves from their competitors.
However, there’s no single answer to the question of which logo is the most iconic. Each emblem has its own unique appeal.
If you’ve been inspired by these NBA logos, reach out to Fabrik today to start creating your own iconic emblem.