Kyrie Irving has called for the NBA to replace its logo with a picture of the late Kobe Bryant to honor the impact of Black players throughout the history of the league.
Reigniting an issue that is never dormant for long, the Brooklyn Nets star posted a mock-up of a re-imagined NBA logo featuring Bryant instead of the silhouette of Jerry West, which currently appears on it.
“Gotta Happen, idc [I don’t care] what anyone says,” Irving wrote on Instagram. “Black kings built the league.”
The mock-up was created by designer Tyson Beck last year, shortly after Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash near Los Angeles along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven other people.
Among the outpour of tributes that followed Bryant’s death, a petition was launched on change.org calling for the NBA to replace its existing logo with one incorporating the Los Angeles Lakers legend.
“With the untimely and unexpected passing of Kobe Bryant please sign this petition in an attempt to make his memory last forever as the NBA logo,” petition organizer Nick M. explained in January last year.
The petition initially set itself a modest 150,000-signature target but has since been supported by over 3.2 million fans.
The NBA’s iconic tri-color logo incorporates the silhouette of Jerry West and is based on a picture taken by Wen Roberts, which shows the former Los Angeles Lakers great dribbling with the ball.
“It had a nice flavor to it,” creator Alan Siegel—the same man who had overseen the design of the Major League Baseball’s logo—told the Los Angeles Times in 2010.
“So I took that picture, and we traced it. It was perfect. It was vertical and it had a sense of movement. It was just one of those things that clicked.”
Designed by Siegel in 1969, the NBA logo made its debut two years later, and bar a small change to the typeface introduced in 2017, it has remained unchanged ever since.
While Siegel acknowledged the logo was modelled on a picture of West, for the last five decades the NBA has steadfastly denied its symbol is based on a particular player.
“They want to institutionalize it rather than individualize it,” Siegel said of the NBA’s refusal to make the logo about one particular player.
“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.”
Calls for the logo to be freshened up have been more or less regular in recent years and West himself has suggested it was time for the NBA to update it.
“I wish that it had never gotten out that I’m the logo,” West, who won nine NBA titles with the Lakers as players and executive, told ESPN’s The Jump in April 2017.
“I really do. I’ve said it more than once, and it’s flattering if that’s me—and I know it is me—but it is flattering. But to me, I played in a time when they first started to try to market the league.
“There were five people that they were going to consider, and I didn’t find out about it until the late commissioner [J. Walter Kennedy] told me about it. […] Again, it’s flattering. But if I were the NBA, I would be embarrassed about it. I really would.”
Few players would be more suited than Bryant to feature on a revamped logo.
Throughout his 20-year career in the NBA, Bryant won five NBA titles, was twice named MVP of the NBA Finals and won the regular season MVP in 2008, as well as being an All-Star selection 18 times.
Even more significantly, he picked up Michael Jordan’s mantle as the best player in the league and, like Jordan’s, his profile transcended the sport and spread beyond the NBA’s borders.