This is a weird post for me to write for two reasons. First, I haven’t watched much pro basketball since the high school. I was a Sixers fan from the 80’s through to about 2000. I lived the Dr. J era, the Shawn Bradley era and the Allen Iverson era. But my interest waned in the late 90’s and had completely dissipated by the early 2000s. This was caused by no other reason than it was replaced by non-sport interests.
I did go a Sixers game about 5 years ago, and I felt like I was visiting a different planet. The game experience in arena is so dramatically different from the experience of my youth, that it was almost jarring. I’m not saying what they’re doing wrong, I’m just saying I wasn’t prepared for that much fire and people jumping off trampolines. I don’t want to diminish the experience, I enjoyed it, it was just very different from what I had grown accustomed to watching Julius Erving punch Larry Bird in the face at the Spectrum in the 80s.
The other reason is that I graduated in 1996, the same year as Kobe Bryant, and we had friends in common. I was a big high school & college basketball fan when I was in high school. My small private school had a really good team (for our size), and some of our players went on to get some D1 scholarships, and one of my friends went on to play pro ball in Turkey. So I heard some rumblings going in to my senior year about gym runs that guys on our team had against Kobe. One guy in particular took great joy in retelling how he smushed Kobe going up for a dunk in a game. He’s the one that ended up going to Turkey to play pro ball. So thankfully that story isn’t his Al Bundy scoring 4 touchdowns for Polk High lifetime highlight.
Regardless. Kobe Bryant, who was a hero and villain in his lifetime, died just over a year ago. And right after his death the world pretty much went on pause. So as a sports community, I’m not sure we as a whole have completely come to terms with losing Kobe. Externally, he is absolutely a hall of fame caliber player. A generational talent in an era full of generational talents. A prince amongst royalty.
Kyrie Irving first mentioned the idea of updating the NBA’s logo to include Kobe. The logo, created for the 1969/70 season by Alan Siegel of Siegel+Gale created a new look for the Association as part of a multi-front attack on the very competitive rival league, the American Basketball Association. The ABA’s logo was a red, white & blue shield, which identified the league along with their red, white & blue ball as a very separate entity from the NBA. In the new logo, Siegel did something that in retrospect is incredibly brilliant. He used a silhouette of league star Jerry West (coincidentally, also a career Laker). This identified, even if subconsciously, as a league of star players (source: logomyway.com).
However, there is a growing swell of support to replace West as the league’s identity with Kobe Bryant, including from West himself. The NBA has been at the forefront of social change in our culture. Lead by players like Kyrie Irving, the movement to recognize the contribution of people of color to the league was punctuated in Irving’s Instagram post saying “BLACK KINGS BUILT THIS LEAGUE”.
I am 100% on board with this change. Far be it for me to assume that my opinion is needed, or matters in this issue. But personally, I don’t think it’s enough that the NBA allow or endorse their players and coaches using their positions and access to cameras and microphones to make political and social statements. To that end, I saw a friend repost the original image from Irving’s IG post. And I was kind of baffled that I hadn’t seen a mock-up of the logo featuring Kobe.
So I did it.