After NBA star Kobe Bryant, his daughter 13-year-old Gianna Bryant, and seven others died in a helicopter crash this past Sunday, many are grappling with the sudden loss of a player whose 20-year career, with near as many records broken, changed the game of basketball.
Now, there’s a petition circulating to redesign the NBA logo to feature Bryant’s silhouette, which would make Bryant the main visual representation of the league’s brand as a whole. And it’s gaining a lot of momentum—with over 2,000,000 people signing on to the petition as of this writing.
Visually, it wouldn’t be an earth-shattering change. The NBA has always prioritized the individual player as part of its visual brand: The original logo, designed in 1969 by Alan Siegel, founder of Siegel+Gale, centered on the active silhouette of Jerry West, who played in the NBA from 1960 to 1974. More recently, New York-based design agency The Original Champions of Design took a scalpel to the logo in 2017, making slight alterations but maintaining the overall look and feel established decades before.
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Now, designers are sharing their own logo redesigns on Twitter with the hashtag #KobeLogo and #ChangetheLogo. Snoop Dogg posted “New logo. @nba lets do this right.” And Usher wrote “Couldn’t be a better time or all around athlete and person for it.”
Designer Tyson Beck, who had actually created the illustration used as the key art for the petition more than two years ago, told me via email that “Kobe would be the perfect person for the NBA to update its silhouette of in its logo.”
What does the designer of the NBA’s official logo think? Bobby C. Martin, founding partner of The Original Champions of Design, didn’t get into specifics of whether the logo should be redesigned, but he did tell me that the enthusiasm “goes to show how much Kobe was loved.” The NBA did not return a request for comment by press time.
Kobe Bryant—NBA legend, Olympic medalist, Oscar winner—also leaves behind a complicated legacy. In 2003, Bryant was arrested as part of an investigation into alleged sexual assault. (Bryant said the encounter was consensual.) Prosecutors dropped the charges when his accuser decided not to testify, and an associated civil case was settled out of court. Although Bryant lost a number of endorsement deals at the time, his reputation largely recovered. Now, in the wake of the #MeToo movement, Bryant’s death has quietly reignited a debate about the scandal and how it was treated by the media. (Writer Luisa Colón even offered her thoughts on “how to mourn a person with a complicated legacy.”)
As any designer will tell you, a logo is visual shorthand for brand value. “The N.B.A.’s logo has a person on it (the silhouette of Jerry West), and the image is fitting. It is a league of players, athletic and out front, and that is where the N.B.A. puts its public-relations focus,” wrote John Branch as part of an overview of the league’s handling of social justice issues for the New York Times back in 2018. Bryant’s impact on basketball is undeniable, and at the same time, conversation about his legacy will only continue. Does it make sense for Bryant to be the NBA’s brand? If you agree, there’s a petition you can sign. If not, see you on the internet.