The NBA is the only major sport to have a notable player as its logo. Jerry West is currently the man on every stadium, every jersey, every T-shirt and every press release made by the NBA. It is an amazingly unique position to be in as a former player, and it is also a symbol of how the NBA is incredibly player-centered.
Kyrie Irving has recently challenged West’s position as the logo, and he is absolutely correct to do so. The late, great Kobe Bryant should be the NBA logo. Kobe was not the greatest player of all time, but he is one of the most influential, widely known and widely celebrated players to ever grace the hardwood. An entire generation of current NBA players has grown up aspiring to embrace Kobe’s “mamba mentality.”
If you look at Irving, Donovan Mitchell, Kawhi Leonard or Devin Booker, you will see bits and pieces of Kobe’s style of play. It is impossible to ignore his influence on the court. Kobe also serves as connective tissue to the older Michael Jordan generation, as he was the closest player to MJ on the court in terms of mentality and playstyle. Moreover, Kobe and MJ had a brother-like relationship, and because of this connection, older fans appreciate Kobe almost as much as people my age who grew up watching him.
It is not just Kobe’s on-the-court greatness that makes him worthy of the logo. He was an international star like no other NBA player. American basketball has always been dominant internationally. His Italian roots allowed him international success in Europe, and in the digital age of sports, allowed the NBA to broadcast their content at the exact time Kobe was winning his fourth and fifth championships and putting up 80-point games.
In China he was the face of the league when they were starting to expand there, and during the Olympics, he was popular not just for the audiences but for the other Olympians as well. His Nike trips abroad only served to help his international fame and grow his legend everywhere. When he died, the entire world mourned in a way I have never seen before. There were tributes to Kobe from all the way in the Philippines, to Associazione Calcio Milan, to Senegal.
It is quite possible that Kobe was the most influential player ever for the game of basketball on a global scale. He is currently the most popular icon among NBA players, and it does not seem particularly close. Moreover, this would make a Black man the logo for a league that is 75% Black. No offense to West, but he really does not compare. West was never the best player in the league, sometimes not even the best player on his own team. Neither was Kobe, honestly. But Kobe’s impact has exceeded every other great player. His impact was so great that a star he competed against is advocating for him to be the logo.
You know who else would be in favor of changing the logo? West, the current logo. West was not consulted when he became the logo, and he has never publicly wanted the position. It seems to me that West, the man who brought Kobe to the Los Angeles Lakers, would be absolutely fine with Kobe being the next logo.
Quite simply, Kobe was the man who was in the gym at 2 in the morning getting shots up before an Olympic practice, the man who dedicated his entire essence to the sport in a way that makes other legends amazed. The Mamba should be the logo because having Kobe continue to live on in every basketball practice, every basketball game and every basketball court around the NBA is the only way to properly represent the man who lived his life for basketball.