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Logo Mojo

April 16, 2006|David Davis | David Davis is the author of "Play by Play: Los Angeles Sports Photography, 1889-1989."

Later this week, an annual rite that some find totally absorbing, others utterly interminable, will begin: It's tipoff time for the NBA playoffs. And that means, night after night for the next two months, the NBA logo will flash across millions of television screens.

Laker fans have long known that the iconic logo, introduced in 1969, is modeled after Jerry West.

To them, the Hall of Fame guard known as "Mr. Clutch" can do no wrong. When the Lakers moved to L.A. from Minneapolis in 1960, West and teammate Elgin Baylor popularized NBA hoops on the West Coast. Following his playing career, he kicked himself upstairs and guided the team to numerous championships. (He now serves as president of basketball operations for the Memphis Grizzlies.)

"He and Elgin Baylor took the Lakers to the NBA Finals year after year," says David Kohler, president of Laguna Hills-based SCP Auctions and owner of perhaps the most comprehensive private collection of Laker memorabilia. "They kept getting beat, but West came back and came back, never giving up, until finally the Lakers won the championship in 1971-72."

Outside of L.A., however, there's growing sentiment to ditch West as the logo model.

On his website,, Keith Wright is gathering signatures for a petition urging the NBA to replace West with retired Chicago Bull star Michael Jordan. Some feel the logo "doesn't represent today's basketball players," says longtime sports historian Bill Himmelman. "Why not have someone . . . dunking, not dribbling?"

Perhaps a change is in order. But you know what they say: Be careful what you wish for.

--David Davis

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