Does Jerry West Get Royalties For Being the NBA Logo?
The silhouette on the NBA logo—a player dribbling and swiveling between a red and blue background—is Lakers legend Jerry West. Fans know this. Jerry West knows this. Alan Siegel, the man who designed the logo, knows this ("It's Jerry West," he told the L.A. Times). But does the NBA pay Jerry West royalties for using his image and printing it on the mountains of merchandise they sell?
The short answer is "No." That's also the long answer, because the NBA won't admit that it's Jerry West on the logo. “I knew a long time ago," West told Grantland about his image being used in the design. "[The NBA] would always say it’s an urban myth."
When asked by the L.A. Times about the identity of the man in the logo, former NBA Commissioner David Stern's spokesperson said, "There's no record of it here." While there may not be a record of it in their offices, the league's website features a short Jerry West biographical video titled "The Logo" (which, naturally, is West's nickname).
In 1969, the league hired Alan Siegel to design their logo. They wanted something similar to Major League Baseball's red, white, and blue design, and Siegel pored through photos of NBA players for inspiration. When he found the shot of Jerry West dribbling downcourt, it clicked. "It had a nice flavor to it," he told the L.A. Times. "So I took that picture and we traced it. It was perfect. It was vertical and it had a sense of movement."
"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," Siegel said, explaining the NBA's reticence in admitting it's Jerry West. West graciously agrees, and he told Grantland, "It’s not honoring a person. That’s not what it’s doing. It’s promoting an image of the league, which is always important to me.”
“I think it would be nice to get a royalty off of that," West added. "That would be pretty cool.”