Features

NBL Looks To USA For New Identity

Words by: Luke Hickey


Recently it has been pretty give and take for Australian basketball. First off, losing Dante Exum as support on the world’s biggest basketball stage due to an ACL injury was a net loss for Australian basketball. However, the good news is that our own National Basketball League has unveiled a re-brand for the upcoming season.

Dante Exum’s ACL tear playing internationally for the Boomers effectively ended his season for the Utah Jazz before it began. What this means for his future career as a basketball player, in any organisation, is difficult to determine at this point: certainly there have been players who have made career comebacks after an ACL tear (Al Jefferson, Jamal Crawford, Corey Brewer to name a few), but that famous footage of Derrick Rose going down clutching his knee, face contorted in pain, is still well-embedded in the cerebrum of every NBA fan who fondly remembers what Rose’s game used to be like.

Yikes. Love ya, miss ya Exum.

On the other hand, the NBL has rolled out a new website, logo, and catchline for the 2015 season and have additionally promised more accessible content and streaming services in an attempt to turn casual fans into avid ones. The new slogan, “Hard Ball”, is clearly capitalising on Australian NBA guard Matthew Dellavedova who won worldwide supporters for his tough, defensive play style in the 2015 NBA Finals.

I honestly love the new direction being taken by the NBL and the effort they are investing in forging a consistent basketball identity in Australia. The new slogan falls directly in line with the already-existing “hard yakka” sports identity that Australians adore, furthermore it endears the NBL to fans of Australia’s other leading sport, Aussie Rules Football. I also believe this new identity will help legitimise our league on an international level.

The new look is pretty nostalgic; it reminds me of the early 90s NBL glory days when all the Perth Wildcats would do was win. Actually, it’s a little TOO nostalgic. Alright, I’ll say it. The new NBL logo is a direct rip-off of the logo from the “bad boys” era of the NBA’s Detroit Pistons. It appears as though the NBL have taken the logo that the Pistons used from 1979 to 1996, which was the logo that they won back-to-back championships in, and made a few changes to it.

What makes this logo particularly egregious (and also kind of disappointing) is that the same Pistons logo I aforementioned was, and is, symbolic of a time when the Pistons were the hardest, toughest, “do-not-f-with” team in the whole goddamn league. This group of villains would regularly put Michael Jordan on his ass, then stomp on his shooting hand, as they fought and clawed their way to the Finals.

Now, compare this

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To this

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Am I splitting hairs here? Is this former Detroit logo, and the culture that goes with it, a little too similar to the identity currently being constructed by the NBL?

Once again, I’m totally in favour of these investments in Australian basketball, as well as the re-branding of the NBL as a whole. Organisational identities in sport that highlight unique skill sets are often the most cohesive. For example, see: Memphis Grizzlies with a similar “grit ‘n’ grind” identity, Golden State’s sharpshooting Splash Bros., or even our own hard-nosed Fremantle Dockers. I also think that while basketball will probably never overtake cricket as the most popular summer sport in Australia, there is definitely a place in our culture for it as a fast-paced, high-scoring alternative to test matches.

Ours is not the first organisation, in any sport, to be defensively-minded and prioritise a tough, gritty style of play. The logo however, is not ours. There is “being influenced by something” and then there is plagiarism. Just change the logo, guys.