The Boston Celtics were established in 1946 as part of the Basketball Association of America, which merged in 1949 with the National Basketball League to form the present-day NBA. The Celtics are one of only three franchises that remain from that era, along with the Knicks and Warriors. The Celtics are the most successful franchise in NBA history, having won 17 NBA champions, including a record eight consecutive titles from 1959-1966. The Celtics’ green-and-white visual identity is one of the most iconic in all of professional sports and has been in continuous since the team’s founding.
The Celtics have had the most consistent on-court look of any NBA team, having made only minor adjustments to the wordmark on their jersey. The basic template has remained unaltered for nearly 70 years.
The last update to the visual identity took place in 2 014 when ‘Boston’ replaced ‘Celtics’ on the road jersey
The current primary logo, which was introduced in 1996, is a full-color version of the team’s previous green-and-white logo, which was a 1976 update to the previous ‘Lucky the Leprechaun’ logo introduced in 1968. The design features a ball-twirling leprechaun wearing a gold vest with green clovers on it, standing in front of a roundel with the team’s name on the left and right sides. While the design is a classic and well-balanced in terms of color and layout, it is nevertheless a product of its time and its simple cartoonish style looks dated. The partial primary logo removes the roundel from behind Lucky.
The Celtics introduced their clover leaf alternate logos in 1998, which are modern versions of the team’s original primary logo used from 1946-50. The team added two stamp-like alternates in 2014 which feature a silhouette of Lucky and closely approximate the appearance of the primary logo. Each alternate logo comes in a white-on-green and green-on-white version. The simplified look is instantly recognizable however the white version with the green outline cuts away certain parts, most noticeably the basketball, to ‘fit’ the design inside the circle and instantly gives the impression that something is missing. The green version with the negative space is the more effective of the two designs.
The Celtics’ home and road uniforms have undergone very little change since the team began play in 1946. The white home uniform has ‘Celtics’ on the chest with the player number centered below, both in green with no outline. The shorts have a green stripe running down each side. The green road uniform has ‘Boston’ and the player number in white with no outline. The Celtics’ uniforms are the plainest of any NBA team, using a simple block typeface, with no other decorative design elements aside from the nominal trim and a cloverleaf on the waistband of the shorts. Compared with the modern look of many other teams, the overly-simplistic template looks outdated and, on the court, the Celtics often appear to be wearing throwbacks.
The green-and-black alternate road uniform, which was introduced in 2005, is the most radical Celtics uniform to date, featuring black lettering and numbering with a white outline, black side panels on the jersey, and a black waistband and a triangular black panel on each side of the shorts which contains a green clover at the bottom.
The team’s St. Patrick’s Day uniform is included here as it directly relates to the team’s nickname. The design follows the same template as the regular road uniform only with ‘Boston’ and the player number in gold with a white outline and gold and white trim.
In 2014, the Celtics introduced a gray pride uniform which has ‘Celtics’ and the player number in white with a green outline and features side panels with parquet pattern intended to honor the team’s iconic parquet court design. The shorts feature the traditional green and white trim but only on the back, creating an unbalanced look. While the clover leaf logo that appears on the bottom front left leg is a nice touch, the green trapezoid on the the front of the waistband with the white-and-green version of the Lucky stamp logo is distracting and too closely resembles a belt buckle. The gray uniform is generally bland andthe attempt to add more color by including green around part of the arms creates the appearance of a player wearing a backpack.
The ‘Celtics’ nickname is appropriate for a city renowned for its large Irish-American population. In fact, Boston has the largest population of Irish-Americans of any city in the United States. The use of green as the team’s main color perfectly matches the team’s Irish theme as Ireland is popularly associated with that color.
The Celtics are one of only two NBA teams that wear a green uniform, and also one of only two teams (along with the Brooklyn Nets) to have no additional trim or accent colors on their primary uniforms.
The jerseys feature a fairly generic varsity block sports typeface for the numbering which is also used by the Spurs.
Boston is the only NBA team to use the name of an ethnic group as its appellation, however the practice is more common in other sports, with Native American names being the most prevalent in American sports. The most similar example is the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings which reflects the large Scandinavian-American population of that state. The ‘Celtics’ nickname is also used by a Scottish soccer team, Celtic F.C., which predates Boston’s NBA franchise by nearly six decades.
The Celtics’s use of color is generally consistent. While the team only uses green and white on their main uniforms, the gold and black from the primary logo does appear on the team’s alternate and St. Patrick’s Day uniforms. The use of gray for the pride uniform, however, is wholly inconsistent with the team’s color scheme.
The Celtics lose points for not standardizing their typeface across all applications. The primary logo, uniform wordmark and alternate logo all use different typefaces.
Points to Improve
- Give the primary logo a facelift, bringing the classic design into the modern era. Alternately, reimagine the logo with a modern incarnation of the leprechaun character.
- Update the uniform to include some modern design elements like a subtle gold and/or black trim, without detracting from the iconic green look. Retire the gray pride uniform and replace it with something more representative of the city of Boston’s history and culture.
- Choose or commission a more unique and modern typeface that can used on all of the logos and uniforms.
NBA Branding Assessment Ranking
Special thanks to Chris Creamer (sportslogos.net) for the logo and uniform images. Other images have been taken from the team’s website or Twitter feed.
All writings contained herein are copyright ©2015 Brian F. Sanford. All intellectual property including but not limited to names, logos and uniforms are properties of the National Basketball Association, its member teams, ownership groups and/or organizations. All images are used for noncommercial educational purposes. No copyright infringement is intended.