The Minnesota Timberwolves were established as an expansion team in 1989. The team, often referred to as the T-wolves or just Wolves, play in Minneapolis, the former home of the Lakers. While the team enjoyed some success during the Kevin Garnett era, they have been in perpetual rebuild mode ever since he left to join the Boston Celtics in 2005. After failing to make the playoffs for ten straight years, the team traded Kevin Love to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2014 for Anthony Bennet and Andrew Wiggins, the number one draft picks the Cavs had drafted the previous two seasons. Despite the trade and the return of Garnett in 2015, the Wolves finished with the worst record of the 2014-15 season and won the number one pick in the draft lottery, using it to select Karl-Anthony Towns.
The Wolves’ initial visual identity was fairly simplistic, with a color scheme of blue, green, white and silver and a traditional uniform design. In 1996, the team introduced a new look with a different shade of blue, a more complicated logo and uniform design that added trees throughout the design along with a jagged wordmark.
The visual identity was updated in 2008, revising the logo, simplifying the typeface and modernizing the uniform design. The uniforms were further revised in 2010, simplifying the typeface for the player number and eliminating green from the uniforms.
The current primary logo, which was introduced in 2008, is a slightly revised and recolored version of the team’s previous logo. A white highlight was added to the side of the forward-facing wolf head, better balancing the design, and the green trees on either side were simplified, along with the ‘Timberwolves’ wordmark. The overall design is well-balanced but remains overly complicated, especially in comparison to the team’s original logo or current alternate. The partial primary logo is the wolf head used on its own. The design is cartoonish and overly-contrasted with its heavy use of black on the side.
The alternate logo features a beautifully illustrated howling wolf, with white highlights and well-balanced gray and black shading, inside of a blue basketball with black trees in the background. The selection and balance of colors deftly convey a moonlit night. The most clever element of the design is the shadow that doubles as a gray tree at the bottom center of the design. In terms of elegance and modern design, the alternate logo makes the primary logo look amateurish by comparison.
The current uniforms, which have been worn since the start of the 2010-11 season are a slightly revised and recolored version of the uniform template introduced in 2008. Changes include a simplified collar and number typeface and recolored side panels.
The white home uniform has the ‘Wolves’ wordmark and the player number centered below it in black with a blue outline. The upper and lower side pattern is black, gray and blue. The blue road uniform has the ‘Minnesota’ wordmark and the player number in white with a black outline. The side pattern is black, gray and blue. The black alternate uniform, which was introduced in 2010, has the ‘Wolves’ wordmark and the player number in white with a blue outline while the side pattern is white, gray and blue.
All of three of the uniforms feature a similar pattern on the bottom sides of the shorts and the top sides of the jerseys featuring an eerily sloped tree/mountain/sky design. The odd shape of the pattern as well its odd placement create an overly busy and unbalanced look.
The ‘Timberwolves’ nickname is relevant to a team based in Minnesota, which is home to the largest population of timberwolves, also known as gray wolves, in the lower 48 states. The connection would perhaps be stronger for a team based in Canada or Alaska and is less relevant than the ‘Lakers’ nickname from the state’s previous NBA franchise.
While the Timberwolves’ blue has no particular significance, the gray and green are accurate for depicting wolves and trees, respectively.
While the Timberwolves are one of 13 teams whose primary road uniform is blue, they are one of two (along with the Orlando Magic) whose uniforms use some combination of blue, black and gray. The Wolves are also one of eight teams with a black alternate uniform.
The team loses points for eliminating green from their uniforms in 2010 because they had been the only team with a blue-and-green uniform since the Mavericks also eliminated the color from their visual identity in 2001.
The Minnesota Timberwolves are one of only three NBA teams (along with the Indiana Pacers and Utah Jazz) to use a state rather than a city name as their geographical indicator.
The Timberwolves lose points for eliminating green from their uniforms while retaining it in their primary logo. Otherwise the use of the custom typeface and the tree motif is very consistent.
Points to Improve
- Retire the primary logo and promote the current alternate to primary status.
- Simplify the uniform design and reintroduce green, at least as a minor accent color to increase the consistency of color usage and enhance the uniqueness of the brand.
NBA Branding Assessment Ranking
Special thanks to Chris Creamer (sportslogos.net) for the logo and uniform images.
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.