The Lakers franchise was established in 1947 as the Minneapolis Lakers and the team carried the nickname with them when they relocated to Los Angeles in 1960, becoming the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers are the second most successful franchise in NBA history, having won 16 NBA champions, with five in their first 12 seasons in Minneapolis and another 11 since moving to Los Angeles.
The Lakers wore powder blue uniforms with yellow trim in Minneapolis and switched to navy blue uniforms with white trim when they relocated to Los Angeles. They adopted their iconic gold-and-purple color scheme along with a new logo and new uniforms in 1966, and that visual identity has see only minor revisions since.
The current primary logo, which was introduced in 2001, is a slightly recolored version of the previous design which was introduced in 1976. The logo consists of a yellow basketball with ‘Los Angeles’ and the ‘Lakers’ wordmark written across it. The current version features a darker shade of purple than before. The letters of the wordmark are tilted to the right with streaks coming off the left side, giving it the appearance of forward momentum. While the design is a classic and well-balanced in terms of color and layout, it is nevertheless a product of its time and looks dated because of the incomplete black outline around the basketball where the lettering appears as well as the messy and distracting streaks, especially on the far right extension of the letter R.
The alternate logo, which was introduced in 2001, is a modernized Laker ‘L’ in purple on top of a yellow basketball. The tilted L, the orientation of the basketball and the internal ‘streaks’ work together to recreate the forward motion look of the primary logo. The design effectively uses two colors to create a stacked appearance. The inner yellow stroke of the L flows seamlessly into the yellow body of the basketball while the outer purple stroke provides the outline for the basketball which is ‘behind’ the L. While the primary and alternate logos are conceptually similar, the former is cruder in design while the latter is clean and modern.
The current uniform template, which was introduced in 1999, is a modern update to the classic Lakers style.
The yellow home uniform has the ‘Lakers’ wordmark in purple with a white outline and the player number centered below it in white with a purple outline. The side panels are purple with white trim. The purple road uniform has the ‘Lakers’ wordmark in yellow with a white outline and the player number in white with a yellow outline. The side panels are yellow with white trim. Both the white alternate uniform, which was introduced in 2002, and the black L.A. Nights pride uniform, which was introduced in 2013, have the ‘Lakers’ wordmark and the player number in purple with a yellow outline and yellow side panels with purple trim. with both the wordmark and player numbers in purple. All of the uniforms feature the alternate logo at the bottom of the sides of the shorts.
The Lakers were among the first wave of teams to adopt this Nike-designed template which features a wishbone neckline and get credit for modernizing their classic look while other teams, like the Bulls and Celtics, continue to wear outdated designs. However the overall modern look is hurt by the continued use of the old-fashioned typeface for the player numbers.
Neither the ‘Lakers’ nickname nor the purple-and-gold color scheme hold any particular significance for the city of Los Angeles. The ‘Lakers’ name was appropriate for a franchise which began in Minnesota since the state is known as the land of 10,000 lakes, but the organization loses points for not rebranding after their relocation to Los Angeles— especially considering that lakes are few and far between in California. Nevertheless, after 11 championships and roster after roster filled with future Hall of Famers and the ensuing popularity that comes with a long track record of success, the Lakers and Los Angeles are nearly synonymous. The one redeeming aspect of the nickname its alliterative quality, especially when styled as ‘L.A. Lakers’.
While the Lakers are one of four teams to wear purple road uniforms, the Lakers were the first to do so and remain the only team with a color combination of purple and yellow. The Lakers are the only team in the NBA to wear a colored uniform as their primary home option. The Lakers were the first (1966), but not the only team to have done so: the Cavaliers (1969), Warriors (1971) and Pacers (1983) have all worn yellow uniforms at home. Other teams with yellow alternate uniforms, like the Pacers, Nuggets and Cavs, now occasionally wear them at home, following in the Lakers footsteps on two fronts.
The Lakers became the first NBA team with an alternate home uniform when they introduced their ‘Sunday Whites’ in 2001, making them the only team to have a uniform tied to a day of the week.
The Lakers get mixed marks for consistency. While the team’s use of color is consistent, the organization loses points for not standardizing the use of its wordmark which differs between the logo and jersey. The jersey wordmark does away with the streaks, uses thicker letters and fits the S neatly inside the curve of the R, creating a much cleaner, tighter look than the logo wordmark. The angle at which the letters are tilted is also noticeably different. The ‘L’ in alternate logo also differs from those of the other two wordmarks, resulting in three separate looks.
Points to Improve
- Rebrand, choosing a name more reflective of the rich culture and history of the city of Los Angeles.
- Update the primary logo, using a basketball like the one in the alternate logo paired with the wordmark from the jersey to create a more modern version of the classic design. Tweak either the alternate logo, wordmark or both to ensure the lettering is consistent across all designs.
- Choose or commission a more modern typeface for the player number that better matches the design of the lettering used in the wordmark.
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.