The Miami Heat were established as an expansion team in 1988. The Heat went to the NBA Finals five times between in 2006 and 2014, winning three Championships. The Heat won their first title in 2006 behind the play of Dwayne Wade and veteran centers Shaquille O’Neal and Alonzo Mourning. General Manager Pat Riley later assembled a superstar team built around Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh that went to the Finals four consecutive years, winning championships in 2012 and 2013 before LeBron James returned to Cleveland in 2014.
The Heat have made only minor changes to their visual identity since their inception. The original color scheme included orange in both the logo and uniform trim, but was phased out in favor of yellow when the team updated its look in 1999. While the original logo featured a flaming basketball rendered in an orange gradient, the effect proved difficult to replicate when the logo was embroidered and was divided into orange, red and yellow sections when applied to the uniform, as pictured above.
The Heat’s color scheme has always included black, red and white and the team has always worn black uniforms.
The current primary logo, which was introduced in 1999, is a slightly revised and recolored version of the team’s original logo. The previously disconnected portions of the flaming basketball were filled in and outlined in black, with the portion of the design below the recolored white hoop changed to red, while the top of the flames above the hoop were made yellow. Below the design is the ‘Miami Heat’ wordmark. The flame emanating from the top right corner of the T changed to flicker more to the right than straight up. This cartoonish version, which looks like it was drawn by hand, is a downgrade from the previous design and its cleaner lines and clever use of negative space. The division of red and yellow is unbalanced and arbitrary, as is the placement of the wordmark. The only modern aspect of the design is the typeface used for the wordmark. The partial primary logo is the flaming ball and hoop design without the wordmark.
The alternate logo, which was introduced in 2008, is an interlocking M/H monogram made using the same typeface from the wordmark, with a flicker on the top right part of the H. The design effectively conveys ‘Miami Heat’ to observers already familiar with the brand.
The current uniform template, which was introduced in 1999, is a modern update to the team’s original uniforms. The Heat were among the first three teams, along with the Lakers and Raptors to adopt Nike’s wishbone-collar uniform design in 1999. The team originally wore the ‘Heat’ wordmark on both their home and road uniforms, but changed the road uniform to ‘Miami’ in 2012.
The white home uniform has the ‘Heat’ wordmark and the player number below it to the player’s left in red with a black outline. A yellow stripe runs the length of the red side panels which extend to the bottom front and back of the shorts. The black road uniform has the ‘Miami’ wordmark and player number in white with a red outline and a white stripe over the yellow-outlined red side panels. The red alternate uniform, which was introduced in 2001, has ‘Miami’ and the player number in white with a black outline. A white stripe runs the length of the side black panels which are outlined in yellow.
The overall layout is well-balanced both in terms color and layout, particularly the arrangement of the player number with the slanted wordmark. The ‘Heat’ wordmark is the more visually interesting of the two options, given its flicker detail. The uniform is a marked improvement over the team’s previous design with its old-fashioned crewneck, right-side-only striping, inconsistently-sized lettering and heavily drop-shadowed blocky typeface for the player number.
The Heat have also worn monochrome versions of their uniform template: Back in Black (2012), White Hot (2012-2013); Red Hot (2013-14).
The ‘Heat’ nickname is relevant to a team based in south Florida, known for its tropical monsoon climate.
While the Heats’ black-and-red color scheme holds no particular significance for the city of Miami, red is an obvious choice to match the team’s nickname. Also, the team’s original color palette of black, red and orange is very close to the black-magenta-and-orange color scheme used by Miami’s old ABA team, the Floridians, as is the asymmetrical striping on the Heat’s original uniforms, and can be considered significant to the history of professional basketball in Miami.
The Heat are one of five teams to wear a black uniform as their primary road option, one of five teams with a color scheme which uses some combination of red and black, and one of five teams with a red alternate uniform. The Heat are also one of four teams to wear Nike’s wishbone-collared uniform template.
The Heat are one of only four NBA teams (along with the Jazz, Magic and Thunder) to use a singular, rather than a plural noun for the team nickname.
The Heat get a perfect score for consistency as their use of colors, logos and typeface is completely consistent across all applications.
Points to Improve
- Reintroduce orange to the color scheme or replace the yellow with orange to provide a more unique balance of color in the logo and uniforms which would connect with Miami’s basketball history.
- Reintroduce the original logo.
- Choose or commission a more modern typeface for the player number that better matches the design of the lettering used in the wordmark.
- Use the more visually interesting ‘Heat’ wordmark on all uniforms.
NBA Branding Assessment Ranking
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.