The Portland Trail Blazers—generally referred to as the Blazers—were established as an expansion team in 1970. The team has reached the NBA Finals three times, winning its lone NBA championship in 1977.
The Blazers have maintained a largely consistent look throughout most of their history. The team’s iconic logo has undergone only a few modest revisions, as have the uniform template the team has worn since 1977.
The last major update to visual identity came in 2002 when silver was added to the color scheme and the current tapered logo and thinner type face debuted.
The current primary logo, which was introduced in 2004, incorporates the team’s iconic pinwheel design in a black parallelogram outlined in silver, with ‘Portland’ written at the top in white and ‘Trail Blazers’ in white with a red drop shadow at the bottom. The partial primary logo is the pinwheel design used on its own.
The pinwheel design itself was revised in 2002, switching from red and black to a tapered silver and red design with a black outline that terminates in a straight edge on the top and bottom and is a good example of a modernized version of a classic design. The primary logo is well-balanced in terms of layout as the slanted nature of the typeface and parallelogram complement the slanted nature of the pinwheel design, however the use of the red drop shadow for the bottom wordmark but not the top disrupts the overall color balance.
The Blazers do not have a secondary or alternate logo at this time.
The white home uniform, which was introduced in 2002, has the ‘Blazers’ wordmark with the player number below it to the player’s left in black with a red outline. The red, black and silver diagonal stripes on the jersey continue down the left side of the shorts. The collar and armhole trim is red and silver. The black home uniform, which was updated in 2006, has the ‘Portland’ wordmark and player number in white with a red outline. The diagonal striping is red, white and silver and uses the same red and silver trim as the home jersey. While the simple yet iconic ‘blaze’ element of the uniform makes it one of the more visually appealing designs in the league, the crewneck jersey makes the overall design look somewhat dated. The uniform is generally well-balanced in terms of color and layout.
In 2009, the Blazers introduced a special alternate home uniform with the team’s ‘Rip City’ nickname on the jersey. While the uniform predates the NBA’s pride uniform program, it has been classified as such since 2014, when it was given sleeves (not pictured). The uniform uses a different template from the primary home and road uniforms, featuring partial trim on the collar and armholes. The red and black ‘Rip City’ wordmark is written straight across the chest with the player number in black. The diagonal striping has been replaced with angled silver, red and black stripes on the sides of the jersey and shorts. The design is well-balanced in terms of color and layout and is the most modern look in the Blazers’ uniform set.
The red alternate uniform, which was first introduced in 2002 and updated in 2012, uses the same partial-trim template as the ‘Rip City’ pride uniform. The wordmark is rendered in a different, non-slanted typeface while the silver-lined black and white stripes have been tapered on the player’s left side and no longer directly connect with the striping on the shorts. The overall look is a more modern interpretation of the classic Blazers look.
The ‘Trail Blazers’ nickname invokes the spirit of the early pioneers who left the eastern United States and to explore and settle the West. The diagonal striping on the uniforms is a representation of that trail blazing spirit. The ‘Rip City’ nickname was coined by the team’s play-by-play announcer Bill Schonely during a game against the Los Angeles Lakers during the Blazers’ inaugural season.
The red and black color scheme have no particular significance for the ‘Blazer’ nickname or the city of Portland. The ‘Rip City’ wordmark is based on the typeface used from 1970 to 1991 while the elongated line from the ‘y’ pays homage to the lettering of the Blazers’ first road jersey.
The Blazers are one of five teams to wear a black uniform as their primary road option, one of five teams with a color scheme using some combination of black and red, and one of five teams with a red alternate uniform. The Blazers are one of only two teams (along with the Wizards) to feature striping on the front portion of their jerseys.
The Blazers generally receive high marks for consistency. The tapered lines on the red alternate uniform match the shape of the lines from the pinwheel logo design, however the lettering does not match the typeface used on the logo or the primary home and road uniforms. As mentioned above, the ‘Rip City’ uniform uses a throwback typeface which is acceptable for a pride uniform.
Points to Improve
- Improve consistency by either adding a red drop shadow to the ‘Portland’ wordmark in the primary logo or removing it from the ‘Trail Blazers’ wordmark.
- Modernize the uniforms by adopting the alternate uniform’s tapered lines or the pride uniform’s template for the entire set.
- Reintroduce the more visually distinctive typeface used on the pride uniform and use it across all applications, including the logo and uniforms.
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.