In today's Old School Design, I wanted to take a look at some classic logo designs from the old American Basketball Association. The ABA was one of the most visually creative sports leagues ever created. The logos were classic over-the-top 1970's style designs and reflected the unique personality of this great league. The league was loaded with great logo designs, and here are a few of my favorites.
The Virginia Squires were probably best known for being the first professional team for a certain future NBA Hall-of-Famer, Julius Erving. In addition to being the first stop in the Doctor's career, the Squires were also known for giving him away to the New York Nets. From there, we all know the story of the career of the Doctor, becoming one of the all-time greats in the history of the sport. The Squires had several interesting looks throughout their history. This logo from the 1971-74 era shows your classic patriotic figure holding the famous red, white and blue ABA ball. (a theme that was common among ABA logos)
Any time you use a hat as your logo, you know you have a unique classic. The Memphis ABA team had several team names and incarnations, but this logo is by far their best. The team sported some seriously 70's green and yellow colors and used the classic Tam as their logo. Classic 1970's design style and a hat for a mascot makes this logo one of the best in the short history of the league.
The Denver Nuggets were one of four teams that survived the demise of the ABA and merged with the NBA along with the San Antonio Spurs, Indiana Pacers and New York/New Jersey Nets. This logo was used by the Nuggets from 1974-76 and shows a Yukon Cornelius style prospector happy about finding an ABA basketball. The logo is particularly interesting because of the prospector's high striped socks, short shorts and serious beard. The letter style of the team was also classic 1970's style and continued on in their early NBA days. The Nuggets have had many interesting looks over the years, and this classic ABA style was one of the best.
This logo is one of the earliest in the ABA. The Minnesota Muskies only played one season in the ABA (1967-68) and moved to Miami to become the Miami Floridians the next year. The Muskies actually played in the Eastern Division playoff finals in their only year of existence. The logo features a fierce fish, the Muskie, which is a popular game fish in Minnesota. Not many teams can use a fish for a logo and pull it off. The Minnesota Muskie's threatening demeanor makes this logo an American Basketball Association classic for sure.
This is the logo that the Kentucky Colonels used from their start in 1968 until 1970. I am a Kentucky guy, and this logo is everything that the rest of the country associates with Kentucky. The old southern gentleman is dressed in his basketball gear holding his horseshoe, being followed by his loyal dog. This logo didn't really do a whole lot to move the image of Kentucky forward. The sheer silliness of the design makes this one a classic. Thankfully the Colonels switched to a more stylized KC logo in 1971, leaving the hillbilly Colonel behind.
The Baltimore Claws have one of the craziest stories of any ABA team. When the Memphis team had failed, it was sold to some shady investors in Baltimore and was named the Hustlers. The ABA was not particularly fond of the Hustlers name so the team changed its name to the Claws. After many shady trades and business deals, the team only ended up playing three exhibition games in 1975 before disappearing. You can learn more about the Claws here. The logo shares the same colors that the Memphis Tams had used and features a crab that forms a C surrounding the ABA ball. A classic logo for sure, but an even better ABA franchise story.
I hope you enjoyed this look at classic ABA logo design. If you want to find more about the old ABA, there is a fantastic site called Remember the ABA that has a treasure chest of league history and information.