|Don't (Lo)go West, young man|
By Eric Neel
Page 2 columnist
It's time for Jerry West to go. It pains me to say this. I love Jerry, love the quick release and the half-court shot, love the Vlade Divac pick and the trade for the young Mr. Bryant. But when it's time, it's time, and ... Excuse me, Mr. West? Your car is waiting.
That's right, I'm saying it's time for a new NBA logo. (You didn't think I meant ax Jerry the GM, lose Jerry the Genius, did you? Yeah, right. OK, I'll admit, I've got some doubts about the Hubie Brown thing, and some serious doubts about the sweater Mr. Clutch was sporting during that press conference a couple of weeks back -- Did you see that thing? It was like a computer-generated background out of "What Dreams May Come"; I think I saw Cuba Gooding Jr. splashing around near Jerry's neckline -- but no, no sir, I'm nowhere near ready to cast out the prophet. Count me among the devoted followers in the First Church of Jerry, forever and ever, amen.) The old one, featuring West's silhouette, though silky smooth, has run its course. The league has passed it by. Yes, there is something subtle and balletic about it. Yes, its lines are bold and clean. Yes, it's familiar. But I'll tell you what else it is: earthbound, Chuck Taylored, scrawny, short-shorted and unimaginative. It comes from a game that is long gone, my friends. Great as he was, West doesn't represent what guys can do now and his look has no connection to the style players are sporting these days. His image is an echo, a flash of light, from a star that exploded eons ago. An overhaul is in order. It's time to re-brand.
To keep things fresh and flavorful, I'll limit the search to guys currently playing in the league. Here are my candidates for silhouette status:
The case against him: Um, he does seem to kind of polarize the fan base a little, don't he? What did GW say? We need a uniter, not a divider.
The case against him: He wears shades indoors all the time -- nobody likes that.
The case against him: Nothing seems to define him (at least not yet); no image stands out, no signature move says "TMac." That's cool, it's egalitarian, in-the-flow and all, and there's something appealing about how quietly good he is at a time when the game's brightest lights tend to shine harsh and loud. Problem is, none of that stuff is iconic.
The case against him: You gotta do better than 40 percent from the field to unseat Mr. Clutch.
The case against him: America loves nothing more than to rally around an underdog and take some small measure of collective pride when he brings the big giant to his knees.
The case against him: This time ain't that time. It might one day be again, but it ain't right now.
The case against him: The shorts.
The case against him: I'm not saying you can't be great and never play on a team that gets past the first round of the playoffs. I'm not saying that, because I think he's great, I truly do, but I am saying it will be a whole lot easier for the league poobahs who handle marketing and promotion to get excited about his logo-ocity if he and the T-Wolves see the other side of Round One, and soon. They don't have to win a bunch of titles -- Jerry was, what, one out of nine tries? -- but it would help to get within sniffing distance.
The case against him: East-coast, big-city bias. As far as the league's concerned, nobody from Seattle never won nothing and never will win nothing. Seriously, check the books: the 1979 Sonics' title has been stricken from the records. The Man has no time for GP, he don't want to, can't bring himself to, see how good he is. There will be no GP logo, the Man won't allow it. (Editor's note: Eric Neel was an impressionable 12-year-old kid living in Seattle in 1979 and, by all accounts, he's an impressionable 35-year-old kid now.)
Which brings us to the man himself
It's a predictable choice. Shut up, it's the only choice. It's not even a choice, it's just what is.
Pick an image. Something from the '85 slam dunk contest? Good. That floater over Ehlo? Sure. The extended, lingering follow-through pose after the shot to kill Bryon Russell and the Jazz? Yep, that'll do. How about the palms-up shoulder-shrug thing after he ripped Portland's heart out with all those 3s? Nice, I like that; it has the whimsy of genius in it. Tell you what, I'd even settle for something from right now, maybe the post-up thing when he arches his back to get space, maybe the hands-on-his-hips commanding-presence shot, the one where he kind of curls that bottom lip, because you know what, it's all in there. Even the grounded, older Jordan has the gravitas thing down cold. Or what about the classic, the Nike image, the one where he's flying spread eagle? Good choice, good choice; it has the many facets of his influence wrapped up in it: on-court, corporate, aesthetic, iconic -- the whole package.
I don't care, any shot will do. Pick one. Slap it on a logo. Call it done.
I see end-of-the-year ceremonies where Jerry hands a life-size mock-up of the new logo to Michael. I see holograms on arena floors and new graphics for ESPN's NBA coverage. I see new headbands and jerseys debuted for the playoffs. I see Magic, Larry and the Doctor seeing their world represented in the new image, and the new generation feeling like they're paying tribute every time they lace up.
Eric Neel reviews sports culture in his "Critical Mass" column, which will appear every Wednesday on Page 2. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.