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.

NBA logo
You know I'm right. You've sensed that he's out of step, worried that his old-school ways aren't quite the match for the league they once were. You've been slow to admit it, I know, because you love him too, but in your heart of hearts you know it's true: Jerry's time has passed.

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:

Allen Iverson
The case for him: The crossover is like water sliding on a tabletop, electric and unpredictable. And I like the pit-bull fearlessness, the high-off-the-glass layups, and the seemingly impossible (for such a little man) jumpers from way out, too. Plus, his tats, arm wrap and cornrows say rugged individualism, and that's the soul of the country, man; I love rugged individualism, going way back, you know, to Ted Williams and Frank Sinatra, and to Teddy Roosevelt before them.

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.

Kobe Bryant
The case for him: He puts the silk in silky smooth. He can create a shot -- and I don't just mean get open, I mean invent something brand new -- at any time, from anywhere on the floor. He's got a prototype body -- not too big, not too small, and plenty ripped -- and in every lean, leap and slide, he uses it like he's doing an endless tribute to MJ, so the respect-the-elders-thing is in there.

The case against him: He wears shades indoors all the time -- nobody likes that.

Tracy McGrady
Tracy McGrady
Here's a nice Tracy McGrady pose that would look good as a silhouette.
The case for him: Most complete game going.

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.

Jason Kidd
The case for him: He is where the river New-School and the river Old-School converge. Naismith and Cousy, Tiny Archibald and Magic, and JKidd's own crazy, no-look, look-alive self are coursing through his veins at once. Pass first is not just a style, it's a message. It's the sort of thing we want the kids to model, on the court, at the dinner table, everywhere.

The case against him: You gotta do better than 40 percent from the field to unseat Mr. Clutch.

Shaquille O'Neal
The case for him: America loves nothing more than to get behind an overdog and bask in the reflected glory of his accomplishments.

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.

Vince Carter
The case for him: There was a time, and it wasn't so very long ago, when VC was the no-brainer pick for the new logo. He was a vocabulary-stretcher, a breath-taker, a death-defying-I-ain't-lying-I-swear-he's-flying brother from another planet. Everything about the new game was in his legs, all the levitated brilliance, all the joy. A whole bunch of the old new thing was in him too -- he had The Hawk, Dr. J, a little bit of Ice Man and a healthy dose of Air in him.

The case against him: This time ain't that time. It might one day be again, but it ain't right now.

John Stockton
The case for him: Metronome steady. The game is angles and openings, simple math, in his hands. He's modest, earnest, fierce and hard-working -- he's Everyman (except, of course, he has something like a trillion assists in his back pocket).

The case against him: The shorts.

Kevin Garnett
Kevin Garnett
How do you symbolize Kevin Garnett's versatility?
The case for him: Look at the skill set. He's like a man from the future. Bonus points: He's got the open-mouthed, shout-at-the-heavens intensity thing. Can we get a silhouette of him screaming? I say, yay. Somebody show me some mockups.

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.

Gary Payton
The case for him: Defense wins championships. Plus, I think maybe the coolest-looking logo I can imagine would be GP, arms wide and in the crouch, ready to take on all comers.

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.)

Dirk Nowitzki
Nice shot, but too much Diggler in the name.

Tim Duncan
No. You want to know why? Because there is such a thing as too subtle.

Steve Francis
Until the Rockets revamp their unis, I can't talk about him.

Two guys mentioned for their hairstyles alone
Steve Nash and Ben Wallace. Logo could be a head-and-shoulder silhouette, like Jordan's old cologne ads.

Which brings us to the man himself
MJ logo
Jordan's always been in a league of his own anyway.
The case is simple: Michael Jordan made the world these other mugs are playing in, ushered in an era and a style, invented it when it didn't yet exist, played a game with which we were not familiar. Guys like Kobe, AI, Vince and TMac are his descendants -- not a one of them can stand in for him.

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



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