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The Golden State Warriors not only dipped into the past with its one-of-a-kind mark, but the team also foreshadowed the future. Now that the Warriors have set the NBA’s single-season record with 73 wins, Stephen Curry has won back-to-back league MVP awards and merchandise sales top the league during the team’s run for a second-straight NBA Championship, HOW looks back at the making of a logo design that has taken over the sports world.
To understand the Golden State Warriors logo—the Warriors Royal Blue and California Golden Yellow roundel featuring the Bay Bridge’s new East Span—a history lesson helps. The team moved from Philadelphia to San Francisco in 1962, retaining the Warriors nickname that had been in place since 1946. In 1969 the team introduced The City logo with a visual of the Golden Gate Bridge, a popular logo that would come back into the mix in the modern age. By 1971 things really changed, though, as the team officially moved to Oakland, was renamed the Golden State Warriors—the only team in the five major professional sports leagues to not be named after a city, state or region—and introduced a logo highlighting a basketball and state map, removing the short-lived era of The City logo. A superhero-like mark debuted in 1997, priming Golden State for a major shift in 2010.
“I recall the redesign being more about ownership change and the desire for an updated and modern look,” Christopher Arena, the NBA’s senior vice president for identity, outfitting and equipment, tells HOW. “The specific direction for the redesign was to draw inspiration from the past and create a new identity that was more modern.”
Around the same time the NBA introduced Hardwood Classic uniforms, giving the team a chance to bring back The City look from 1969 on special-event nights. The success with selling tickets and merchandise from a nostalgic time wasn’t lost on the team. The popularity of the past logo filled with bridge history got the Warriors’ front office thinking, especially with plans forming for a brand-new Bay Bridge East Span in the works.
The Warriors sent staff to the bridge designers’ offices to get approval to use the plans. T.Y. Lin International loved the idea and allowed the use of renderings and the Warriors took off from there, working to merge the nostalgia-fueled love of the The City logo with the modern take on a bridge. A bridge that wasn’t even built yet.
While some in the Warriors’ design office lobbied for a return to the San Francisco name and using the Bay Bridge as a nod to East Bay fans, the fear of upsetting the fans from Oakland kept the Golden State name in tact across the top of the logo. There was never a consideration of using the Golden Gate Bridge, as the Bay Bridge connected fan bases in both San Francisco and Oakland, but also completely updated a historic look, even if the new logo debuted three years before the bridge opened.
Arena says even more than centering the look on a bridge that wasn’t even finished, the fact that Golden State put the focus on a structure at all is still “pretty unique on its own.”
In the major sports, Golden State remains the only club with such a prominent use of a structure as the focus of a logo—MLB’s New York Mets have a fictional bridge and cityscape in the background of its primary logo, MLS’ Seattle Sounders have the Space Needle as part of a larger shield, NHL’s Washington Capitals formerly used the U.S. Capitol building in their logo and the defunct Seattle Supersonics also used the Space Needle. Nobody, though, plays up a single structure quite like Golden State.
Arena says “the simple color story and consistent use of the primary logo since its inception” has allowed for growing success. “The mark,” he says, “continues to be embraced by fans. The Warriors do a great job of marketing their brand and the consistent use of the primary logo has made it synonymous with the team.”
For Golden State, the timing of the then-unfinished Bay Bridge created the perfect mix of regional tie in, nostalgia-inducing design and modern spin. And with the Golden State Warriors at the top of the NBA, the mark now has its chance to shine.