Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers sits on the bench during pregame introductions before a 2012 game against the Phoenix Suns. (Photo: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
The reasons Kyrie Irving wants the late, great Kobe Bryant to be the NBA logo instead of Jerry West are understandable, especially from his perspective.
Bryant was his mentor.
Irving views Bryant as the player who set the standard for his generation.
“Black Kings built the league,” Irving reiterated Thursday.
There’s a lot of truth in that statement as the NBA has been predominately Black for decades, but West, a White man from a small town in Cabin Creek, W. Va., helped build the league as did Larry Bird, Bill Bradley, “Pistol” Pete Maravich, John Stockton and many other Caucasians.
I get Irving’s point as African-Americans like Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson made their mark on the league early, Julius Erving, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan took it to another level and now LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry are carrying it forward, but the game is also global now.
So guys like Luka Doncic from Slovenia and Giannis Antetokounmpo from Greece are inspiring the next generation worldwide to play just as James and Bryant inspired them.
However, Bryant, who died Jan. 26, 2020, in a helicopter crash in California along with his daughter, Gigi, and seven others, is an ideal choice if a logo change is made.
While West and I are from the same state and I think he’s one of the best to ever play, here’s another big reason why the logo switch works for me personally.
As the Lakers general manager, West made the move to get Bryant to Los Angeles in orchestrating that trade with Charlotte during the 1996 draft.
The Hornets drafted the high school superstar out of Lower Merion in Philadelphia and traded him to the Lakers for center Vlade Divac.
Twenty years and five NBA titles later, Bryant left the game as an all-time great – and West set that process in motion by believing in him so much to trade the Lakers’ best player at the time for a talented, but skinny, high school kid.
The rest is history.
So to me, this is passing of the torch.
Now you could easily go with Russell.
He endured as much, if not more, than anyone else as far as racial uproar, but was the driving force in Boston winning 11 NBA titles in 13 years.
For me personally, Earl Lloyd comes to mind, too.
Playing college ball at West Virginia State University, an historically Black college, Lloyd was the first African-American to play in an NBA game Oct. 31, 1950, as he was with the Washington Capitols when they played the Rochester Royals.
Lloyd was the first of the first ‘Black Kings” in that regard.
No. 49: Earl Lloyd (right, 11) (Photo: Anonymous, AP)
Then there’s Jordan, perhaps the greatest athlete of all time, but the Nike Air Jordan logo is already the most popular logo on the planet.
Dr. J. and Magic are two more considerations.
Julius Erving took over the league when the ABA and NBA merged and became the first NBA superstar who transcended the sport. From his afro to his dunks to commercials to having his own shoe deal, everyone knew who he was and idolized.
Then Magic, along with Bird, took the league to another level in terms fan following and level of play. Those two brought the hated Lakers-Celtics rivalry Russell and West established back to the forefront in competing for championships in the 1980s.
The Lakers won five.
The Celtics took three.
Los Angeles beat Boston twice in three finals matchups between the two rivals.
So there are plenty of players, as Irving eluded to, that could be the new logo if NBA Commissioner Adam Silver chooses to make that switch.
Silver seems to be the ideal guy to make this change, too, but Bryant is the ideal choice to be the new logo.
If it happens, go with No. 8 Bryant with the baby afro.
Just my personal preference.
Have opinion about current state of the Suns? Reach Suns Insider Duane Rankin at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact him at 480-787-1240. Follow him on Twitter at @DuaneRankin.
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