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The Mavericks need a new logo for a new generation

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With Dennis Smith Jr., Luka Doncic and a team on the rise, it’s time to look at a redesign.

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Every morning since the NBA Draft has been a good day to wake up a MFFL. I felt that way a year ago, after Dennis Smith Jr. was available for Dallas at #9. But, with a second potential superstar in the fold in Doncic and, knock on wood, DeAndre Jordan soon to be a signed and sealed Maverick, the optimism is exponential. Yet now that much of the dust from the Mavericks’ strident move up to number three has settled, and we feel confident in our new core of Doncic, Smith Jr., and Antetokounmpo, it is time we have a serious and long overdue discussion.

The Dallas Mavericks need a new logo.

The Dallas Mavericks have had the same logo, what I call “Swirly Horse,” for the last 17 seasons. The change came in 2001, prior to Dirk’s fourth season. The original logo, a cowboy hat hung casually on one peak of an “M” lasted for the franchise’s first 20 years with some minor font-meddling in the ‘90s. This was the banner of Aguirre, Blackman, Harper, the three Js and a crew-cut Nowitzki.

I have never loved the current Mavs logo, which is a shame, because it will always be the logo of the Dirk Nowitzki era and the franchise’s first championship. For those reasons, I will always have a certain affection for it, but the objective problems have always been there. To illustrate what I’m talking about, let’s see how it stacks up to Dallas’ other professional teams.

The first logo needs no context, no introduction. I don’t need to tell you what team it is and that makes my point. It is elegant, impactful and has lasted since 1964. The Texas Rangers’ logo is based around a capital “T” that stands alone on most of team’s merchandise. The letter isn’t particularly creative, but it makes its point on a baseball cap without assistance. The Dallas Stars’ logo has its own issues with the new, superfluous embossed look, but still harkens back to the franchise’s Minnesota roots by keeping the tilted star dominant.

The Mavericks’ logo is, frankly, a mess, lacking the punch of other the other logos. The name of the city is imperceptible at small-scale. The horse-basketball yin-yang that anchors the image looks like an unanswerable Rorschach test. It is a kaleidoscope of confusion. It is not a good logo.

But what is a good logo? For ideas on that, I contacted Rodney Richardson, Principal at RARE Design. As a Nike employee, Richardson worked on a new Mavericks logo for the Ross Perot Jr. ownership in the late ‘90s. The design was never picked up, but Richardson more than made up for that lost opportunity. With RARE design, he has developed new logos for the Pelicans, Grizzlies, Hawks, Timberwolves and Kings. That doesn’t even cover his work with arena football, college and e-sports. Richardson knows a thing or two about logos.

For Richardson, a great team logo has to encapsulate three identities: the team, the city and the totem, which is what he calls a team’s mascot. He says, “Every team has chosen for itself a name—we call it a totem—that conjures something that team wants to represent. We want to know and represent why.” That is a whole lot to balance, especially given the passion, often irrational, that accompanies a devoted fanbase. “There’s a great responsibility when developing these identities,” Richardson says. “[Fans] feel a vested interest in their logo and identity.”

Asked for his assessment of the current Mavericks logo, Richardson says, “It doesn’t matter if I ‘like’ the Mavs logo. What matters is if that logo…represents the Mavericks team, organization and fanbase in the right ways.” But as a matter of personal opinion, he admits, “I think [the Mavericks’ logo] falls short in its lack of Dallas sophistication and by simply being too convoluted in its execution.”

I believe the Sacramento King’s logo Richardson developed offers a particularly helpful path forward. From 1994 to 2016, the team had a logo that defined convolution. An uninspired font took center stage, backed by an abstract crown and a pair of crossed fencing sabres, both of which disappear into the jumble.

In 2016, RARE design helped the team rediscover itself, offering a slightly modified version of the crowned basketball logo that reached all the way back to the franchise’s Kansas City days. Asked why they proposed a reboot instead of a clean slate, Richardson says, “While we explored more than a few directions and drew literally dozens of variations of that concept, you couldn’t avoid the equity of that beloved mark.”

Team culture, civic identity, totemic fidelity. Those are all great criteria to explore, but I think “beloved mark” nails it. The Mavericks’ logo lacks that ineffable quality of a “beloved mark.” I don’t know that the team needs to follow exactly in the Kings’ or Hawks’ footsteps and dust off the old cowboy hat. I wouldn’t be opposed to it. But whether it grasps for the past or leaps forward, the logo desperately needs a redesign that captures this moment.

Today, we are drunk with newness and youth, impatiently awaiting the rewards that Doncic, Smith and company have not yet earned. We the fans need a new emblem of our vivified hope. We love our team; we should also love our logo.