The NBA season is only a week away! Let’s rank something.
Since there are so many professional basketball rankings and ratings out there—power rankings, uniform rankings, uniform power rankings, court design power rankings, league-pass rankings, rankings of Houston’s top 151 athletes—I couldn’t just choose to rank whatever I wanted to, which was Bill Simmons’s columns. It turns out that there are a lot of those. Instead, I turned to a critical but neglected area of the sport of basketball: baseline fonts.
You may think that baseline fonts are a kind of meaningless bit of ephemera that has no impact on the sport, but there you would be wrong, because these fonts are right next to the court. Players rub their sweaty bottoms on them constantly. Fans are forced to read them billions of times a year. Cameramen stick their legs out over them and endanger the livelihood of professional floor-sweat wipers. A great deal of design work, mostly at Malaysian sweatshops, went into making sure these fonts express the essence of a team’s character, insouciance, and revenue-hungry rapaciousness. They fulfill a critical mission: to remind you what team you’re watching.
Poorly designed, a player might get confused and think that the baseline is actually further out than it is. That might explain why Zoran Dragic is always stepping out of bounds. Indeed, baseline fonts are an important part of assessing potential player fit when teams consider trades or draft prospects. Does the player have the proper eyesight, depth perception, and color awareness to realize that the baseline area is not a personal rectangle of freedom? Could someone have told Anthony Bennett that before he had to be put in cryogenic storage in the Toronto Raptors’ breeding room? Well, too late now.
So, on to the rankings. Note that the rankings are entirely subjective and based on the momentary, unreflective impressions of a middle-aged white guy who likes classical music, Civil War history, and fanciful mustaches. Therefore, I am eminently qualified to evaluate all aspects of the NBA. For now, though, I’ll just pass judgment on some poor designer who was paid $50,000,000 to outsource the work to Kuala Lumpur.
- New York Knicks
The Knicks, who have, by far, the worst logo in the league (it’s 50% pale gray), have nevertheless, somehow, against all odds, with only one good player and haplessly led, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, captured the top spot with a simple, gorgeous design. I almost don’t know what to say. They really knocked it out of Central Park? No one’s going to be sknickering at it? It’s just so good that it starts making me change my entire perception of the team. Instead of leaden gray blanketing the sky in a post-apocalyptic vision of a basketball wasteland, I image puffy clouds lazing their way through the clear blue ether while Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingas skip and twirl with interlocking arms through verdant fields. Ahhhhh.
- New Orleans Pelicans
There are two different approaches to baseline fonts: serif and sans serif. The former means “with gewgaws and gimcracks” and the latter means “no gewgaws or gimcracks.” New Orleans went with some gewgaws and gimcracks, which is perfect for their team identity, as Mark Twain, the bard of the Mississippi and probably a lover of clumsy seabirds, loved to say things like “gewgaws and gimcracks.”
- Chicago Bulls
Oh, thank god. Their previous font was horrible.
Oh, wait, Zach Lowe at Grantland.com already mentioned this. Damn. Can’t I at least be the first person to start rating baseline fonts? DO THE PROFESSIONALS ALWAYS HAVE TO WIN? I mean, it’s unfair because they get paid.
- Sacramento Kings
Sacramento is an even worse-managed team than the Knicks, with a logo that comes close to being as terrible. However, their baseline font is a thing of beauty—modern, Western, pleasantly spaced and finely wrought. Notice the subtle collegiate influences and the exaggerated, top-heavy “R,” which looks like it is showing us its penis. Admire the way the classic white plays against the unique purple, suggesting a spunky and athletic pixie. Just terrific. This is why we have baseline font rankings, people.
- Indiana Pacers
Another impeccably spaced, classic-looking font that recalls old-fashioned values and nostalgic memories of times spent swingin’ on the front porch, lookin’ over the cornfields, and hittin’ fans in the face. But I shouldn’t hold that against the current team, because they are really boring.
- Charlotte Hornets
Now, let me say that this is not hometown favoritism, because I don’t live in Charlotte and never have. Nevertheless, I admire this unique font greatly, despite the eyehurt I get from staring at teal. In fact, right now, I have lost the ability to see color. I only see character. And their character says, “My, what gewgaws and gimcracks.”
- Brooklyn Nets
A classic color scheme and tall, sans-gewgaw font make this a pleasing but not particularly compelling font choice. However, do they have Zoran Dragic on their team this year? Is he even in the NBA anymore? He could have really used a stark black-and-white baseline scheme to help keep him from stepping out of bounds all the time. Oh, wait, he was with the Miami Heat last year, with his brother, starting point guard Goran Dragic. Amendment: He could have really used an additional relative to help keep him in the league this year.
- Toronto Raptors
Another clean, sans-gimcrack font mildly marred by the fact that they colored it gray, as if they didn’t want anyone realizing what their team name was or the fact that they are located in the only place colder than Minneapolis. Well, done, TORONTO RAPTORS.
- Cleveland Cavaliers
Not a bad design, considering the unfortunate color they are required to use. However, the environmental benefits of extracting pollutants from the Cuyahoga and using them to ink sports team signs can’t be underestimated. It really gives the area an economic boost, too. But I can never root for a team that mercilessly stole a player from another team like Cleveland stole LeBron James from the Miami Heat. Poor Miami Heat. They had to sign Zoran Dragic last year.
- Dallas Mavericks
Dallas has decided to eliminate any mention of the terrible city that they play in. Very Maverick. Also great use of quirky stars in the corners. They say, “we love liberty, but are quite drunk.”
However, their actual font, though a custom design, is bad. It’s so bad that Google feels bad for it:
- Oklahoma City Thunder
A tall, skinny, imposing font. Like Kevin Durant, it’s neither here nor there, but in Oklahoma, and angry in a nice way.
- Atlanta Hawks
The Atlanteans have revamped their court design this year. It’s an admirable effort that reflects the totemic symbol of their team: a hawk soaring above the tragic prehistorical flooding that previously swamped their tiny island. They get points for a unique typeface and a native-peoples-inspired design. I only hope that the frightening rituals conducted in their secretive hoop temple of orange sphere-casting can ward off another catastrophe.
- Detroit Pistons
Detroit includes both its city name (Detroit) and its team nickname (Pistons) in their font, a wise choice. That way you know which city they are in and what to call them. However, this font looks like they forgot to insert a word in the middle, or accidentally formatted some letters red. It probably should say “The Detroit Michigan Pistons Team,” but we still wouldn’t know that they play basketball. That’s okay, though, because in some ways they don’t.
- Houston Rockets
Houston’s design ethos—indeed, its entire organizational mission—is designed with a clear, focused goal: to become the People’s Republic of China’s favorite team. The unnecessarily funky lettering; the red and white color scheme occasionally supplemented with yellow; and the emphasis on intercontinental missiles make people think of a communist military parade, or sometimes McDonald’s. The team’s personnel moves likewise express their intention to become the Great Unusual Attacking Team of the Year of Destiny: from Yao Ming (from China) to Jeremy Lin (of Taiwanese descent) to James Harden (his beard is a symbol of rice patty fertility), Houston is really nailing their socialist manifesto.
- Philadelphia 76ers
Zach Lowe at Grantland.com ranked Philly’s overall court as the second-best design in the NBA (behind the Los Angeles Lakers), but this font is really too much. I appreciate the throw-back reference to the 76ers’s 1970s/early-1980s glory days, but I wouldn’t want to live there. There was a lot of cocaine use then, and the footage was all grainy. Do you want to be hard to see? Of course not. And nor do you want to be a gimcrack.
Come back tomorrow for the ranking of teams 16 through 30! It’ll be even more irrelevant.