The 1993 LA Clippers Redesign that Never Was

Written By:  •  Thursday, May 14, 2020

In 1991, the Los Angeles Clippers came to NBA Creative Services, looking for a redesign.

Tom O’Grady, later the founder of Gameplan Creative, and his team of creatives at the NBA took up the task. I spoke briefly to Tom to get his recounting of the story. In his own words:

The Clippers approached me about rebranding the team at the NBA Marketing Meetings back in 1991. At the time, our NBA Creative Services team was just beginning to take on team branding work for the Suns, Knicks and Bucks. We worked with a terrific guy at the Clippers, Mitch Huberman, who helped navigate the creative project flow and dealt directly with owner Donald Sterling. We met with the team in LA and our meeting proved very successful. We felt the nautical theme the San Diego Clippers after moving from Buffalo really was less appropriate in LA. The surf and beach culture along Pacific Coast Hwy 1 and that lifestyle inspired us to use a wave; a morphing of the Oakley and Cooper Tires logo…and the color palette of sea foam green, creamsicle orange, black and silver came together as a strong color palette for an LA team.

The owner signed off on the new logo which surprised the league and the team since Sterling was known to be a master vacillator but on this one, he was a strong GO! After getting legal clearances, we put the logo into production and all systems were GO!

Time passed and we had begun to create uniform prototypes for the Clips, but low and behold, I received a call from NBA Properties President Rick Welts who alerted me that Sterling was getting cold feet and that we needed to get on a cross country flight to try and convince him to stay the course.

In the tradition of the Clippers franchise at the time, Sterling got in the way of his own progress and killed the entire project. What was really annoying is that Sterling wanted to start the project over using a nautical theme in place of what we had created. Rick Welts, who hired me at the NBA and who I really respect, told Sterling in NO uncertain terms this was NOT going to happen. We had other teams who were making great adjustments to their brand and if he wanted to change he would need to GET IN BACK OF THE LINE for any change… I loved that.

Well, it never came to pass and as you know, the team was eventually sold to Steve Ballmer for $2B a few years ago.

Tom O’Grady, NBA Creative Director, 1993-2003

Unfortunately, there doesn’t exist (to the best of Tom’s and my knowledge) any photos of the manufactured uniform prototypes. If you haven’t seen the original images of what Tom and his team put together, here’s a best sampling that I could compile and photo-edit for best presentation.

Thanks to Brian McGeehan for alerting us to the existence of this pin. Credit to pinpal for the above photo.

So, as you probably already know about me, as soon as I saw those sketches and heard the story, I had to get cracking on my own translation of what Tom and his crew had cooking back in 1993. This project also gave me the excuse to utilize some 3D rendering software I’ve been playing around with recently.

Without further ado, my interpretive concept project on the redesigned 1993 Los Angeles Clippers…

^ Click Image to see Full Resolution ^
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Conrad Burry

Conrad Burry is a professional designer in the sports uniform industry who has an intense voracity for both sports and their aesthetics. He religiously follows basketball and soccer and is locked in to the design aspects of both. You can learn more about him on his website and follow him on twitter @conradburry for more news, opinions, resources and concepts.