The NBA is the youngest of the ‘Big Four’ North American sports leagues and because of this, its history has not been as closely documented as the NHL, NFL, and Major League Baseball.
Professional basketball in general was late onto the scene of mainstream sports in North America. The NBA’s first season was 1949/50- (not 1946/47 as is commonly misrepresented by the Association)- but I’ll leave that topic for a future article. Professional basketball struggled in the 1950s and 1960s to gain mainstream traction and it wasn’t until the rival American Basketball Association rose to prominence in the early 1970s that pro basketball became as relevant as College Basketball and followed by a much larger audience.
As recently as the early 1980s some NBA Finals games were aired only on tape-delay. That’s quite astounding to think that the interest in the NBA was still that low only 35-40 years ago.
Why this Matters to True Champion Sports
I have a keen interest in the history of teams’ logos, color-schemes, and uniforms and there are great sources chronicling these histories for baseball, hockey, and football. However, there is not an equivalent and comprehensive resource for the history of basketball logos and uniforms.
The most important contribution I am making to the sports community with True Champion Sports is the creation of my Algorithm; which I believe provides the most accurate methods of quantifying and contextualizing the success/ failure of sports franchises, season-by-season, in terms of how fans perceive the various categories of team performance. Examples- quantifying how fans value winning a Division Title, Best record overall in the regular season, playoff success versus regular season success, dead-last in the standings, etc.
I am trying to bring to life the history of sports in a way that hasn’t been done before- and in order to compliment my analytical work I also want to create a super-accurate visual representation of each team’s identity for every season. I do a ton of research to be very accurate with the colors/ logos on a year-to-year basis for each team, including subtly changes. (Shout out to Chris Creamer and www.Sportslogos.net , the best site for the history of sports logos.)
The Baltimore Bullets known Identity is Wrong!
As I have been working on a project to back-date and quantify the history of the Washington Wizards franchise, I discovered something quite perplexing to me through my research. It appears that the Baltimore Bullets are largely misrepresented in terms of their visual identity- namely, their logos and colors.
95% of any Google search looking for the Baltimore Bullets old logos or throwback merchandise will tell you that the Baltimore Bullets wore the same red & blue as the Washington Bullets. Almost every logo online, as well as 99% of the hats, T-shirts, coats, etc. will be colored in red & royal blue.
It seems what has happened is that with the lack of a comprehensive historical resource there was an assumption made that the Washington Bullets, (who were always red & blue), must have worn those same colors when they were in Baltimore. This has led to a generally incorrect depiction of the old Baltimore Bullets by most trusted sources. Even the most respected source for historical sport logos and one of my favorite resources- Chris Creamer’s Sportslogos.net, has this one wrong.
When searching for specific Baltimore jerseys, for example, a search for “1970/71 Bullets jersey”, it’s fairly easy to find the orange and navy blue the Bullets actually wore. However, when it comes to the logos and throwback merchandise- they are 95% colored in the Washington-era red & blue. I don’t think it’s plausible that Baltimore wore orange and navy blue jerseys for their entire history, yet used red & royal blue for their logos.
What about the Capital Bullets?
When Baltimore relocated to Landover, Maryland (in the Greater Washington D.C. area), for their 1st season they went by the name the ‘Capital Bullets’. This only lasted 1 season, and they were renamed ‘Washington’ the next year.
There is some significant discrepancy on the uniforms worn for this unique basketball season- the 1973/74 Capital Bullets.
From my research it seems what may have happened is the wacky orange & navy blue uniforms used from 1971-1973 were worn for part of that 1st season in Washington, and then the uniforms changed part way through the year to what became the classic Washington Bullets look. The look they wore during their dynasty of the late 1970s.
Or perhaps, the change wasn’t made until the team was renamed the following season. I’m hoping for a basketball historian or some really old fan to help me solve this mystery:
When did the Bullets make that dramatic uniform change? Was it prior to their 1st season in Landover, during the season, or prior to their 1st season as the renamed ‘Washington Bullets’?
Either way, the Baltimore Bullets were an important member of growing the NBA and were in the Finals as recently as 1971- which isn’t ancient history. It would be nice to see their identity corrected when it comes to the logos and throwback merchandise out there. Hard to believe an NBA team has taken on such a mistaken identity.