This is only one man's opinion and it encompasses just teams from the NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB. There are some really bizarre, amazing logos from minor/fray league teams and some fantastic college logos (including Sparky, Pete, Bucky, Faulkner-inspired Rebel, an angry Donald, a deranged Deacon, the Rose Bowl, the Orange Bowl, the "Hurricane" and the Gator) but that would be biting off more than I can chew.
The Hidden Letters Category
The only thing more impressive than the fact the the Expos managed to fit 4 letters into their logo (E, L, B, M) was that they had at various points Pedro Martines, Vladimir Guerrero, Larry Walker, Moises Alou, Marquis Grissom, Gary Carter, Andre Dawson, Tim Raines and John Wetteland, but never won anything. Bonus points for Youppi!, the Expos mascot who is now a staple at Canadians' games. He is the only mascot ever to change teams and leagues.
For some reason, art students always come up with the best logo ideas/designs. Nike's ubiquitous swoosh was conjured up by an art student at Portland State in 1971, billing Nike $35 for 17.5 hours of work. 12 yeas later, Phil Knight gave her Nike stock in a show of gratitude. But I digress. The Brewers M and B that form a baseball glove is easily one of the most memorable and beloved baseball logos. Designed by a University of Wisconsin—Eau Claire, the logo was scrapped in 1993 for some awful, more-serious look. Thankfully the Brew Crew came to the senses in 2006 and began wearing the unis as a weekly home alternate, likely because it makes former Grosse Pointe Woods-Shores Little Leaguer Prince Fielder look slimmer.
Like the Expos, the Whalers don't even exist any longer, much less their logo. But it lives on in the hearts of creative logo lovers everywhere. While I prefer the white to gray background, there is no debating that the whales tail is an amazing touch that creates the stylized H cut out of the green W. Despite the teams departure in 1997 at the hands of Detroiter Peter Karmanos, the Blowhole still hopes for a team in the city's future. I totally support it based on creative logo design and the Coffee-Shanahan trade that helped the Wings win the 1997 Stanley Cup.
Just Missed the Cut
New Jersey Devils
When Penn State accepted the Big Ten's invitation to join in 1990, there were discussions about what to do with the conference's now-misnomer name. It was decided that the conference would retain its name, but the logo would reflect the addition of the Nittany Lions. The number 11 is now disguised in white while set against the conference's traditional blue lettering. While 11 teams causes scheduling headaches for the conference, it has lead to the best conference logo in the country. Here's to hoping Notre Dame stays independent, allowing for the logo to remain untouched.
I hadn't realized it before it was pointed out to me recently, but there is an arrow in the FedEx logo! Yes! It's there! Between the E and x! Good luck ever looking at that logo again and not thinking about it.
This logo was so much better before the Steelers tried needlessly to add a mascot last year and then named him Steely McBeam, a name that wouldn't even pass for in the porn industry. (He wasn't well received.) Regardless, there is no way you can't love the rotund construction worker punting the ball on the I-beam look that belonged to the black and gold in the early 1960s. The blue collar toughness of the Steel City calls for no warm and fuzzy caricatures - nor apparently a logo on both sides of the helmet - so this unnamed logo fell to the wayside as Swan, Bradshaw, and Terrible Towels came onto the scene. Regardless, it still ranks as an appropriate and fantastic concept of a team and its city.
Although miserable on the field, the Washington Senators had one of the game's great logos. The suit-clad, silver haired pitcher is - like the Steelers - a wonderful marriage of city, team, and logo. Before the Senators moved west to Minneapolis to become the Twins, the Washington Monument was added to the archery target background, a thoughtful and unique touch, but one that I could not find in a photo big enough to post (you can find it here). One can only hope that the Nationals front office realizes they have one of the worst, most inane logos in sports and changes its logo scheme and team name.
New England Patriots
Maybe the easiest of the decisions, Pat Patriot is one of the greatest, most ornate and graphically-detailed logos ever. Period. At least until he was taken out back Old Yeller-style and killed in an execution-like manner in 1993. And you really can't argue with the results...since the logo change the Patriots have been to 5 Super Bowls, winning 3. And while Pat Patriot must have reminded fans and the front office of the position they were in when the Bears gave it to them in Super Bowl XX, that still doesn't excuse the unceremonious end he was subjected to.
Irene Castle, the owner's wife, designed the logo before World War II and it has stood as one of the most recognizable and storied logos in all of American sports. Of the four logos in the humans section, it is the only one still in use and despite resistance of the team's PR/marketing staff to "Commit to the Indian", the franchise is clearly dedicated to keeping the iconic logo on the front of the players' sweaters.
Just Missing the Cut
Milwaukee Brewers Keg Man
Pittsburgh Pirates All-Star Game Logo
Call me a homer, but I like the simplicity of the design. I suppose if you didn't grow up in Detroit, you may not understand the importance of the logo, but it adorned the outside of now decrepit Tiger Stadium, stood for the 35-5 start in 1984, and combined a realistic depiction of a tiger with the logo friendly colors and design shirts necessitated. Bonus points for having these two alternates and for being adopted as the logo of Bayside High.
Why does almost every NBA team incorporate a basketball into their logo? No other league experiences quite the epidemic that infected the Association (although MLB teams do like the baseball), but the Chicago Bulls have avoided it. And like their co-tenants at the United Center (the Blackhawks), they have one of the most iconic and enduring logo in American sports. Now synonymous with #23, the ball-less logo has been unchanged since the team entered the Association in 1967. The team gave us one of the best logos, most aesthetically pleasing unis, greatest player ever and most obnoxious fans west of Boston/NY. Let us be thankful for three of those four things.
A penguin can't fly, but who doesn't have mounds of respect for the waddling tuxedoed avians after watching "March of the Penguins"? The original logo designers of the Pittsburgh Penguins certainly did. The playful, portly penguin wearing skates in front of a triangular background has provided the basis for the team's logo for its 40 year history. But its the original logo scores the most points in terms of subtle creativity. While the penguin is now more muscular than portly and beak more menacing, the greatest touch/loss is the scarf, which was scrapped only a year into the team's design. It's a classy, playful addition that speaks to hockey's heritage of pick-up games on frozen ponds. While the penguin has almost no neck in the present logo, there has to be room for the scarf. Maybe even a winter hat...at least Youngstown State has the idea.
Just Missed The Cut
Steroid-aided Toronto Blue Jay
Chicago Cubs (and again, and again)
St. Louis Cardinals
San Diego Padres (500 levels of awesome, according to Ken.)
St. Louis Cardinals (NFL edition)
Best Inanimate Object
St. Louis Blues
The Blue Note, as it's called, is so simple; a solid city-appropriate choice and incorporation into a color-pleasing logo. They also get bonus points for not capitulating to the lowest common denominator and incorporating the Gateway Arch to busy the design of the logo or jersey. And this is head and shoulders better than the Utah Jazz logo. If there were ever two teams that needed immediate name changing due to epic misnomer-status it is the Sodom Angels, the Bismark Heat and the Utah Jazz. Perspective by incongruity doesn't work in sports logos/nicknames.
Detroit Red Wings
Again, I may be playing homer, but is there a better logo in all of sports than the Winged Wheel? Classy, unchanged, unique and reflective of the Motor City with its spoked wheel - connecting both to the automotive industry and the city's Parisian-inspired street layout. The logo and team are so popular the team hasn't needed to surrender to marketing considerations and add an alternative logo or jersey. The logo even survived the "Dead Wing" era of the 1980s...that is how resilient it is.
New York Yankees/Boston Red Sox
These two teams have perhaps the most intertwined histories of two franchises of American sports. The only other two that come to mind are the Lakers and Celtics. Regardless, it seems pointless to try and separate the Yanks and Sawks now.
Just Missed the Cut
Detroit (nee Ford Wayne) Pistons
New York Jets
Best Stevie Wonder Interpretation
Miami Floridians (ABA Team)
Let me know what you think. Can anyone tell me if the guy in the MLB logo is batting right-handed or left-handed? And the natural follow-up is a worst logo list. If anyone has any suggestions, let me know.