NBA Playoffs

Why did the NBA stop using trophy decals during the Finals?

Here's a look at the old NBA Finals decals and why the league stopped using them

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The NBA Finals are the biggest stage in basketball, and for a while, the championship series had courts that fit the occasion.

After decades of on-court decals, the NBA had a brief stint where a massive decal of the Larry O’Brien Trophy would sit beneath the home team’s logo at midcourt for Finals games. It served as a glaring reminder of what’s at stake in the Finals and helped the games stand out from other playoff matchups.

Why exactly did the decals go away? And does the NBA do anything special with its courts in the Finals anymore?

Here’s what to know ahead of the 2024 NBA Finals between the Boston Celtics and Dallas Mavericks.

When did the NBA start using on-court decals for the NBA Finals?

The NBA created individual logos for the Finals each year starting in 1986. The original template was in place for 10 years before the league updated the design in 1996. There have been several interactions since, and the NBA brought back a version of the iconic, scripted Finals font in 2022.

As for decals, the 1989 Finals between the Detroit Pistons and Los Angeles Lakers was the first to feature an on-court decals displaying that year’s Finals logo. The NBA kept that practice in place through 2004 before making a major switch.

When did the NBA Finals have trophy logo at halfcourt?

The 2005 NBA Finals between the San Antonio Spurs and Detroit Pistons were the first to feature giant Larry O’Brien Trophy decals at halfcourt.

The league brought the decals back for the next four Finals, but they were last used in 2009 when the Lakers defeated the Orlando Magic.

Lakers Magic 2009
Andrew Bynum of the Los Angeles Lakers and Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic go after the tipoff to start Game 5 of the 2009 NBA Finals on June 14, 2009, at Amway Arena in Orlando, Florida. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

What did the NBA do once it removed trophy decals at the Finals?

The NBA returned to smaller on-court decals of the Finals logo from 2010 to 2014.

Court changes have mostly disappeared since. The Cavaliers incorporated the trophy with two on-court decals during the 2017 NBA Finals. The 2020 NBA Finals also had a special halfcourt logo in the Orlando bubble when the Lakers beat the Miami Heat.

Cavs 2017
Zaza Pachulia of the Golden State Warriors and Tristan Thompson of the Cleveland Cavaliers go up for the opening tipoff in Game 3 of the 2017 NBA Finals on June 7, 2017, at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. (Darren Carroll/NBAE via Getty Images)
Heat 2020
Bam Adebayo of the Miami Heat and Dwight Howard of the Los Angeles Lakers go up for the opening tipoff during Game 5 of the NBA Finals on Oct. 9, 2020, in Orlando at AdventHealth Arena. (David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)

There were no decals of any kind during the 2015, 2016, 2018, 2019, 2021, 2022 and 2023 NBA Finals, except for those superimposed for TV viewers. 

Heat 2023
Bam Adebayo of the Miami Heat and Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets during opening tip during Game 2 of the 2023 NBA Finals on June 4, 2023, at the Ball Arena in Denver. (Jamie Schwaberow/NBAE via Getty Images)

Why did the NBA remove decals during the playoffs?

Player safety was the biggest factor when it came to removing on-court decals.

The NBA followed in the footsteps of the NCAA, which decided to remove decals and stickers from its courts in 2012 and mandated that all courts be “of a consistent surface.”

“There were a lot of considerations taken into account in making this decision, including player safety,” an NBA spokesman told The Cauldron in 2014. “We decided to remove the playoffs logo from the court for a variety of reasons, including cleaning up the playing surface.”

Will there be a halfcourt trophy logo for the 2024 NBA Finals?

The league brought halfcourt trophy logos back in 2023-24, but it wasn't for the NBA Finals.

The inaugural NBA In-Season Tournament featured unique courts for all 30 teams. The courts all had various colors, a colorful stripe down the middle from baseline to baseline and a decal of the NBA Cup at midcourt.

The league also had a special blue-and-red court for the In-Season Tournament semifinals and championship game, which were held in Las Vegas.

LeBron IST
LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers stands on the court during the game against the Indiana Pacers during the In-Season Tournament Championship game on December 9, 2023, at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. (Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images)

The league did not, however, change its stance on courts for the NBA Finals, which tip-off Thursday night at TD Garden in Boston.

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