The Cleveland Cavaliers’ First Logo—Wine and Gold, with a Dash of Pittsburgh

LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers are headed back to the NBA Finals for the fourth consecutive year, a development that original Cavs fans would likely have found unthinkable after the team’s 1970-71 debut, during which the team posted a 15-67 record.

While Cleveland hoops fans owe much to the estimable Mr. James, they owe their first logo to a design agency that was based in (of all places) Pittsburgh. 

The Cavs’ original logo was unveiled on May 14, 1970 and it was developed by Pitt Studios, self-described as “one of the largest studios in the country,” with offices in Cleveland, and yes, Pittsburgh.

  • The Cavaliers name was selected via a contest from a group of finalists that also included Jays, Foresters, Towers and Presidents.
  • The winner of the contest was 29 year-old Jerry Tomko of Eastlake, Ohio. Tomko’s son Brett, born in 1973, would go on to pitch in the Major Leagues for ten different teams over a fourteen year career.
  • Jerry Tomko's winning essay described the name as such: "The name Cleveland Cavaliers represents a group of daring fearless men whose life's pact was never surrender, no matter what the odds."

By March 1983 the Cavs had bottomed out under the brief but disastrous ownership of Ted Stepien, who announced that he was moving the team to Toronto, where they would have become the Toronto Towers. Three weeks after the announcement of the proposed move, Stepien sold the Cavaliers to George and Gordon Gund, who promptly set out to rebrand the beleaguered franchise.

The new look—a burnt orange and blue abbreviated “CAVS,” with a stylized hoop standing in for the “V,” was unveiled on August 2, 1983. It was created by Marcus Advertising, an agency based in Cleveland—not Pittsburgh.