The NBA rarely makes major changes in equipment. In almost 75 years of NBA history, the league has changed its basketball only four times, and those tweaks haven’t always stuck. In 2006, for instance, the NBA made the switch from a leather ball to a synthetic one. It was so reviled by players at the time that the league was forced to switch back.
On Wednesday, the NBA announced yet another change, but a subtler one. Starting in the 2021-22 season, Wilson will take over as the league’s official ball manufacturer. Spalding currently holds the distinction. Fortunately for players and purists, the new ball will be made with the exact specifications of the current one, as the league revealed in its press release.
“The National Basketball Association (NBA) and Wilson Sporting Goods Co. announced a multiyear global partnership today that will make Wilson the official game ball of the NBA, Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), NBA G League, NBA 2K League and Basketball Africa League (BAL).
The partnership will tip off at different times by league. The NBA Wilson game ball will first be used during the league’s 75th anniversary season in 2021-22. The other debuts will be during the 2022 WNBA season, 2021-22 NBA G League season, 2021 NBA 2K League season and the inaugural BAL season.
“This partnership with Wilson returns us to our roots as we plan for the future,” said Salvatore LaRocca, NBA President, Global Partnerships. “We were partners for 37 seasons dating back to when Wilson manufactured the first official NBA basketballs in 1946, and we look forward to growing the game of basketball together.”
“Our commitment to growing the game of basketball on the global stage is at the heart of Wilson and our new partnership with the NBA,” said Kevin Murphy, General Manager, Wilson Basketball. “Our passion for this game and the league runs incredibly deep, as does our history with it. And as we start this new chapter in the game, our focus and energy will be on supporting the league and the players, coaches and fans with the most advanced, high-performance game basketballs possible.
“Wilson will manufacture the NBA, WNBA and NBA G League game balls using the same materials, eight-panel configuration and performance specifications as current game balls and will also source the same leather currently used in the NBA. The NBA and its players will work jointly with Wilson to develop and approve the new game ball.”
Maintaining the same leather and specifications of the current ball is absolutely critical. At the collegiate level, different conferences use different balls, and the results vary wildly. Lonzo Ball, for instance, shot significantly better using Wilson’s composite ball, which is favored by the Pac-12, than he did with others. All basketballs have a different grip and feel, but by and large, players prefer the leather ball that the NBA has consistently used.
In that sense, this change will be largely cosmetic. A different logo will adorn what is ultimately the same ball, so on the surface, this shouldn’t cause any major change in performance.
Courtesy: CBS Sports