A ball is an integral part of basketball. A specific size, shape, colour and other features of a basketball ball are directly related to gameplay. Notable providers of basketball balls are Wilson and Spalding.
Why the NBA is changing to a Wilson ball? Prior to the start of the 2021/2021 season, it was announced that the NBA was changing to Wilson, after 40 years of having Spalding as an official provider of basketball balls. The NBA wants to introduce innovations and at the same time, the agreement with Spalding was terminated mutually.
While both of these ball providers are almost the same there are still slight differences in their visuals. We will discuss the past history related to Spalding and Wilson separately.
When is Wilson ball being used in the NBA?
The information about changing to Wilson from Spalding was announced back in 2020, May. The NBA’s contract with Spalding expired and the National Basketball Association decided to switch to new balls.
Starting in 2021, all NBA games will be played with Wilson balls. The league has already agreed on all the terms of the contract with the new technical sponsor. Wilson is providing game balls for the NCAA and will now be used in the NBA. At the same time, the company also supplies equipment for the tennis market and the NFL.
The women’s NBA, the Development League and the basketball league in Africa will also be playing with the new balls. We can also recall that Wilson was the first official sponsor of the NBA with whom the league collaborated from 1946 to 1983.
A brief history of Spalding
Spalding launched its first basketball at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. It was made in honour of James Naismith, the Canadian-American teacher, coach and innovator who created basketball in 1891. He worked in Springfield, Massachusetts. It is there that today the headquarters of the Spalding company is located.
Since then, basketball has become one of the key areas for Spalding. It was this company that was the first to release a basketball for official games, which was enshrined in the rules.
The first basketball balls were made from several pieces of leather with a rubber inflated sphere inserted inside. The hole for inserting the camera was then laced up. The shape of the ball was slightly elongated, like in rugby, but this did not particularly interfere, because dribbling was not required in the early years. The disadvantage was that the projectile had to be unlaced several times during the game to pump it up.
Spalding introduced the orange basketball in its current form in 1958. Before that, the balls were made brownish-yellow. The bright orange colour was chosen to ensure that the projectile flying into the ring should be seen by the fans sitting in the farthest stands.
Spalding and the NBA
Spalding has been the official supplier of the National Basketball Association since 1983. This was aided by the significant success of the manufacturer in the development of an outer coating for balls. The shells from Spalding are made using special technology, so they are durable, wear-resistant and retain their colour well.
Spalding makes not only balls for the NBA, but also nets, baskets, backboards and stands. One of the manufacturer’s ambassadors for a long time was Paul Pierce – the second most productive player in the history of the Boston Celtics and one of the most decorated members of the NBA.
In 2006, the National Basketball Association decided to change a game ball for the first time in 35 years. Spalding has come up with the Cross Traxxion with a new design and a new surface for better grip and ball feel when playing. The novelty was made of artificial materials, as a result of which it turned out to be more stable in comparison with the leather counterpart. However, most of the players did not like this ball, and in the same season, the old version of leather was returned.
Wilson and the NBA
Since 1989, Wilson has been a subsidiary of the Finnish company Amer Sports. The company produces balls and equipment for many sports: basketball, baseball, football, squash, volleyball, American football, tennis and golf. The company has offices in more than 100 countries around the world.
The company is renowned for its Solution balls, which are named for their ability to absorb moisture during play and maintain control. Solution balls are accepted as an official for games in the brightest and most spectacular leagues in the world. Wilson also manufactures a variety of balls for the consumer market. Officials of the company were NBA players such as Derrick Rose and Joachim Noah.
Discontent from players
The move from the NBA to change Wilson was met with discontent by several players including Kevin Durant. The latter always voices his thoughts about the situation in the NBA, and he was opposed to the decision made by the league. It is hard not to agree with the Brooklyn Nets small forward. The grip of Wilson balls is a little different from Spalding. Players are adjusted to the shape and size of the previous ball, so it will take some time to get used to new balls.
However, new balls have already been sent to players worldwide so that they can test them in practice and adjust to using Wilson balls.
Will new balls succeed?
The introduction of Wilson balls instead of Spalding is definitely a good innovation. While there has been some backlash from players regarding the change, there is really nothing to worry about, as the shape and structure of the ball remain almost the same.