Remember the time when the NBA changed the ball?

If it aint broke don’t fix it, Then how come the NBA in June 2006 decided it was going to change something so fundamentally important to the sport?

The only thing that we love the most is the basketball. That’s
your comfort. I mean, without your basketball, it doesn’t work.

Lebron James

You can’t argue that the basketball itself is the most important part to the sport basketball. Its performance affects so many aspects from dribbling, passing, catching and shooting. Training with the same match balls helps players become accustom to how the ball handles and feels.

Technologically-advanced game ball has new design, better grip and consistency

NBA 2006

The NBA announced that the new ball amongst other features has a better grip through an interlocking set of panels that provide more coverage. The material changed from leather to the new Spalding’s Cross Traxxion™labeled “revolutionary design and breakthrough material”.

failed nba ball change 2006
The new NBA ball 2006

The NBA even went to release a propaganda like post with several players so-called praising the ball. Better grip being the most stated word in the quotes. How things would change several months into the season of the new ball.

A Mark Cuban backed study found the ball did behave differently. Bouncing 5 to 8% less and behaving 30% more erratic than the old leather ball. Most glaringly when moist the new composite ball was more slippery than the old leather ball because it did not absorb moisture.

I think the new ball is terrible….Whoever did that
needs to be fired. It was terrible, a terrible decision.

Shaquille O’Neal

December 2006 the dislike and frustration to the change was rising. Cuts to players fingers and  fact that the NBA commissioner David Stern did not consult or have players test and practice with the balls being the issues.

“The ball never leaves my hand the same way. It sticks to my middle finger. It bounces differently off the dribble and on the shot.”

Eddy Curry

Finally on January the 1st 2007 the old leather balls would be back in use. Spalding said whilst they wanted to improve performance ultimately it was about player satisfaction. David Stern caved in and admitted they had made mistakes in not consulting players, it was an embarrassing moment for the NBA.

NBA doubles back

From June 2006 to December 2006 the NBA showed that not going through correct processes, leaving the most important piece (players) out of the research process can end badly. Had the NBA been in conjunction and testing with the players this fiasco could have been avoided, easily.

nba ball 2006 gets changed

Spalding refunds

Spalding offered refunds for those that had purchased the new ball. A sign for the displeasure and a means to move on and get the last several months out of memory.

10 plus years on and the NBA ball hasn’t been changed ever since. Rules and clothing have changed but not the ball, lessons were learnt. In the hardest fashion and reputation eating ways, don’t change the NBA ball and too much technological input without real world testing isn’t right.