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The Evolution of the Official NBA Basketball: A Look at Its Manufacturers

September 01, 2023 3 min read

The Evolution of the Official NBA Basketball: A Look at Its Manufacturers

Basketball is a game of precision, skill, and elegance, but at its heart lies one fundamental element—the basketball itself. The official NBA basketball is more than just a tool for the game; it's a symbol of the sport's rich history and evolution. Let's take a closer look at the manufacturers behind the NBA basketball and their fascinating histories.

Spalding: A Pioneer in Basketball Manufacturing

When we think of the official NBA basketball, one name immediately comes to mind—Spalding. Founded in 1876 by A.G. Spalding, this iconic sporting goods company has played an integral role in shaping the game of basketball.

  • Early Days: Spalding's association with basketball dates back to the late 19th century when the company introduced its first basketball. A.G. Spalding himself was a former baseball player and a strong advocate for sports equipment standardization.

  • Innovations: Spalding has a history of innovation in basketball design. They introduced the first basketball with a molded cork center in 1894, revolutionizing the game. In 1942, they developed the first basketball made specifically for indoor use, paving the way for the modern game.

  • NBA Partnership: Spalding became the official supplier of basketballs to the NBA in 1983, solidifying their legacy in the sport. They have continued to produce the official NBA game ball, evolving its design and materials to meet the needs of the game.

Wilson: A Contender in the World of Basketball

While Spalding has long been associated with the NBA, Wilson is another prominent name in basketball manufacturing, with a rich history of its own.

  • Early Beginnings: Wilson Sporting Goods Company was founded in 1913, and like Spalding, it made significant contributions to the world of sports equipment.

  • NCAA Partnership: Wilson has had a strong presence in college basketball. They became the official ball supplier for NCAA tournaments, including March Madness, in 2002, a partnership that continues today.

  • NBA Stint: Wilson briefly had the opportunity to supply basketballs to the NBA. They were the official supplier from 1946 to 1983 before Spalding took over.

Evolution of the Official NBA Basketball:

Over the years, the official NBA basketball has seen several changes in design and materials:

  • Leather to Composite: The early basketballs were made of leather. However, leather had limitations, especially when exposed to moisture. The shift to composite materials in the 1990s resulted in more consistency in ball performance.

  • Design Changes: The NBA basketball has seen variations in design, including the introduction of microfiber covers and updated pebbling patterns to enhance grip and control.

  • Inflation Standardization: Standardizing the inflation pressure has been a significant development. The NBA mandates a pressure range of 7.5 to 8.5 PSI, ensuring consistent bounce and feel.

  • Adam Silver Era: In 2021, the NBA introduced a new official game ball manufactured by Wilson, signaling a transition from the Spalding era. This ball features a different feel and grip, and it was designed with player feedback in mind.

As the game of basketball continues to evolve, so too will the official basketball used in the NBA. Manufacturers like Spalding and Wilson have left an indelible mark on the sport's history, shaping not only the equipment but also the way the game is played. The basketball remains a symbol of the sport's evolution and enduring legacy, connecting the modern game to its roots.

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