As stated by Shams Charania of The Athletic sports magazine, the NBA has set the regular 2021-2022 season start date on October 19th, and with it, the switch to using the Wilson basketball. In the middle of May 2020, the NBA announced the switch from using Spalding balls for their game in favor of Wilson game balls.
The switch was received with lots of surprises but few concerns due to the ball’s specifications. Players such as Kevin Durant took to Twitter to air their grievances. Kevin Durant, a player who is known for airing his grievances about the NBA, tweeted, “Oh hell Nah” showcasing his displeasure in regards to the NBA’s decision.
A lot of fans shared his opinion but quickly quiet down when it was confirmed that Wilson won’t be changing much on the ball’s design and specifications. With just a few months to the beginning of the season, we can only speculate the effects that this switch will bring to the league. However, as it stands, the use of Spalding basketballs will not impact the game in any significant way. With that said, why did the NBA decide to switch from Spalding basketballs to Wilson’s?
The Reign of Spalding
Spalding was started in 1876 by Albert Spalding in Chicago. It is a sports equipment company that is focused on making basketball equipment like balls, hoops, nets, rims, and ball jump needles. The company has a very wealthy portfolio from making a lot of balls for American baseball, football, soccer, volleyball, golf, and basketball.
Spalding became the official supplier of the National Basketball League (NBA) in 1983 and continued to do so till the 2019-2020 season. The reign of Spalding lasted 37 long years, but before them, there was Wilson, another sports equipment supplier who had reigned as NBA’s supplier for the previous 37 years.
When asked by Yahoo Sports on the reason why the NBA decided to switch, Sal LaRocca, the NBA president of global partnership, said:
“Wilson is highly regarded in the basketball world. In the first 74 NBA seasons, Wilson had the first 37 and Spalding had the next 37. So, our running joke is these partnerships may change every 37 years.”
The reason why the NBA decided to switch ball suppliers may be attributed to normal changes in the competitive NBA business. Spalding is a company that is currently thriving at the top of the pyramid, same as Wilson, which rules out any difficulties in supply chains over the past year. We can only speculate since the full terms of the deal have not yet been disclosed to the public.
The switch will not only affect the NBA, but also the WNBA, G-League, 2K League, and the Basketball Africa League. Wilson is dedicated to becoming the basketball brand of choice to many leagues by increasing the supply of equipment to meet the ever-growing demand.
The Wilson company has been working with major leagues for the past decade despite not being the official ball of the NBA. Currently, it is the official basketball of the NCAA and FIBA 3 x 3. The ball is also used in Europe and Australia. We also can’t forget that the Wilson American football has been the official ball for the National Football League (NFL) since 1941.
Wilson won the contract with the NBA through their ruthless focus on encouraging more people to get out and enjoy the beauty of the game. The growth of the basketball industry is projected to rise rapidly in the next five to ten years, and Wilson is dedicated to meeting the demands of this surge.
Is Spalding better than Wilson?
The switch to Wilson entails a diversified portfolio across global basketball agencies, associations, and elite high school basketball federations. With that in mind, the NBA and Wilson opted to keep the specifications and design of the ball as close to the original Spalding as they could.
Moreover, the deal went above and beyond to make sure that the NBA, NBA players, Players Association, and the NBA on-court team took part in the development process. According to Kevin Murphy, Wilson Team Sports general manager, a lot of balls were sent to players all around the world to get their feedback and gauge their experience. This is a huge relief since we now know that the final design will have to adhere to the needs of the players and the NBA as a whole.
Wilson has created an NBA Advisory Staff that will help the company by providing feedback and collaborations on the various Wilson basketball products. The members of this team have been unveiled and they include Trae Young and Jamal Murray who will be its first members representing the NBA.
The new Wilson ball features the already accustomed to eight-panel construction of the Spalding. The ball also uses the same leather material as its predecessor. Needless to say, this won’t be a problem for the players who have to transition into using a new ball.
However, just because it works does not mean it is better. So, which is the superior ball, Spalding or Wilson? Both brands have perfected their craft in making amazing balls for the league. Player’s opinions and tastes for each one of them may be similar depending on several factors such as price, durability, feel, and preference.
For a durable and affordable ball, the Wilson basketball is the better option. When it comes to how the ball feels in the hand; how slippery or firm it is, then the Spalding basketball is the better choice. The reason why the Spalding outshines Wilson in terms of feel is the premium genuine leather used in its construction.
It should be noted that the new ball hasn’t yet been used for a long time for us to compare it to others. The fact that the same leather is used may negate all the downsides of a Wilson ball, making it the best basketball of all time. You will be able to buy the ball from the Wilson website in the United States from July 29, that is if you want to test the ball beforehand.
A few reviewers have been able to get their hands on the ball and Wilson’s promises seem to hold up. The design is the same as the Spalding ball with similar dimensions and material composition. The noticeable physical difference comes from the grooves which are a little bit longer – this is perfect for a firmer grip.
Apart from the grooves, you will notice that the Wilson logo is silver on one of the panels, unlike the monochromatic black that was used by Spalding. This marks all the changes that you will notice on the official game ball. As it stands, the Wilson game ball is in every form better than Spalding, not miles better but better still.