A basketball is an inflated spherical ball used in the game of Basketball. Basketballs typically range in size from very small promotional items possibly only a few inches in diameter to extra large balls nearly a foot in diameter used in training exercises to increase the skill of players. Nearly all basketballs have an inflatable inner rubber bladder, generally wrapped in layers of fiber and then covered with a tacky surface made either from leather (traditional), rubber, or a synthetic composite. As in most inflatable balls, there is a small opening to allow the pressure to be increased or decreased. The surface of the ball is nearly always divided by "ribs" that are recessed below the surface of the ball in a variety of configurations and are generally a contrasting color.
A standard 29.5 basketball has about 4118 pebbles, with the pebbles being at a diameter of 2.5 millimeters. An orange surface with black ribs and a possible logo is the traditional color scheme of basketballs but they are sold in various colors. Balls are generally designated for indoor (generally made of leather or absorbent composites), or all-surface use (generally made of rubber or durable composites, also known as Indoor/Outdoor balls). The abrasiveness of asphalt and the dirt and moisture generally present in an outdoor setting will usually ruin an indoor ball within a very short period of time.
Aside from the court and the baskets, the basketball is the only piece of equipment necessary to play the game of basketball. During the game the ball must be bounced continuously (dribbling), and also thrown through the air to other players (passing) and towards the basket (shooting). Therefore, the ball must be very durable and easy to hold on to. The basketball is also used to perform tricks (sometimes called freestyling), the most common of which are spinning the ball on the tip of one's index finger, dribbling in complex patterns, rolling the ball over one's shoulder, or performing aerobatic maneuvers with the ball while executing a slam dunk, most notably in the context of a slam dunk contest.
In early December 1891, Luther Gulick, then chairman of the physical education department at the School for Christian Workers (now Springfield College) in Springfield, Massachusetts, instructed physical education teacher James Naismith, known to many as the father of basketball, to invent a new game to entertain the school's athletes in the winter season. Naismith assembled his class of 18 young men, appointed captains of two nine-player teams, and set in motion the first ever basketball game, played with a soccer ball and two peach baskets tacked to the balcony at either end of the gymnasium. (For some observations on the challenges presented by old-time balls, see The Old Ball.)
The first purpose-built basketballs were made from panels of leather stitched together with a rubber bladder inside. A cloth lining was added to the leather for support and uniformity (identity). A molded version of the early Basketball was invented in 1942.
From 1967 through 1976 the American Basketball Association (or ABA) used a distinctive red, white and blue basketball that is still seen from time to time.
For many years, leather was the material of choice for basketball coverings, however in the late 1990s, composite materials were put forth and have rapidly gained acceptance in most leagues due to their superior performance in harsh game conditions.
Organized basketball leagues generally have very rigorous specifications for the balls to be used in official competition including weight, inflation pressure, bounce, circumference, color, and materials used. Most leagues use very similar specifications for their balls which are referred to as size 7 (for men's competition) and size 6 (for women's competition) by manufacturers. However the specific wording and policy on manufacturers vary between leagues. Here are the official specifications for three popular leagues.
The International Basketball Federation (FIBA) has very strict criteria for its certified basketballs: The ball must be size 7, bear the name of the manufacturer and a serial number. It must be made of either genuine or artificial/synthetic leather and must be free of toxic materials and materials which may cause allergic reactions, and must also be free of heavy metals and AZO colors, though FIBA does not specify a specific color for the ball. It must between 749 millimeters (mm) and 780 mm in circumference, it must bounce at least 1300 mm when dropped from a height of 1800 mm on a hard surface with a mass of more than 1 ton, and it must weigh between 567 grams (g) and 650 g. The ball must also pass a battery of rigorous tests: a fatigue test where it is bounced 20,000 times at a reference pressure without leaking any air, and then perform to specification when dropped from the reference height (1800 mm); a heat test where it is stored in a room for 7 days at 70 degrees Celsius and show no difference in appearance of performance; a valve test where after a dry inflation needle is inserted into the ball 100 times. The ball must not show any leakage; and a friction test where the outer surface must match or exceed friction requirements or perform to the testers' satisfaction in a practice game. The manufacturer of the ball must have been certified by FIBA, which entails submitting balls for testing and paying a $3,000 testing fee, paying $13,000 per year in licensing fees, and printing the FIBA logo on each ball. Any manufacturer may submit for testing and certification.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has less stringent requirements: The ball must measure between 29.5 and 30 inches in circumference, bounce between 49 and 54 inches when dropped from a height of 6 feet, and must weigh between 20 and 22 ounces for men's competition (size 7), and measure between 28.5 and 29 inches in circumference , bounce between 51 and 56 inches when dropped from a height of 6 feet, and must weigh between 18 and 20 ounces for women's competition (Size 8). Though the NCAA does not specify a particular manufacturer for the ball in regular season play, the Wilson SOLUTION basketball is the official basketball of the NCAA tournament.
The National Basketball Association (NBA) allows only one official ball: The ball must be the official NBA game ball manufactured by Spalding. The ball is orange in color, 29.5 inches in circumference and weighs 22 ounces (size 7). It must also be inflated to between 7.5 and 8.5 pounds per square inch. Starting in the 2006 season, the NBA switched to a new ball from Spalding that had a synthetic surface and a modified rib pattern (See section below).
Until 2005 the ball had a leather surface. On December 11, 2006 the NBA decided to revert back to the old leather ball due to numerous player complaints, lawsuits and injuries from the synthetic ball. Spalding has manufactured the official NBA game ball since 1983.
The Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) has similar requirements to the NBA: The ball must be the official WNBA game ball manufactured by Spalding. The ball must orange and white in color, between 28.5 and 29 inches in circumference and weigh between 18 and 20 ounces (size 6).
Notable Basketball Manufacturers
Spalding was the first company to produce a basketball for official use. Company founder A.G Spalding made the first dedicated basketball in the last years of the 19th century at the behest of James Naismith. It has produced basketballs since that time and has produced the NBA’s official game ball since 1983. The company also produces a wide variety of balls for the consumer market, most notably its INFUSION ball which has a built in pump to maintain proper inflation.
In June, 2006 the NBA announced that Spalding would be introducing a new official game ball for play beginning in the 2006 season. According to the NBA, the new ball is composed of a new material that offers better grip, feel, and consistency than the current leather ball. In 1970, the ball was transitioned from a four panel to an eight panel ball, and the latest ball design is comprised of two interlocking, cross-shaped panels that Spalding calls Cross Traxxion. The material is a microfiber composite with moisture management that is supposed to provide better grip and feel. According to the NBA press release, the new composite material eliminates the need for a break-in period, and provides greater consistency from ball to ball.
Despite the claims from the NBA and commissioner David Stern, there were several complaints about the new basketball. Many players have complained that the new ball is slippery, hard to hold and that the increased friction has even caused cuts on player's hands. Many elite players called for the NBA to bring back the old ball, even bringing a grievance to the National Labor Relations Board to revert to the original leather ball.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban asked several members of the University of Texas at Arlington physics department to test the balls. What they found, is that the new ball, when dropped from a height of 5 feet, bounced an average of 4 inches lower than the old ball. They also determined that the composite ball is slower to absorb moisture than the previous leather ball.
On December 11, 2006, NBA commissioner David Stern announced that the NBA would switch back to the old leather model starting at the beginning of 2007.
The Wilson Sporting Goods Company is a sports equipment manufacturer based in Chicago, Illinois, and currently is a foreign subsidiary of the Finnish company Amer Sports that also owns Atomic, Suunto, Precor, and Salomon.
Wilson's top-of-the-line product is the SOLUTION ball, named for its ability to absorb moisture over the course of a game and retain its grip. The ball is the official ball of the NCAA tournament and is used by many NCAA teams during the season as well by many high school leagues. Like Spalding Wilson produces a variety of balls for the consumer market as well.
Molten, a Japanese sporting goods manufacturer, has the current contract to provide game balls for:
- All FIBA world championships, EuroLeague Women, and continental qualifying events.
- Both Europe-wide competitions organised by ULEB, the Euroleague and ULEB Cup.
- All FIBA Asia events.
- Many domestic leagues, including Argentina, Australia (men's and women's), Germany, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, the Philippines, Poland (women's), and Portugal.
The Molten Corporation has been a long time partner of FIBA as a FIBA official sponsor for more than 20 years, providing balls exclusively for all the FIBA official tournaments including the continental qualifications and the FIBA World Championships since the 9th edition in 1982.
Molten's top-of-the line product is the GL7/GL6, a leather ball with a distinctive 12-panel design, a high-density cushioning foam below the surface and special soft rubber seams (which it calls "Dual-Cushion Technology"), a flatter pebbled finish providing increased contact area and a flattened seam between the panels (called a "Full-Flat Seam"). With the new technology, GL7 resolved conflicting issues of rebound speed and grip performance. With the change in the FIBA regulations regarding basketballs (i.e. The ball shall have eight elliptically shaped panels with a brown or orange color.) in September 2004, the ball was redesigned by the worldwide product designer GIORGETTO GIUGIARO Team.