Basketball has been evolved and developed in many ways since Dr. James Naismith created the sport in 1891 in Springfield, Massachusetts. Designed as an indoor game of skill for YMCA athletes, but with time, it also became an outdoor sport. Now in North America, basketball is one of the four most popular sports.
The production and design of basketball gear have improved to keep up with the sport’s evolution. The history of the original basketball ball in the United States dates back to 1898, the National Basketball League formation.
First Basketball Ball Ever Used
In the beginning, the basketball players used a soccer ball in the games played at the Springfield YMCA. As James Naismith introduced the game in 1984, there was no proper ball for the players available. He wanted basketball players to enjoy the game with a specific ball.
So, after three years of introducing this game, in 1987, he asked A.G Spalding & Bros, an American sports equipment manufacturing company, to design a specific ball for basketball. This company is famous for manufacturing and designing sports items, including balls. They did an excellent job in creating a ball for the game.
The ball was made of leather, and the laces are sewn together on its two parts. A rubber bladder was present inside it. The color of the ball was brown, and its weight was a bit less than 20 ounces. As the standard soccer ball was 28 inches at that time, the first basketball was 32 inches.
Basketball Ball’s Shape Changed With Time
As time changed, the shape and design of the ball also evolved. The game didn’t gain much popularity initially, but the game rules also changed with time.
In 1937, a basketball player and coach, Chuck Taylor, removed the laces present on the balls. After the removal of these laces, a new version of basketball came in front. This new version was “stitch-less basketball,” and it was way better than that ball with stitches. Its bounce level was also much improved. The information about why that stitches were removed from the ball was not explained well.
From 1967 to 1976
From 1967 through 1976, the American Basketball Association (ABA) made distinctive use of red, white, and blue basketball balls, which can be seen in current games from time to time.
For an extended period, leather was used as a covering for the ball, but near the end of 1990, synthetic composite materials were used to make these balls. The balls made with these synthetic composite materials gain much acceptance in most leagues than the balls made of leather.
Development and Modifications of Basketball Ball
As the brown color is not visibly good, so both the players and the audience didn’t like it much because the audience had to see from a distance in the stadium. When the ball is not properly visible, it was difficult to enjoy the game.
A basketball coach, Tony Hinkle, from Butler University, suggested that the ball should be made bright and prominent so it could be visible for both players and the audience even in dim light.
In 1957, Spalding started working on Tony’s idea, and the color that was decided to choose for the basketball ball was orange as it is a bright and more prominent color than brown. So, the first orange ball that came in front was in 1957.
The NCAA was influenced by this new look of basketball ball so much that they made it the official ball. Hence, in 1958, they debuted the ball for NCAA finals in Louisville, Kentucky.
Molded Construction of the Basketball Ball
The basketball balls molded construction was introduced in 1948, and the laces were emitted from the ball. With time, the ball designers worked on its panels, and the ball was modified so that eight panels replaced the four panels that were seen on the ball from the start of its manufacturing.
In 1970, the NBA considered this design of a ball with eight panels as a standard. Spalding further designed the ball by using full-grain leather as its covering. This covering made the ball easy to grip as compared to the previous one. So, The NBA adopted this Spalding ball design as its official ball design in 1970.
Composition of Ball
The balls of basketball are made up of leather, but other materials like synthetic rubber or rubberized materials are also used.
Advancements in Basketball Ball
Some important features were added with time for the advancement of basketballs.
Hole in One Design
For the player’s ease and a good grip on the ball while playing, an important feature was added in the ball – the “hole in one” design. It featured dimples on it, as we see on a golf ball. It was one of the significant improvements that were made in the history of basketball balls. It helps players control the ball easily while playing.
In another advancement, the ball’s shell was made sweat absorbing. To absorb sweat, sweat absorbing polyurethane having microscopic moisture-wicking holes were used.
The Standard Proportion for a Basketball
- National Basketball Association uses a ball of 29.5 inches circumference.
- Women’s National Basketball Association uses a ball of 29 inches circumference.
- Junior leagues and high schools usually use NBA, or WNBA, NCAA-sized balls.
In the game, the ball must be continuously bounced (dribbling), thrown to other players, and thrown towards the basket (shooting). Hence the ball needs to be very strong and easy-to-grip.
Top Companies that Make Basketball Ball
Today, various styles and brands of basketballs are accessible in the market, but some of the significant basketball manufacturers in history are:
Spalding was the first-ever company to make a basketball for official use. Since 1983, Spalding has been making NBA’s official game ball. Besides this, the company also manufactures basketballs for women National Basketball Association (NBA). It became the official provider for Eurocup and Euroleague and the new supplier for the National Basketball League in Australia in 2010.
Molten is a Japanese goods manufacturer, and it is the authorized provider of tournament balls for all FIBA World Championships, FIBA Asia events, and many household leagues. It has also delivered balls for Europe-wide competitions from 2006 to 2007.
If there is one negative thing about Molten, it is the worldwide and Olympic standard, not the NBA/NCAA one. If you’re training with the ball in college or the NBA, it’s approved that you train with the official basketball balls in those auditoria. But if you care more about the quality, reliable ball, Molten indoor/outdoor basketballs are great.
Wilson is also the ambassador basketball supplier of all the (NCAA) National Collegiate Athletic Association postseason competitions. It also supplies balls for all the FIBA-operated 3×3 tournaments as of 2015. And another big news is that after working Spalding for about 40 years, the NBA is switching back to Wilson. It is a big change after 40 years. Wilson evaluation basketball is now available in six different colors, including Green, Optic Yellow, Black, Navy, Royal, and Scarlet.
Rawlings has been producing basketballs since 1902. It is known for manufacturing a ball with ten panels (also known as TEN) along with the popular 8-panel ball. The TEN is an amateurish ball of the Athletic union official and the Gus Macker, the largest 3-on-3 basketball competition in the US.
Rawlings Sporting Goods Company, Inc. is a prominent manufacturer and marketer of sporting goods in the United States. Since the beginning of 1887, Rawlings’s mission has permanently centered on facilitating participation by manufacturing creative achievement appliances and clothing for the skilled, amateur, and entrance level player.
In 2007, Nike had an agreement to manufacture basketball for the Euroleague Basketball Company. But in 2012, it was given to Spalding. In the Philippines, the Nike 4005 tournament ball is being used National Collegiate Athletic Association and University Athletic Association of the Philippines.
Nivia is an Indian sports manufacturer that exports basketball balls worldwide, and it has been doing so since 1934. The company claims to make one basketball every three seconds, and these balls are of high quality. They test these balls’ quality by shooting them to a one-inch-thick iron plate with a speed of 25mph/40kpm. They producehandstitched basketballs that have been the official balls for various leagues, including national, international, and even All India Football Federation (AIFF).
Today, other known basketball brands include Adidas, Dunlop, Mikasa, Avaro, MITRE, Baden, and DHS. The development of basketball is one of the pieces of evidence that the basketball sport is continually improving over the years.
In a nutshell, the history of basketball ball changes has been full of many evolutionary benchmarks. The changes in the ball have never been limited to its texture or the way of formation only.
It has resultantly affected the game’s pattern, some tacts of the game, and various other factors related to basketball. In other words, basketball ball has evolved a lot since James Naismith invented the first one in 1891. Today, the ball has several added features, keeping both the players and audience in consideration.