What are the Lines for on a Basketball and How are they Useful?

There are many design elements that are implemented in one of the most popular sports in the world called basketball, particularly in basketball courts, the baskets used for scoring, and the actual ball used by players. However, only a few people know why these elements are added to the different aspects of the sport, although there are some that often ask questions pertaining to why various marks and lines are found in courts and balls.

One of the questions that people ask about the sport is why there are black lines found on the surface of a regular orange basketball. What are these black lines? And what are their purposes for players and for the sport? We will find out as we take a look at the details regarding the black lines on basketballs and their usefulness.

What are the Lines on Basketballs For?

The black lines on a regular basketball are added in order to make the ball easier to handle, as the black lines are a little debossed, which means that their edges can provide the fingers of your hands a surface to hold on to whenever you are dribbling the ball or passing it to another hand or to a teammate. However, carrying or lifting the ball using your palms is an illegal move while you are dribbling, so you would need to have good control of the ball, and one way to help you improve your handling is by relying on the black lines for extra grip.

So, the black lines basically increase the surface area of the basketball for better grip. In addition to dribbling, the black lines are also helpful for passing, as the extra surface area would allow you to have better control of the ball before you let it go from your hand. 

Moreover, the black lines would also be great for shooting, as you can also have a better handle on the ball before you move to a shooting position. The black lines would then allow your shooting hand to grip the ball and perform a flick. The flick of your wrist would spin the ball backward as you release it, and the spin would reduce the ball’s velocity and subsequently increase the accuracy of your shot.

Why are the Lines Black?

outdoor basketball

There are actually no particular reasons why the lines of a regular basketball are black in color, although some believe that the color is chosen so that it wouldn’t look distracting when the ball is being dribbled, shot, or passed by a player. However, there are different kinds of basketballs that have lines in various colors, and some professional league basketballs would even have white lines.

But, for the NBA and most professional leagues, the black lines on the orange basketballs are more popular and common. While the orange or brownish-orange color of the basketball is already quite visible on the basketball court, adding more colors to it can just cause distractions.

What are the Dots on a Basketball?

Besides the black lines, the dots that cover the exterior of the basketball are also designed to give players a better grip and handle of the ball. The added surface area for the basketball would allow players to control the ball better for different types of moves, but the dots are more helpful in dribbling because you will have an improved grip on the ball whenever you move it in various positions.

If the basketballs don’t have dots or black lines, it would be quite difficult for players to control the ball, so you may witness many turnovers or steals in the game, which can make the sport quite tiring to watch since players cannot move or score properly on the court. Interestingly, when basketball was just in its early development phase, players would use smooth footballs (soccer balls) to play the sport, but they would even have a hard time controlling the ball since it would slip out of their hands easily. So, in order to improve the performance of the players and make the sport more fun, manufacturers of sports balls came up with different ways to increase the surface area of basketballs.

When Were the Black Lines Added to Basketballs?

Spalding basketball

During the early years of basketball, the balls used for sport were made from several pieces of leather that were held together using laces. The edges of each leather piece would then be used by players to improve their grip on the ball because the edges are debossed. While the ridges of basketballs have been around since the 1940s, it was only around the 1960s when the black lines were added to the basketballs used in the professional leagues.

One of the companies that first added the black lines on basketballs is Spalding, an American manufacturing company that was founded in 1876 by Albert Spalding. By the early 1980s, Spalding became a sponsor of the NBA, and the company’s iconic full-grain leather ball with black lines was adopted as the official ball of the said league.

While the NBA still uses the Spalding full-grain leather balls, there are other leagues in different countries that use basketballs made of synthetic leather and materials, which started to become popular in the 1990s. These synthetic basketballs are known for being more durable than leather balls, and some of them are even suitable for outdoor use.

Despite the many different materials used on basketballs today, the overall design of the basketball has remained unchanged since the 1970s. As the saying goes, “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it,” and the 1970s design of the basketball is still being used since the manufacturers have already perfected the look and the function of the ball for the sport.

We hope that this simple article has properly answered your questions regarding the black lines on basketball and how they can help players to have a better experience dribbling, passing, and shooting. As we have stated before, the current design of the basketball may not change any time soon, so you wouldn’t have to worry about getting used to new features or designs for basketballs in the near future.