NBA's New Ball Gets Bounced by Commissioner

By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The NBA has decided to go back to a traditional leather basketball, the league announced yesterday, ending an experiment with a new synthetic ball this season that has been roundly criticized by players. The old ball, which was used for 35 seasons, will return Jan. 1.

"Our players' response to this particular composite ball has been overwhelmingly negative and we are acting accordingly," NBA Commissioner David Stern said in a statement.

The league sent a memo to its teams yesterday, telling them that the change would be made for the remainder of the 2006-07 season.

Both balls are manufactured by Spalding but the new one is made of microfiber composite materials. It was supposed to provide a superior grip and allow for better ball handling, but players wasted no time complaining about it when training camps opened in early October.

Washington Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas said the new basketball gets slippery when it comes into contact with even small amounts of sweat. Teammate Antawn Jamison said he had trouble palming the new ball while driving to the basket. Miami Heat center Shaquille O'Neal said it "feels like one of those cheap balls that you buy at the toy store."

Some players, including league MVP Steve Nash, recently began complaining that the new ball was producing small cuts on their hands.

The players' union filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board on Dec. 1 because it was upset that the league switched to the new ball without consulting players. It was one of two complaints the union filed with the labor board that day; the other involved a new league rule cracking down on players' complaints to referees during games.

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