After 37 years of « marriage » with Spalding, the NBA has decided to change the manufacturer for its balls, and to go back to basics. From next season, Wilson will take over the manufacture of orange balls, the equipment manufacturer having been the first supplier to the NBA, before losing the market in 1983.
According to Yahoo! Sports, the new balls will be unveiled during the Draft Combine, which welcomes future league players to Chicago from June 21 to 27, but Wilson, who also supplies the high school and university circuit in the United States, is keen to avoid relive the experience missed by Spalding in 2006. At the time, the brand had launched a new synthetic ball, without consultation with the players, generating a lot of complaints. And only two months later, the NBA had reverted to the old model …
To avoid a similar quack, Wilson has therefore multiplied the back and forth with the players during the last year, sending various balls everywhere in order to have the feelings of the interested parties.
“Nothing like this had ever been done. We developed and worked with the NBA, the players, the players’ union and the team responsible for the fields in the league in order to increase the number of trips back and forth while everyone was confined ”, explains Kevin Murphy, general manager of Wilson Team Sports. “A lot of balls have been shipped around the world, especially to players, and then returned. We have had many Zoom calls with players and team representatives. It was an incredible collaboration. «
As for the players, we just wanted a certain continuity, with balls not too far from Spalding to limit the effects of the transition.
« We went from six samples, to three, to two, then one », explains Jose Calderon, who now works for the players’ union. “But every time you introduce something new, and even more so when it comes to a basketball, which is our daily working tool, opinions will be very different. It’s been a long process, but we’ve done the best we can to get everyone’s feedback and we’re happy with what we’ve come to. «
If the collaborative process put in place by Wilson has been appreciated, the real test will begin this summer, when the players start to actually train with the new balls. This season, the players have logically continued to work with the Spalding, their working tool until the Finals.