by Brett Edwards
We've heard a lot of talk (read:complaints) from many NBA players about the new ball they are using this season. Players from around the league are commenting about everything from the seams not meeting up (due to the interlocking panel design), to the ball becoming slippery during game play once sweat gets on it. Last night in my weekly pickup game we played exclusively with the new ball, full court 5 on 5 for about two hours, and there was a clear consensus: everyone loved it!
I was very surprised by this, and honestly I was anticipating the opposite. When I first got my hands on it, I thought my initial impression that the players were making too much of this would be wrong. It seemed a little softer and definitely felt different to the touch than the historically all-leather ball. But once game play began, everyone (about 13 of us) all agreed that the ball was not just good, but great to play with.
The grip is much better than the leather ball, as there is a slight tackiness to it, even after playing in the dusty-floored gym. As for the ball getting slippery once the sweat from the players gets on it? Complete non-factor. It was excessively humid last night, everyone was sweating much more than normal, and there were zero instances of the ball slipping out of a player's hand, or of sloppy passes or shots because of this.
One interesting difference we noticed was that due to the softness of the new ball, it seemed to kind of die on the rim. So if you shot a long jumper and it hit the back or side of the rim, instead of it bouncing wildly off of it, it would either fall in or out. This didn't happen every time, but it happened enough to comment on. Basically, don't expect to see a 1969 Don Nelson-type rainbow bounce off the back rim: it's not happening with this ball.
So there you have it. The players seem to be making WAY too much of this. Granted, my friends and I are far from an NBA level of talent, but we are all aware of a basic rule of basketball: