Milwaukee Bucks: Change of NBA ball will provide surprising variable

MEMPHIS, TN - JANUARY 26: (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
MEMPHIS, TN - JANUARY 26: (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

With news that the NBA ball will change next season, the Milwaukee Bucks and the rest of the league’s teams will have to face up to an unexpected new variable.

It’s pretty difficult at this point for any piece of news in the NBA to be all that surprising. Blockbuster trades have, at this point, proven that almost any player can be moved, while groundbreaking free agency transitions are something akin to par for the course at this point.

In the current moment where the coronavirus pandemic puts even greater uncertainty around all things surrounding sport, not just in the NBA, that feeling has likely never been more true either. Anything is possible and everything is on the table.

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Having said that, this week did bring some news that was truly surprising, at least to yours truly.

Starting from next season, whenever that may be, Wilson will replace Spalding as the league’s new partner in producing the NBA’s official game ball. The news was first reported by Yahoo! Sports’ Chris Haynes, and later confirmed by the NBA itself.

For context of just how groundbreaking that news is, Spalding has been the provider of the official game ball, and at the center of countless iconic moments, since 1983. In other words, not only have players today no experience of playing in the NBA with anything other than a Spalding ball, but Kyle Korver is the only Milwaukee Bucks player who was even alive during the pre-Spalding NBA era.

On the one hand, it may seem ridiculous to give too much thought to the manufacturer of the ball used in the NBA, but on the other it is the most essential element of the game. Compared to other sports, equipment plays a minor role in basketball, but even on that front the ball is the most simple and vital of the bunch.

For professional players, thousands upon thousands of hours have been logged, not just in games, but working on dribbling and shooting with the Spalding ball in practice. It doesn’t seem like an exaggeration to say that it’s probably come to feel something like an extension of a pro player’s arm.

As a result, a change opens the door for the kind of variance that not many players had probably ever even considered possible. Anyone who has ever handled a basketball won’t need an explanation for how different brands can feel different in the hand, and then lead to different results coming off the hand.

The NBA is obviously completely aware of this, and has already announced the steps they’ll be taking in order to strive for a seamless transition:

"“Wilson will manufacture the NBA, WNBA and NBA G League game balls using the same materials, eight-panel configuration and performance specifications as current game balls and will also source the same leather currently used in the NBA.  The NBA and its players will work jointly with Wilson to develop and approve the new game ball.”"

It’s similarly reassuring that players will be involved in the development process, but it doesn’t eliminate the possibility that there will be adjustments needed for next season.

From a Bucks’ perspective, that will bring up some questions in its own right. Perhaps most pressingly, what will the Wilson ball mean for Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s shooting? Could it give him a boost and help him to unlock greater efficiency, or could it undo some of the progress he’s made with the Spalding ball more recently?

Next. Examining Giannis Antetokounmpo’s postgame proficiency. dark

For now, the truth is it’s impossible to know just yet. But based on how players often need to adjust their game, and occasionally struggle to do so, when it comes to using different game balls while representing national teams, it will certainly be something that will have to be closely monitored.