The game of basketball is one of those sports that has evolved rapidly since its invention. James Naismith, who is widely credited with being the inventor of our beloved game, obviously wasn’t able to saunter into his local NBA approved merch store and purchase the latest Fiba basketball ball, picking up a sweatband and a Lakers draft cap on the way out. Indeed being the pioneer of a game has its drawbacks and one such being instead of a basketball ball, he was forced to use the only thing to hand which was, as it happened, a soccer ball.
Now i don’t know if you have ever tried to play basketball with a soccer ball (i did, purely for reasons of research) but it’s not pleasant. The ball lacks the bounce of a basketball, for one. And its tough leather exterior doesn’t fit comfortably in your palm like a basketball ball does. Dr Naismith (yes, he was a doctor previous to his career as a pioneer of modern sports) must have had great determination to convince his peers that this was a sensible game when cursed with such inappropriate tools.
But the good doctor was no shrinking violet, clearly, and it is thanks to his forward thinking and rugged determination that we now enjoy the plethora of basketball sneaker, jerseys and branded rubber ducks which greet us every time we enter a sports apparel store.
As the sport progressed so did the ball around which it centered and shortly after the initial game in 1981 starring Dr. Naismith’s basket and aforementioned soccer ball, it was deemed appropriate to invent a basketball ball that would suit the needs of the growing legions of players. Early basketball balls were crude in comparison to today’s high tech orange orbs.. A pigs bladder encased in tough leather was the standard design from the 1890s all the way to 1942 when some bright spark decided a moulded version would be more suitable.
Onwards to the latter part of the century and progress in material technology led to the development of a rubber moulded version, more closely resembling the basketball ball we all know and love today. In the late 1990s we collectively waved a relieved goodbye to the leather ball of old and the orange rubber ball we take for granted now became the industry standard.
However, the progress didn’t stop there! As the young sport began to enter the collective consciousness, more stringent control of the all important ball was required. Everything from the balls weight, circumference and even its bounce trajectory are now taken into consideration in the manufacture of a basketball ball..
There have certainly been other innovations to our humble basketball over the years, the most notable of recent times being an attempt by Spalding to improve on its design with a microfiber composite construction in an attempt to provide better grip and moisture wicking. Unfortunately this did not have the desired effect and professional players complained it was hurting their hands. James Naismith would never have complained of such trifling gripes I’m sure..
So, it seems we may have found our final design for the basketball ball but then who knows what innovations we may see in years to come. People are sure to try and improve on it. It ain’t broke but we’ll try and fix it anyway seems to be the leitmotif of basketball companies nowadays.