Making of The NBA Game Ball - The Official Ball of the NBA
Spalding became the official ball of the NBA in 1983. Made from the finest full grain leather and meeting the most stringent quality and performance standards, the NBA Game Ball is embedded in the sport as much as Michael Jordan or LeBron James. To make something so pivotal takes skill, passion and most importantly a love for the game, so let’s find out how.
Creating the Ball
The NBA Game Ball is made of leather that comes exclusively from the Horween Leather Company in Chicago. Horween is one of the oldest leather tanneries in the United States and receives shipments of 3,000 cowhides a week, which go through a rigorous three-week process. The process used to achieve this is:
- The leather pieces are sorted by how clear the grain is, and the thickness and size of the piece.
- The chosen leather pieces are then coloured. They are put into tanning drums where the leather is preserved and tanned.
- The leather is stamped with a 1,000-ton press with German-made embossing plates that give the basketballs their distinct pebbling.
- The embossed leather is painted in lighter coats for a combination of colour, durability and feel.
- The leather then goes through a double drying process.
- A final check is conducted. The leather is graded, trimmed, and then packaged and shipped to China for cutting and sewing.
Once the balls are made, they go through multiple quality assurance tests in the United States. These include:
- The balls are inflated at an ‘inflation station’ by automatic gauges, and then manually inflated and checked.
- The balls are measured to ensure that the circumference of every ball matches the requirements and is the exact same.
- A vertical test is conducted. Every ball is dropped from 6 feet and must meet the minimum rebound of 52 inches.
- The final step is waking the windings. The balls are rebounded at 20 miles per hour, 50 times. This is to ensure that each ball is consistent in its form.
After quality assurance testing, the balls are delivered to the teams and are ready for play. There are so many important factors in making the NBA Game Ball, but none more important than the fact that the ball is a performance instrument. This means that not only do the basketballs need to look good, they need to feel good. Spalding take great care to ensure this is always the case.