Ten years ago the NBA presented a revolution in the game - a brand new microfiber composite ball from Spalding. This new technology was supposed to provide more consistency with the ball and provide better results. At least that's what David Stern told us, that Spalding and the NBA did testing and it showed a better shooting percentage, lower turnover rate and an overall improvement in performance.
Before the season started, all the players were speaking positively about the new ball. In those comments, we learned some interesting details about the ball and what are the differences from city to city. Here's Chris Paul:
"When you play in different cities, the ball may be a little newer or may be a little worn out, but this ball right here, it seems like it's going to stay the same, so that's a positive thing."
His banana boat partner, Dwayne Wade, spoke of the same thing. HOw the ball can feel a lot different depending on which city you are playing with and that the new ball will provide more consistency. Wade added he feels the new ball gives him more grip and he will be able to make trick shots with it.
Then the season started and the players started to play with the new ball. Things went south quickly after that. A lot of players started complaining that the ball changes a lot - too sticky when dry, too slippery when wet and too unpredictable when it hits the hardwood. Wade found out that the expectation of grip and trick shots was wrong:
"My bank shot is no longer existent. My game-winning shots, I'm telling you, it's [in the] past."
Perhaps the loudest critic of the new ball was two-time MVP, Steve Nash. If there was a player who's style suffered from a ball that is unpredictable when bouncing and has less grip, it was him. But all that was not Nash's biggest complaint. The new surface was causing cuts on a lot of players fingers, and the issue became so prevalent it was the straw that broke the camels back.
Once it became an obvious injury issue, David Stern decided to go back to the old leather ball mid-season. The new composite ball didn't make it to the All-Star game. Funny enough, Nash criticized that decision as well - pointing out he had just gotten used to the new ball and a change is being made again. The biggest criticisms was that in both cases - introducing the new ball and going back to the old one - players weren't consulted enough. Steve Nash put it best:
I'm disappointed that they didn't seek more input from us before they introduced the new ball and I'm disappointed that we're changing the ball during the season. It's still tearing up my fingers, but after three months ... it's too late. I'm telling you, the [two] balls feel totally different. There's a different feel, a different weight, a different texture.