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NBA ball design up in the air again

Updated:   12/26/2006 02:32:59 PM EST

Tuesday, December 26
Spalding's Dan Touhey said the NBA ball will be redesigned again. The big question for the company and the league is: When?

Touhey, the vice president of marketing for the Springfield-based sporting goods manufacturer, said he believes there is still a need and a desire to improve the ball. When that happens, Spalding will be open to using the two-panel design developed by Lenox marketing firm Winstanley Associates.

"We think it will still be redesigned. Nothing has changed," Touhey said. "In our mind, the current ball is still not the best product we can offer. We think the process will continue."

Touhey said no timeline has been set on another redesign.

Winstanley had a short stay in the sports spotlight after helping Spalding redesign the official NBA basketball. The ball, a microfiber composite, replaced the traditional leather version used since 1970.

The composite ball, introduced at the start of the season, will be scuttled on Jan. 1.

Place of honor

Despite the disappointing ending, the ball will keep its place of honor at Winstanley.

The company displays all its designs — including the WNBA ball and a football used by the now-defunct XFL — on a shelf in its offices, a sort of personal Hall of Fame. The on-its-way-out NBA ball will soon join them.

"We were brought in to produce a streamlined design," said Nate Winstanley, the president of Winstanley Associates.


"Our contribution was never really subject to complaints. I think there's a strong likelihood that a ball with our design will find its way onto the court. I can't say for sure, but I'm definitely optimistic."

Winstanley's feelings stem from the fact that Spalding still believes the ball needs improvement.

Different every night

Due to the natural differences in pieces of leather, as well as differing amounts of wear, each NBA ball is different in every arena, every night.

Before each game, the two captains choose a ball that is acceptable to both and mark it with an "x." Spalding believes a better ball will create a more universal piece of equipment.

Many players, including Shaquille O'Neal and Steve Nash, complained about the switch because they didn't like the new material.

Few of the complaints included Winstanley's innovation, which cut down the number of grooves in the ball and provided more surface area.

"The ability to grasp more of the material is something that we liked, and it seemed to go over like we expected," Touhey said. "It's certainly something we'll continue to work with.''

The Winstanley offices won't be the only place the balls are on display.

Spalding produced 28,000 basketballs, many of which began selling in stores on Nov. 1.

While the number of balls produced was limited, the company created too many for them to be given "limited edition" distinction by collectors.

Stefan Tesoriero, the CEO of, said rare collectibles usually number less than 5,000.

Tim Zwingelstein, the owner of Tim's Sports Zone, a sports collectibles store in Pittsfield, said he wouldn't consider the basketballs rare because NBA memorabilia is constantly being created and sold.

Tesoriero did say that he believes the ball will eventually be worth more than its current $100 retail price because of the limited production and all the drama surrounding its introduction and dismissal.

'Sure I'd buy one'

"If I were shopping for an NBA fan, sure I'd buy one," Tesoriero said. "I think it'll be worth more than it retails for, but not by too much. One of the things that makes things valuable is the ability to tell a story. In hockey, the puck hasn't changed. In football and baseball, there haven't been any major changes to the balls.

"This was controversial from the start," Tesoriero said. "There's certainly a story behind this."

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(Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)
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