When you are a new NBA player there are a lot of things to be concerned about. Can you handle the travel and pressure of the top level of basketball? Can you handle . . .
That is a serious question. Do you know what an actual, Spalding, official game-issue basketball feels like? The full leather ball the pros use that you can buy for $140-$170 online. Those things.
When you go to Dick’s Sporting Goods’ Web site you see there are a lot more basketballs than just that official Spalding basketball:
Most of us are probably familiar with that Spalding TF-1000. That is the basketball you see a lot at high school gymnasiums and YMCAs. I also kind of like that Wave ball above. There are Under Armour balls and Nike balls and Wilson balls in addition to the NBA-sanctioned Spalding balls. The NCAA uses a completely different brand and each individual school has its own basketballs that it uses.
And do not even get started with the Mikasa balls or the basketball used for international play. NBA players always claim how much they hate the microfiber composite balls used overseas and have to adjust to its feels in addition to FIBA’s different rules. Everyone should have forgotten the NBA’s little experiment with new basketballs a few years ago.
The amount of experience an incoming NBA player has with an actual, leather, official game ball from Spalding is actually pretty slim.
So one of the things rookie Shabazz Napier is doing this offseason is actually learning how to play with a NBA basketball (via Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press):
“I just want to continue to get better at everything,” Napier said. “But my biggest thing is getting comfortable with that basketball. That’s one of my biggest problems and it’s kind of ironic, because it’s a basketball. But it’s different than a college basketball.”
Who knew prepping for the NBA could be so basic as getting use to the actual tool of the trade.
NBA basketballs are somewhat notorious for not being completely uniform. It is one of the secrets of the league. The leather has imperfections and are broken in to varying degrees and amounts. The referees actually have a pretty intense job in picking the right ball the teams provide before each game.
Most of the time — read: all the time — you never notice. But when players handle the ball before tip off, it is a feeling out process with the most important tool of their trade. Many of these differences are probably minuscule and imperceptible to the weekend warrior. For NBA players, they can tell.
Napier and other rookies are getting their first feel of this foreign object now. They have never had to play with a real basketball — not for a job, at least.