Mark Cuban on NBA Changing Basketball Supplier: 'I'm Sure We Learned Our Lesson'May 26, 2020
With the NBA moving from Spalding to Wilson as its official basketball supplier, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban doesn't think the league will repeat the same mistakes it made during its last notable basketball-related experiment.
Ahead of the 2006-07 season, the NBA introduced a synthetic ball that was made from Cross Traxxion material rather than leather. Players hated the ball almost immediately, and the league pivoted back to the old basketballs by January 2007.
In an email to The Athletic's Bill Shea, Cuban wrote, "I'm sure we learned our lesson from the last time," in reference to the NBA's impending shift to Wilson.
Player input is an area in which the NBA has adopted a new approach.
The league didn't solicit much input from the National Basketball Players Association before unveiling the synthetic ball. As a result, players faced a difficult adjustment period.
Sal LaRocca, the NBA's president of global partnerships, told Shea the league has already reached out to players regarding the new Wilson ball:
"We've had discussions with a lot of players already. We will work with Wilson and players as they develop prototypes and get their feedback over next year and a half. We expect Wilson will be able to manufacture a ball the players will be happy with. The players will be directly involved. They will be more involved than they ever have. There are things we certainly learned from 2006."
On the whole, technological advancements are good for sports. Fans often get an improved viewing experience, and athletes can learn better ways to optimize their performance and health.
Equipment is one area where maintaining the status quo can be the best route.
The Adidas Jabulani ball adopted for the 2010 World Cup is perhaps the most famous example. Adidas and FIFA combined to deliver a ball that was perfected so much it basically didn't fly correctly.
Wilson will want to leave its imprint on a new basketball, maybe with a new design element. But the Spalding ball has worked for decades, so a complete overhaul similar to the synthetic experiment could be counterproductive.