NBA introduces new fancy-pants ball

The NBA is introducing a new Official Game Ball for play beginning in the 2006-07 season. The new ball, manufactured by Spalding, features a new design and a new material that together offer better grip, feel, and consistency than the current leather ball. This marks the first change to the ball in over 35 years and only the second in 60 seasons. In 1970, the ball was transitioned from a four panel to an eight panel ball. NBA Commissioner David Stern, Spalding Group Vice President Dan Touhey, NBA Sr. Vice President of Basketball Operations Stu Jackson, Boston Celtics’ Forward Paul Pierce, and NBA on TNT analyst and two-time NBA champion Kenny Smith unveiled the new Game Ball today at the NBA Store on Fifth Avenue prior to the 2006 NBA Draft.

The new ball features Spalding’s Cross Traxxion(TM) technology, a union of revolutionary design and breakthrough material. The design is comprised of two interlocking, cross-shaped panels rather than the eight oblong panels found on traditional basketballs. As a result, there is more material coverage. The material is a microfiber composite with moisture management that provides superior grip and feel throughout the course of a game. Additionally, the new composite material eliminates the need for a break-in period, which is necessary for the current leather ball, and achieves consistency from ball to ball.

“The advancements that Spalding has made to the new game ball ensure that the best basketball players in the world will be playing with the best basketball in the world,” said Stern.

The NBA and Spalding subjected the ball to a rigorous evaluation process that included laboratory and on-court testing. Every NBA team received the new ball and had the opportunity to use it in practice. The ball also was tested in the NBA Development League and was used in activities during NBA All-Star 2006 in Houston. NBA retired players Steve Kerr and Mark Jackson participated in testing the new ball as well.

“Spalding’s continual efforts to advance basketball technology have yielded the optimal ball, one that is worthy of the new Official NBA Game Ball designation,” said Spalding Group President and CEO Scott Creelman. “We are honored that the NBA collaborated with us to make this change.”

The ball will be used in all NBA events leading up to next season including summer leagues, preseason and training camps, and NBA Europe Live presented by EA Sports. All active players will receive a personalized ball, as will each player selected in the 2006 NBA Draft.

Fans will have an opportunity to see the new ball tonight during the 2006 NBA Draft televised live on ESPN at 7 p.m. EDT. The ball will hit store shelves at major sporting goods outlets on October 31 coinciding with the tip-off of the 2006-07 season. A limited number of new balls will be available today at the world’s only NBA Store on Fifth Avenue in New York City. Fans can also pre-order their new ball online at NBAStore.com for delivery at the start of the 2006-07 season.

As the Official Game Ball supplier of the NBA since 1983, Spalding will continue to produce the only basketball used during all NBA practices, exhibitions, games and international competitions. Spalding maintains the exclusive rights to produce and sell a complete line of NBA and team-identified basketballs in all sizes including full, junior, youth and mini.

About Spalding

As a Division of Russell Corporation, the Spalding Group consists of three business units: Spalding in Springfield, MA; American Athletic, Inc. (AAI) in Jefferson, IA; and Huffy Sports, in Sussex, WI. The three companies, collectively combined, are now the largest basketball equipment supplier in the world. Spalding is the official basketball supplier of the National Basketball Association (NBA) and Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), the official backboard of the NBA and NCAA, the official volleyball of the King of the Beach Volleyball Tour, the official soccer ball of the Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL) and the official football of the Arena Football League (AFL) and Pop Warner. For more information, visit http://www.spalding.com

About the NBA

The NBA, founded in 1946, is a global sports and entertainment property that features 30 teams in the United States and Canada. During the 2005-06 season, the NBA distributed 44,000 hours of programming to 215 countries and territories in 43 languages. The league’s worldwide reach can also be seen with 82 international players on NBA rosters. Domestically, the NBA televised 142 games on national television this regular season on ABC, TNT, ESPN and ESPN2, and eclipsed attendance records for the third consecutive season.

More than 200 licensees manufacture and promote NBA products, which are sold in more than 100,000 retail stores in 100 countries on six continents. Major categories include video games, apparel, sporting goods and trading cards. The NBA also owns and operates the world’s only NBA Store in New York City and NBAStore.com. The NBA Store receives over 1 million visitors annually, and features an array of multimedia attractions, including a fully operational broadcast booth and an official half-court used for special events, and regularly-scheduled appearances by NBA and WNBA players, legends and celebrities. NBAStore.com receives over 20 million visitors each year and offers international stores online in Chinese, Japanese, French and Spanish.

As fans witness tremendous performances on the court, some of the NBA’s most significant efforts occur off the court. This past year, the league launched its most ambitious community outreach endeavor, NBA Cares. Over a five-year span, players and teams will raise and contribute $100 million for charity, donate more than one million hours of volunteer service to communities worldwide, and build more than 100 educational and athletic facilities where children can learn and play. For more information on the NBA, visit NBA.com.

From NBA

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