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The NBA’s Balls

Earlier this year, I was ecstatic when PETA announced that the NBA was switching to cruelty-free synthetic basketballs (like the NCAA uses, and many other leagues in the world use). It takes the skin of an entire cow to make just four basketballs, and according to Stu Jackson, the NBAs VP for basketball operations, the syntethic one is a better basketball.

So, uh, we slaughter cows and pollute the environment (via raising the cows and the tanning process) in order to get a lesser-quality ball?

Unfortunately, the whiny NBA players don’t like the new ball, and the decision to change it is being re-evaluated, which might result in the return of the leather ball. Players complain about the way the ball handles, and I’m sure it does handle differently. Why wouldn’t it? But it’s been less than six months, and I’d imagine that it takes a while to get used to a new ball when you’ve been using the old ball for–your entire life.

Players also complain, however, that they weren’t consulted about the decision. Ah-ha! And herein might lie the real objection.

Let’s be rational here, and deconstruct:

  • If no one else on the planet was using a synthetic ball, and the NBA introduced it for the first time, I might feel a bit more sympathetic.
  • If it were year 2 or 3 of using the ball, and the majority of players didn’t like it, I might feel like a re-evaluation were necessary. But that doesn’t mean the leather ball should make a comeback; it means the synthetic ball needs to be tweaked.
  • How is it that much of the rest of the basketball-playing world is playing fine with the synthetic ball, and our guys aren’t? (Maybe because it’s new to them, maybe they’re playing just fine but perceive that things are different, and maybe they’re just pissed because no one asked for their input.) I’d like to see what other players have said during the first year of playing with the synthetic ball. Maybe the same thing happened, and they eventually got used to the new ball and all is now swell.

I’m just glad my tax dollars won’t be going to the re-evaluation of the synthetic ball. If that really is the problem.

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