Sports Outside the Beltway

NBA Brings Back Leather Balls

Well, you have to hand it to David Stern: He’s got balls.

NBA commissioner David Stern, in a stunning reversal, has decided to shelve the new microfiber composite basketball after just a few months of use and switch back to the old leather model for all games starting Jan. 1, has learned. The decision will be formally announced by the league later this week, according to sources close to the situation.

Despite an avalanche of player complaints about the new synthetic model from the first day of training camp in October, skepticism was high among players that Stern would consent to a change during the season. But with a number of prominent players complaining of cuts on their hands caused by the new ball’s high-friction cover — Phoenix’s Steve Nash and New Jersey’s Jason Kidd among them — Stern was forced to concede that an in-season swap was unavoidable with the new ball inflicting injuries.

I’m not sure why they wouldn’t just go ahead and switch if that’s the issue. Still, Stern is right to admit his mistake and change course.

His initial instinct here was right. The traditional ball is not uniform and there’s something to be said about making sure that every NBA ball is identical in feel, bounce, grip, and so forth. But he should have done it in consultation with the players and waited until they got the right product in place.

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