Sports Biz with Darren Rovell

Ball Reversal

NBA commissioner David Stern has decided to go back to the old leather basketball model after just a couple months of using Spalding’s new micro fiber composite ball. The players complained about getting cuts and the how the ball was more slippery, with the union even filing a grievance.

Our   players'  response  to  this  particular  composite  ball  has  been consistently negative and we are acting accordingly," Stern said, in a statement.  “Although  testing  performed  by  Spalding  and  the  NBA demonstrated  that  the  new  composite basketball was more consistent than leather,  and  statistically  there  has  been  an improvement in shooting, scoring,  and  ball-related  turnovers, the most important statistic is the view of our players.”

“Spalding’s main objective is to uphold the integrity of the game of basketball,” said Scott Creelman, Spalding Group President and CEO, in a statement. “For 130 years, Spalding’s commitment has been and remains providing the best players in the world with the best product for the game. We believe the micro fiber composite ball offers many superior characteristics to leather however we firmly support any decision that improves player satisfaction. We will work closely with the NBA to ensure a smooth transition and to determine the best product going forward.”

The NBA will switch back to the old balls on Jan. 1, which will certainly create a weird situation for retailers. Despite all the negativity, retailers reported to me they were selling plenty of the new balls at $100 a piece. In fact, I just went on Dick's Sporting Goods Web site and found that the ball cost actually went up from $99.99 to $129.99.

But with the NBA going back to the old balls -- after just 62 game days worth of use -- retailers are going to be looking to Spalding.

And, to their credit, the company already had the answers for me tonight.

"We're convinced that the current game balls will sell through at the stores,  but we're certainly not going to be sticklers about it," Spalding's director of marketing Dan Touhey told on Monday night. "If they want to return the product, we'll gladly accept it."

Touhey also said that Spalding will no longer be releasing a replica of the new ball for $45, which was supposed to hit shelves on Feb. 1. "Given that it's two months out, this is not going to be a significant change for us," Touhey said.

The only thing I'm worried about is that people might be deceived with what is remaining on the shelves. There is still 13 more shopping days until Christmas and I think there should at least be signs by the balls in stores that let people know that this type of ball will become a piece of history on the first day of 2007.

Now onto the question I had from a collector. Will these balls be worth anything? My answer would be no because way too many balls hit the market. Although the league started playing with these on Oct. 31, the NBA started selling them on June 28.

By the way, looks to be the first retailer to make a move on the ball change. The copy on the Web page for the old classic leather basketball is just too coincidental:  “Order now to get in line. First come, first served…This item will arrive after December 25th.”

There is one organization that will be making money from the ball change. Last week, sports gambling site offered odds on the NBA ball -- with the oddsmakers predicting that Stern would go back to the old ball. But bettors disagreed, which mean Bodog made some money. reports that 68 percent of bettors were convinced that Stern would stand strong and keep the ball in play until the end of the season.

Questions?  Comments?