Concerns arise about the new, synthetic NBA ball

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Monday, October 30, 2006

Studies conducted by a team of physicists at the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) conclude that new synthetic NBA basketballs are less lively, more slippery when damp, and bounce more erratically than the traditional leather balls.

James Horwitz, Chairman of the UTA Department of Physics was contacted by the Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban to study the new ball. Horwitz asked UTA physics professor Kaushik De to lead the project. De's team found that the new balls are tackier when dry, but become much more slippery than leather balls when they get damp. Traditional leather basketballs provide more grip when they are slightly wet.

The synthetic balls bounce 30% more sporadically, possibly due to deep embossing, and are less lively than leather basketballs.

Some of these issues could be fixed with a variety of methods, including modification of the embossing, increasing the air pressure in the balls beyond the regulation 8.5 psi, and constantly drying the balls with towels during the game or frequently replacing them with fresh basketballs, say De and Horwitz.