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Which basketball is used in nba?

The National Basketball Association (NBA) is the preeminent men’s professional basketball league in North America. With 30 teams across the United States and Canada, the NBA showcases the highest level of talent in the sport. One key element that impacts gameplay is the actual basketball used during NBA games. Over the years, the league has used different basketball models and manufacturers to meet its evolving needs.

History of NBA Basketball

In the early years of the NBA, which was founded in 1946 as the Basketball Association of America (BAA), there was no standard official basketball. Teams often provided their own balls for home games. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the league used a tennis ball manufacturer to supply game balls. However, quality and consistency proved challenging.

That led the NBA to adopt the Spalding brand as its first official basketball starting with the 1983-1984 season. Spalding manufactured a new model, called The Commissioner, exclusively for NBA games. This started a partnership between Spalding and the NBA that remains today.

Spalding continued updating The Commissioner ball over the next two decades, making small refinements to the materials and design. Then in the 2006-2007 season, the company rolled out a new microfiber composite ball, the Spalding Infusion. This radically redesigned model didn’t go over well with players who complained about its feel and grip.

The NBA responded by going back to a more traditional leather ball in January 2007 while still sticking with Spalding as its official supplier. Further tweaks over the following years led to the current official game ball, the Spalding NBA Official Game Ball.

Current Official NBA Basketball

Today, all NBA games use the Spalding NBA Official Game Ball. It features a pebbled, leather surface for optimal grip and feel. The ball contains cushioned foam backing and a butyl rubber bladder to maintain air pressure and bounce.

Here are the specifications of the current official NBA basketball:

  • Size: 29.5 inches in circumference
  • Weight: 22 oz
  • Cover Material: Premium pebbled leather
  • Color: Autographed game balls are brown, all others are orange

Having an official ball allows the NBA to control quality and consistency across every game. It ensures players have the same grip, bounce, and feel regardless of which arena they play in.

Use in NBA Games

During an NBA game, each team provides its own balls for use while on offense. The home team supplies the referee with 2-3 spanking new official balls prior to tipoff. These are rotated throughout the game.

When a ball goes out of bounds, hits the stanchion or backboard, or becomes overly dirty/wet, the referee will take it out of play. A fresh official ball is then inserted from either the home or away team’s supply kept at the scorer’s table. This keeps the game flowing smoothly.

Here are some key rules and processes around NBA basketballs during games:

  • Balls are inspected and verified official NBA game balls prior to tipoff
  • No alterations can be made to the ball’s surface, markings, or internal air pressure
  • Balls must be broken in to proper pressure specifications before the game
  • At least 12 balls must be made available for each game
  • The home team supplies balls while it is on offense
  • The referee rotates in new balls to keep fresh ones in play
  • Balls are switched out immediately if they become excessively dirty or wet

The NBA rule book also stipulates requirements around game balls to ensure fairness. Only official Spalding balls in proper playable condition can be used. Any team or player who attempts to bring an unauthorized ball into the game would be subject to penalties.

Differences Between NBA and NCAA Balls

College basketball also has an official ball, which differs slightly from the NBA version. The NCAA switched from Spalding to Wilson as its ball manufacturer starting in the 2021-2022 season. The Wilson NCAA Official Game Ball has the following attributes:

  • Size: 30 inches in circumference
  • Weight: 20 oz
  • Cover Material: Composite leather
  • Color: Various design options

The NCAA ball is therefore one inch larger in circumference and 2 ounces lighter than the NBA official game ball. It also features a composite leather versus pebbled leather cover. This results in subtle performance differences between the two balls.

The main on-court impact is the NCAA ball feeling slightly lighter and bouncing a little higher. This can affect a player’s touch, release, and shooting accuracy when transitioning between leagues. But ultimately, most differences come down to a player’s familiarity and comfort level with each ball.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why did the NBA switch to a microfiber ball in 2006?

The NBA switched from a leather to a microfiber composite ball in 2006 in hopes the new material would grip better and be more consistent. But players struggled to adjust, citing issues with bounce, moisture absorption, and abrasion on their fingers. So the league went back to a traditional leather ball just a few months later.

How much does an NBA game ball cost?

Authentic NBA game balls cost around $165 at retail. League officials likely pay less in bulk, but exact pricing is confidential. Based on 12 balls per game and 82 games per team, the NBA goes through thousands of official game balls per season.

Do NBA players get to keep game balls?

Players don’t automatically get to keep every NBA game ball like in other leagues. But the league and teams will grant game balls to players upon request if they are for special career milestones (e.g. first points, big scoring night). These are often displayed in players’ trophy rooms.

Do teams use the same ball at home and away games?

No, the home team supplies the official NBA game balls for every contest. The game balls used contain the home team’s logo. So the road team must get acclimated to the new batch provided on site even though it’s still an official Spalding ball.

Can NBA basketballs be reused?

NBA game balls are generally not reused. Once a ball goes out of play, gets dirty, or absorbs moisture, a new ball is rotated in. Reusing balls repeatedly would compromise their grip, feel, and performance. Old balls are often donated or given away by teams rather than used again.


The NBA’s official game ball helps ensure consistent quality and performance across the league. Spalding and the NBA maintain strict standards around materials, specifications, and processes to deliver a uniform product. Yet there remains an art and nuance to creating a basketball that feels just right.

While the NBA ball has seen tweaks over the decades, it balances tradition with modern advances. The current model optimizes grip, softness, and responsiveness for the world’s best players. When stars like LeBron James and Stephen Curry step on the court, they can trust their palms and shooting strokes will greet the same familiar, reliable NBA official game ball.