Commissioner David J. Stern
National Basketball Association
New York, NY
Dear Mr. Stern:
Why continue to use inferior equipment that damages game quality and causes undue physical harm to players? While it is good that you have taken responsibility for the unilateral imposition of the new synthetic basketball at issue, it doesn’t make sense to keep using it over the well-liked leather ball of years prior.
The purported reason for the change to the new ball is consistency, which it obviously does not achieve. Whereas the level of performance associated with the leather ball has generally been accepted by all associated with the NBA for many years.
Sending the new basketballs back to the manufacturer, Spalding, for further testing does not solve the current problem, a remedy for which is immediately available. The New York Times reported on December 6 that you indicated you have “left open the possibility that [the ball] would be changed during the season.” Again, why not change back to the leather ball, and do it now? It is unreasonable to think that Spalding could have an adequate new synthetic ball, with significant changes, ready for game play by the best players in the world within the next few weeks or even months.
The same Times article summarized the inferiority of the new ball from complaints by players and coaches. The new ball:
– caused league MVP Steve Nash to wear “bandages on his fingers last week because of cuts caused by the new ball”;
– caused the Nets’ Jason Kidd, and the Mavericks’ Jason Terry and Dirk Nowitzki to [speak] out against the material [of the new ball]” (other reports indicate that Kidd has experienced something similar to Nash, like paper cuts all over his hands; while Nowitzki has experienced bleeding from one of his fingertips as a result of the new ball);
– “[has less consistency] in the way it handles and bounces”;
– “has stuck to players’ hands”;
– caused the Knicks Eddy Curry to say: “The ball never leaves my hand the same way. It sticks to my middle finger. It bounces differently off the dribble and on the shot.”;
– caused an unnamed NBA assistant coach to “[tear] a ligament in a finger when, in retrieving a ball that had bounced onto the sideline, his finger stuck at an odd angle on the ball”;
– “has also not been able to absorb moisture as well as the leather ball” (other reports indicate that the ball is too sticky when dry, too slippery when wet);
– has “become frequently lodged between the rim and the backboard.”
Beyond the game quality issues, is it not in the interest of the NBA to immediately protect player safety by simply switching back to the traditional ball? At the very least, you should immediately allow every player to vote on whether or not to make the switch right away, and respect their wishes.
– Dirk Nowitzki, when asked if he favors an in-season switch back to the leather ball said on December 6: “I definitely would. I know our whole team would.” On the time needed to readjust to the old ball: “I think we’re pretty much all used to the old ball.”
– The Cavaliers’ LeBron James told reporters on December 6 on the time needed to readjust to the old ball: “We’ve used it a long time. It wouldn’t be hard to make the adjustment.”
Mr. Stern, having never consulted the players about changing to a new ball, nor even allowing them to test it before implementation, you have shown the players a great deal of disrespect. You must put to rest this controversy. It is inexcusable to allow it to run on — possibly all the way to the off-season — with a ball so unpredictable and physically damaging.
Perhaps, finally, you will learn your lesson as to your attitude toward the league you have been entrusted to manage. The well-being of the players should be your highest priority. After all, you need them more than they need you.
- League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.