The National Basketball Association has announced a multi-year, global deal with US sports equipment manufacturer Wilson Sporting Goods to become the league’s official game ball partner.
Starting in the 2021-22 season, Wilson will become the official game ball of the NBA as well as the Women’s National Basketball Association, NBA G League, NBA 2K League and Basketball Africa League. The length and terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The partnership with the WNBA will not officially begin until 2022, however. The WNBA will continue using a composite ball in the interim, Yahoo Sports reports.
The NBA and long-standing partner Spalding agreed to part ways ahead of the expiration of their contract at the end of next season. Spalding has been the official game ball of the NBA since 1983. Prior to that, Wilson was the league’s partner for 37 years.
The Spalding-NBA relationship over nearly four decades had been a close one, though the two had a notable misstep in 2006 with a quickly aborted attempt to replace the traditional, eight-panel leather ball with one made of synthetic material and was widely panned by players.
“This partnership with Wilson returns us to our roots as we plan for the future,” said Salvatore LaRocca, NBA president of global partnerships. “We were partners for 37 seasons dating back to when Wilson manufactured the first official NBA basketballs in 1946, and we look forward to growing the game of basketball together.”
The NBA and its players will work jointly with Wilson to develop and approve the new game ball, with Wilson using the same materials, eight-panel configuration, and performance specifications as current game balls. The company will also source the same leather currently used in the NBA.
The NBA deal expands upon Wilson’s designation providing the official game ball of the NCAA basketball tournament.
“And as we start this new chapter in the game, our focus and energy will be on supporting the league and the players, coaches and fans with the most advanced, high-performance game basketballs possible,” said Kevin Murphy, general manager of Wilson Basketball.
It is the second major commercial deal for the NBA amid the global Covid-19 pandemic following a multiyear, multi-faceted partnership with technology giant Microsoft last month.
Spalding, which developed the first basketball in 1894, said it intends to remain closely tied to the sport without the direct tie to the NBA.
“Spalding will remain as deeply embedded in the game of basketball as were the day we helped start it,” the company said.