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Q&A: Spalding vice president Matt Murphy on brand’s future after ending run as NBA’s official basketball partner

A Q&A with Spalding's general manager, plus Sixers players discuss the new Wilson ball after the league ended its 38-year partnership with Spalding after the 2021 season.

Spalding has been the official basketball for the NBA since 1983.
Spalding has been the official basketball for the NBA since 1983.Read moreYONG KIM

Take a closer look at NBA Summer League basketball and you’ll notice a change.

No, not any alterations to the rules. Those change like the seasons.

For the first time in more than 30 years, NBA players will have a different ball in their hands as displayed at this year’s NBA combine and in arenas in Las Vegas, Sacramento,and Salt Lake City. The league ended its partnership with Spalding as the official basketball maker after the NBA Finals. Summer League players and NBA rookies who endured the draft process are the first to use the new Wilson basketball.

Some players will peep the differences in a basketball’s texture with their eyes closed while others would hoop with a rock. Sixers guard Isaiah Joe is more of the former.

“To me it kind of has a little bit of a harder feel,” Joe told The Inquirer’s Keith Pompey. “We’re still trying to break them in a little bit more, but they don’t stick quite like the Spalding ball once they get sweaty, so that’s just the biggest adjustment.”

Sixers guard Tyrese Maxey is the latter.

“At the end of the day, they all go through the hoop, so, it doesn’t really matter to me,” Maxey said to Pompey. “I like the basketball.”

» READ MORE: Sixers guard Tyrese Maxey, budding photographer, shows laser focus on court at NBA Summer League

Spalding began making basketballs for the NBA in 1983 after Wilson’s initial run as the official ball. The ball is known for its unique leather feel, a trait it shares with the new Wilson basketball.

The NBA tried a synthetic material in 2006, and the results were so poor that the league couldn’t even make it through one season without changing back to an eight-panel leather ball.

Wilson is now the official basketball for the NBA, WNBA, and NCAA. So what’s next for Spalding?

Matt Murphy, vice president and general manager of Spalding, answered questions on the company’s future relationship with the NBA, other business ventures, and more.

Q: Why has Spalding’s run as the NBA’s official basketball come to an end?

A: As an NBA partner, it has been our privilege to have Spalding played by the greatest athletes in the world. Over several months in late 2019 and early 2020, Spalding and the NBA worked earnestly on a new, go-forward partnership. However, we simply could not agree on terms, and it was mutually agreed that the 2020-2021 season would be our last.

Q: What makes Spalding’s basketballs unique?

A: Spalding’s quality and craftsmanship are what make a Spalding basketball unique. Spalding is an American-owned global sporting goods leader with a rich history in manufacturing elite equipment for athletes, including creating the first official basketball for Dr. James Naismith in 1894. This authentic history inspires our current basketball range that offers every athlete the performance that serves their game.

Q: What’s next for Spalding? What other projects are in store?

A: While no longer including the NBA logo, our focus on products that are made for the game will not change. Our approach is rooted in elevating the game of every player by providing the best performing basketballs and hoops in the world. In 2021 alone we will launch a revamped TF basketball line built around performance game balls, an EZ set-up Portable Hoop we named Momentous that installs in under 30 minutes — a game-changer for basketball accessibility, and the first driveway version of the elite Arena Renegade hoop found in professional and collegiate arenas.

Q: What other notable leagues across the world will Spalding continue to work with as the official basketball partner?

A: While our partnership with the NBA ended July 2021, we remain partners with some of the top leagues and associations throughout the world, including the Euroleague, FIBA, the NCAA, Pro-Ams, and many state high school associations — in addition to developing new ones. Spalding will continue to align the brand with those who share our passion for the sport. We will continue to invest in innovation that reinforces our leadership in the category, and we will continue to promote our brand as an authentic voice within basketball culture.

Q: How will Spalding continue its relationship with the NBA?

A: The Spalding Arena Renegade Basketball Hoop, our professional and collegiate basketball hoop manufactured by Spalding in Jefferson, Iowa, is currently in arenas for the NBA and WNBA, as well as many NCAA facilities. We are currently working with the NBA to see that this relationship continues.