Take this Ball and …


That took balls. In an almost stunning reversal, NBA Commissioner David Stern tonight admitted he committed a major turnover. Just days after saying the league would re-examine the new composite basketball, Stern said Monday night that the examining was done and, as was the new fangled rock. As of January 1, hundreds of old leather balls will be pulled from storage and rolled out to a slew of happy ballers.

Although many key stats are up this season (including shooting), a few key players have complained about the new ball since the opening of training camp. Stern and the league thought the complains would subside, a major miscalculation. Star players like Shaquille O’Neal, Steve Nash and LeBron James complained the ball was inconsistent (at best) and almost deadly (some said it left cuts on their hands.) Lesser lights like Knicks center Eddy Curry said the ball naver came off his hands the same way twice.

But let’s be real here. This is not about a daggum space-age basketball. This is about the relationship between the league and its players and how a commissioner that historically has made almost all the right moves, blew this one. “Back in the day,” one former player told me recently, “David would have called Magic, Michael and Larry together, asked them about the ball and if they gave it a thumbs up or down, that would have been that. Those guys aren’t around any more.”

Stern now knows that he should have gained a consensus from his current and emerging stars, starting with the likes of Nash and James and adding Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Dwight Howard and perhaps Yao Ming for the international vote. Instead none of them touched the Spalding creation until camp.

Moreover, changing the ball – perhaps the most fundamental element of the game – while also charging the the officials with calling more Ts for whining, well, Stern admits the timing of the two changes might not have been the smartest thing he’s sver done.

The switch-back might turn out to be the smartest thing Stern’s ever done – if it repairs the new strains that were percolating between the league and the players’ union. Last week, the union filed an unfair-labor-practice grievance over the ball with the National Labor Relations Board.

Tonight, NBA union head Billy Hunter praised Stern for his decision to drop the ball and said the union would, in turn, drop its suit.

Baller: Billy Hunter

Gamer: Dave Stern 


6 thoughts on “Take this Ball and …

  1. Juan says:

    I think that analysis above is right on.

    Stern in recent weeks had received a great deal of publicity in an SI article and in Costas’ radio show which suggested that he was a content, and somewhat benevolent dictator, but a dictator nonetheless.

    This was always well-known in athletic circles, or with people that just pay atttention, but it probably got to him of late as writers made that suggestion explicitly , rather than the reader or listener having to infer it for one’s self.

    I don’t get why he was so adamant about the ball to begin with. I can see him coming down on dress, and arguing with refs, but his insistence on keeping the ball was a little strange to me considering the ball is so essential to the game, and his not listening to his players’ dissatisfaction with it, was simply bizzare.

  2. To hell with the controversy. I just like the ball girl.

  3. What about one of the players (it escapes my mind who) complaining about having orange fingertips during the first half of games b/c of the new ball! I couldn’t stop laughing at that one.

    Seriously, Stern made the right call (finally) on this matter. Imagine something like this happening in baseball. You can’t tell me the “old school” baseball writers wouldn’t have the players backs by complaining that it skews the game, stats, etc. Instead in this situation, the reporting was relegated to documenting players complaints in such a manner that most media portrayed players to the fans as spoiled…again.

  4. Mario Longoria says:

    In my opinion, the NBA, most of its players, some of the coaches, and every other announcer are products of conceit, egos, greed, crime, immorality, and confidence games. The sport does little to further a genuine competitive spirit, sportsmanship, character-building, and least of all, role models for children. The recent incident about the basketball is ludicrous, and probably a big ball contract or promotion gone awry. If the NBA was truly serious about improving their image, they should begin with its commissioner, set a realistic minimum age to enter the NBA, assign counselors, re-train NBA referees on basic rules and floor management, and stricter rules for fighting infractions. Otherwise, its the same old crap. But thats just my opinion.

  5. Jake's Opine says:

    Ok so what are they going to do with all of the balls. I can see the headlines now “League Busts Balls”. Will the league try to auction off the autographed spheres on EBay? No one wants to play with misfit balls, not even Jenna Jamison. And its unlikely these non-reponsive rocks will find their way to the vaunted neighborhood courts like Rucker Park, where anything but the best is relegated to stool duty.

    So what’s the solution? Send them all to Iraq. The insurgents will be so busy trying to figure out how to get the oranges to bounce they won’t have time to plant any more bombs or pick off any more of our men in uniform. David Stern could do what Dubya and Rummy couldn’t, make peace in the Middle East.

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