ESPN’s Baxter Holmes has a long, thoroughly entertaining piece about the lifecycle of an NBA basketball, pegged to the Finals. I’d urge you to go check it out, but it’s almost unreadable on the Worldwide Leader’s overbusy nightmare of a website; it’s like they printed it in 11-point font on the surface of a freeway and you can only read it by looking down while you walk upstream against traffic. At one point, I had to scroll back up to remind myself who a certain “Skip” was (Skip Horween, of Horween Leather Company, exclusive supplier of leather for NBA basketballs), and the giant block of shit at the top of the screen spawned a new toolbar, and my laptop snapped itself shut like a scallop, blew a raspberry at me, and threw itself in the river.
That’s too bad, because it’s a terrific article, full of stuff you didn’t know you didn’t know and priceless quotes, like this one from ex-player and current Warriors TV analyst Jim Barnett, that I just cannot read without giggling:
“Today’s balls are hard and slick,” said Jim Barnett, who played with seven teams from 1966-77 and has spent nearly the past three decades as the Warriors’ television analyst. “We had old balls. They were soft. You could grip them. You can’t grip these balls.”
All the stuff about players being picky about basketballs is great. I love this little anecdote about an unacceptable game ball:
The executive recalled one point guard who so hated the game ball chosen one night that early in the first quarter of a home game, he “passed” it straight to a courtside fan who was holding a beer.
Naturally, beer spilled all over the ball, and it had to be replaced. “If he didn’t like a ball, he wasn’t going to keep it out there,” the executive said.
The source doesn’t specify the era in which that happened, but damn if it doesn’t seem like some Steve Nash shit.
The Oklahoma City Thunder have an ever so slightly creepy pregame ritual that, fittingly, puts the job of selecting a ball in the hands of the guy who’ll be pounding the air out of it:
Before home games, the Oklahoma City Thunder’s top security representative will personally deliver the game ball to star point guard Russell Westbrook in the locker room. Westbrook then takes it, inspects it, rubs it, dribbles it, holds it, smells it and, after approving it, passes it to each of his teammates, a sacred ceremony before the players circle up and sprint out of the tunnel.
I bet Kendrick Perkins dropped it every fucking time. That’s probably why they left him out of team activities!
Here’s more from Barnett, who in only a smattering of brief quotes emerges as the type of great-uncle you’d want to sit near as beers loosened him up at a cookout:
Our balls used to be really crappy,” Barnett said.
Nobody wants crappy balls, man. Now tell us about how the wood used to be harder back then, Uncle Jim!
I love this stuff; the world needs more stories about the lifecycles of sporting equipment and the weird relationships neurotic pro athletes form with them. Which baseball players carry their mitts around in Baby Bjorns? Which tennis player legally married his racquet? Sporting equipment stories are cool.
Here’s a link to the printable version of this cool sports equipment story, so that you can read it without needing a fucking Xanax. Someday, the story of ESPN’s website will also be a weird anecdote about equipment failure.
Photo via AP