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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A game ball's road to the NBA Finals

OAKLAND, Calif. -- From slaughterhouses across North America to a family-run tannery on Chicago's North Side. From a manufacturing facility in China to an Alabama warehouse for testing. Then, finally, to all 30 teams.

Every summer a fresh batch of official NBA basketballs arrives, crisp and orange and brand new. But before one can enter an NBA game, a choice must be made.

With about 16 minutes left on the game clock Sunday prior to tipoff in theCleveland Cavaliers' Game 2 win over the Golden State Warriors, officiating crew chief Tony Brothers jogged onto the court at Oracle Arena with three basketballs in his hands.

Brothers walked toward where the Cavaliers players were warming up and nodded at LeBron James, who walked over. James took the balls one at a time, looking each one over, rolling them in his hands, squeezing them, dribbling one. Then James pointed to one and nodded.

Minutes later, it was the Warriors' turn. Stephen Curry inspected each ball, rolling them in his hands, dribbling each a few times.

"If it's on a scale of 1 to 10, with one being brand new to 10 being the ball that Jerry West used to play with, I like it at a 6," Curry said earlier this week. "More on the broken-in side. It's softer."

The players had agreed on a selection, and Brothers walked toward the scorer's table with all three balls and told an official which would be the game ball -- and indeed, it was far more worn than new, with its share of scratches. The other two balls: backups.


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