I like basketball and play quite a bit. I would not consider myself to be anything but amateur. I played for a year on the JV of a small college and since then keep myself entertained by playing pickup ball wherever I can. I'm no expert but I think I'm entitled to an opinion on this whole blowup around the NBA's new synthetic ball.

I tried out the ball at Sportmart the other day and I think there are some things missing in the discussion. Now, I din't get to shoot with it but I dribbled it around the store for quite a while and got a good feel for it compared to the other balls on the shelf.

First, people say that most players have played with synthetic balls all through high school and college and should be familiar with it. Well, this is not your average synthetic ball. Most synthetic balls nowadays are far from what a leather one feels like. The grooves are twice as deep, the panels are backed with soft foam and the panels themselves are made of smooth, stick y composite plastic. Most now are "tackified" as well. These balls practically stick to your hand. I have small hands and cannot for the life of me palm a leather ball, it's too slick. On the other hand I can pick up a Spalding Neverflat off the dribble with no problem, it's that sticky.

The new ball on the other hand was obviously designed to have the feel of broken in leather. It is hard, there is no or very little foam backing, just like a leather ball. It has a somewhat rough texture rather than the smooth glossy skin of a regular synthetic ball. The pebbling is the same, the rough texture is very hard to see. The ridges are less pronounced as well, similar to leather. I can palm this one only slightly, there is no tacky feeling like with most other synthetic balls, the grip comes from the increased friction of the rough texture. If people like Steve Nash think this is a tacky ball they haven't used many synthetic balls before. On the other hand, the players complaining of dry, abraded hands are probaly right. It is far rougher than your average ball.

I agreed with the players that the moisture management system is not all it's cracked up to be. That said it is better than the supposed moisture management in Wilson balls. It does help things dry up quickly but until it dries it is significantly slick. It still doesn't compare to Spalding ZiO Excel, TF-1000 or Wilson Solution which when wet is so slick it's hard to even use.

I didn't feel that the trueness of the bounce was all that bad, it bounced straight in my opinion. It might be slightly different but that is a matter of feel that most players should easily adjust to. I was able to do all the trick moves, ankle breakers and behind the back passes off the dribble I would have been able to do with any other ball. I'm used to the sticky feel of a regular synthetic and if anything it was harder because the ball didn't adhere to my hand off the dribble like my normal ball would. All in all I didn't think it handled poorly.

The bounce is another story. It doesn't bounce very high compared to leather. It felt like I always had to reach down an inch or two to find the ball when any other ball in midair. I don't understand why as it is pretty hard and should rebound well without any padding to absorb the force. I can see this being a serious problem for ball handlers as well as for rebounders trying t guage where a ball will come off the rim. Once you got used to it it wouldn't be a problem but the adjustment period could be longer since these are skills intrained in muscle memory since early grade school for most ball handlers.

My point I guess is that I hear people saying the ball is "sticky". It isn't, it is rough but not sticky in any way similar to a modern synthetic ball. I agree with the dry hands and the poor bounce height though. I think most of the people making comments in the media don't know a good basketball from a dung ball and most of the players are spoiled brats. That said I agree with the players on some things. I actually agree that compared to the sweet feel of a broken in leather ball this one comes across like one of the hard $10.00 balls you get for playing in your driveway. It does not, however, feel anythign like a $40.00 synthetic ball which is far on the other spectrum of being so sticky it feels like someone spilled mollasses on it.

For shooters I think this ball feels great in the hands and seems to be really soft on the rim. Anyone who has to dribble will not like it as much but it isn't all that bad. In all honesty, as a fairly decent amateur I would take this ball any day. It feels good and is about as close to leather as you can get. I don't shoot enough to get sore hands from it. On the other hand, with modern synthetic balls being so sticky you can do alot of cool things with that. There is nothing to compare to a synthetic ball for wicked crossovers or dribbling tricks. It sticks so hard you can o just about anything without carrying the ball. And it's pretty cool to spin a reverse layin off the far edge of the backboard and into the hoop. Try getting that kind of english off the backboard with a leather ball. Never happens!

In the end it is personal preference but I think it furthers the debate to get the ball in your hands and try it out a bit. It isn't an arguement between modern synthetics and leather. This ball is a completely different breed that sits squarely between the two in terms of feel and performance.

I'd love to pick one up just to compare it. Unfortunately the price tag is a bit high. Anyone feel like a donation? I'll post a detailed review of it if you'd like.