On the first nice day of spring it feels like everyone wants to grab a basketball and shoot some hoops. At least it felt like that in Boston — the thermostat went above 60 degrees outside in early April and, for the first time in months, I saw a basketball somewhere other than on the TD Garden parquet.
The parks were full, pickup games in full bloom. A walk through Downtown Crossing saw teens dribbling on the brick pedestrian walkway, fighting over who got to chip the rust off their handles in the crisp air. Later on I saw a father and son at the Fenway Target carrying an indoor/outdoor Spalding ball, the latter looking eager to get some runs in while the day still had light.
Owning a basketball carries some significant playground currency, and that’s not changing anytime soon. But the sporting goods industry is also targeting a different kind of status, something that puts them in more than just community center gyms and park blacktop but display cases and memorabilia shelves. And a lot of these products aren’t even designed to play with at all. Companies like Spalding and Wilson are building partnerships with luxury brands to make their spheres and spheroids into powerful symbols of something very different than your favorite ball growing up.