The Next Big Thing For Basketball Makers Is Taking The Ball Off The Court


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.

Ryan Nagelhout

We recommend proudly displaying your new ball, as it has not been designed for recreational use.

That’s the final sentence on the placard that comes with a Wilson basketball made in collaboration with MCM, the luxury leather goods manufacturer. The ball was featured in a pop-up at Nordstrom’s in 2018 and retails for $280. That’s a pretty steep price for a ball you can’t even play basketball with, but according to Wilson it’s an important and growing part of what the sporting goods manufacturer does with its products.

“The company was built and focused on these really highly innovative products. This is the flip side to that,” Amanda Lamb, marketing director at Wilson told Uproxx. “We get to showcase what our production capabilities really are through a whole new lens.”