Return of ball possible after NBA switches to leather

Updated: December 14, 2006, 12:10 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

NBA players rejected the new microfiber ball and now your average playground hoopster can do the same thing.

New NBA Ball
AP Photo/John Marshall MantelThe new NBA ball will go the way of the dodo bird.

Spalding, the maker of the new ball, has announced that the league's switch back to leather prompted the company to let fans get a refund of $115 for each new ball -- $100 for the ball itself and $15 for taxes and shipping back to the company.

Spalding also produces the leather ball that the league will again use on Jan. 1. The company vows to work with the league to develop the best ball going forward. And given the reaction regarding a change in basketballs this season, NBA commissioner David Stern said Wednesday players will have a say in any future changes.

"We would like to work with our players and Spalding to come up with the perfect ball," Stern said. "Our players have played with a synthetic through high school. They played with a synthetic in college, yet, this synthetic, they are unhappy with it."

Stern said he didn't expect all the criticism the new ball received, but on Monday he announced the league would return to using a leather ball on Jan. 1.

"The response to the reintroduction of the ball as of January 1 has been overwhelmingly positive," Stern said. "We did something right this year for a change."

Stern said the league would have returned to the leather ball sooner, but had to make sure there were enough available and that they were broken in properly for game conditions.

Stern, speaking at a news conference before the Memphis Grizzlies hosted the Portland Trail Blazers, also addressed ownership questions about the Grizzlies.

Last week, the NBA issued a statement that appeared critical of the perspective ownership group headed by real estate developer Brian Davis and his former Duke teammate and NBA veteran, Christian Laettner. The league emphasized that they had not received the group's application to purchase majority owner Michael Heisley's share of the team.

Stern said the NBA is waiting to see if Davis' group comes forward with the financing and proper documentation for the application. The viability of the offer came under question last week after the league's statement.

"I think what happened was there was some sense in the public sphere that the guys at the NBA were holding it up, and that wasn't the case," Stern said.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.