NBA Listens to Employees, Goes Back to the Old Ball


NBA to ditch new ball, return to old

Following up this earlier story about the lack of employee involvement, the NBA has decided to go back to their old basketball.

From this article (no longer available):

Without consulting the players, the NBA surprisingly ditched the leather basketball that had been used for some 35 years and switched to a new synthetic basketball before this season. The move was met with constant complaints, with some players saying the ball was too slippery, while others said it cut their fingers and hands and didn't bounce off the rim correctly.

The NBA finally succumbed to the players' wishes.

“Our players' response to this particular composite ball has been consistently negative and we are acting accordingly,” NBA commissioner David Stern said in a statement. “Although testing performed by Spalding and the NBA demonstrated that the new composite basketball was more consistent than leather, and statistically there has been an improvement in shooting and scoring, and ball-related turnovers, the most important statistic is the view of our players.”

So employee opinion won out over expert testing. A bit belated, but respect for their employees?

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. I heard tonight on ESPN2 that the NBA had, over the summer, interpreted the “lack of negative feedback” about the new ball as “positive feedback.” They sent the balls to some star players over the summer when they weren’t around. Oops.

    That’s a lesson to learn from this — the lack of negative feedback is NOT positive always.

  2. And, I don’t know if you heard, but now the players are complaining about the switch back to the old ball. Again, an arbitrary decision was made by management without talking to the employees (the players) and, even though the perception is that the players wanted the switch, the method and timimg created more problems. Mr. Stern, please, TALK TO THE PLAYERS.

  3. I resent the idea of multimillionaire entertainers being thought of as “employees” as if they were in the same category as a factory worker making $9/hour. I almost think they should arbitrarily change things just to keep the entertainers off-balance. Let’s face it, pro basketball has gotten boring and it needs a new twist. Select ball design by lottery at the same time you do the coin toss.

  4. Why do you resent that, Eric? I think the Toyota/lean concept of “respect for people” even included “overpaid” entertainers… why should they be jerked around just because they’re paid a lot.


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