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Spalding vs Wilson Basketball: Which is Better?

Spalding vs Wilson. Which brand makes the better basketball?

Spalding was the official ball of the NBA for 38 years, before being replaced by Wilson in 2021. Does that mean Wilson is now better than Spalding?

Not necessarily.

Read on to learn more interesting facts, like:

Let’s get started!

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Why did the NBA change from Spalding to Wilson?

Wilson NBA game ball
The official NBA game ball made by Wilson

Spalding was the official ball of the NBA for 38 years (since 1983).

In 2021, Wilson became the new official ball of the NBA.

Why did the NBA decide to switch after so many years?

In an interview with the Inquirer, Spalding VP Matt Murphy stated:

Spalding and the NBA worked earnestly on a new, go-forward partnership. However, we simply could not agree on terms, and it was mutually agreed that the 2020-2021 season would be our last.

In other words … money. 💰

Either the NBA wanted more from Spalding, or Spalding wanted more from the NBA. In either case, Wilson jumped at the opportunity to become the new official ball of the NBA.

It’s interesting to note that Wilson was actually the very first official basketball of the NBA way back in 1946.

So, things have come full circle.

This brings us to the next question:

Spalding vs Wilson NBA Ball

Spalding NBA game ball
The former official NBA game ball made by Spalding

What’s the difference between the new Wilson NBA ball and former Spalding NBA ball?

They are actually almost identical.

The leather cover material is even sourced from the same company (Horween Leather Co.).

Wilson did not want to change too much from the old Spalding NBA ball, as they were afraid of negative backlash from the players (like when Spalding infamously introduced its composite leather ball in 2006 that everyone hated).

This time, Wilson worked closely with NBA players to vigorously test their new ball and get feedback.

Some tweaks were made to the seams, grip, and logo (of course).

Otherwise, Wilson tried to get a ball that felt nearly identical to the Spalding ball.

Of course, NBA players could still feel the difference (for better or worse).

Some did not like the new ball much, while other said it was great. Initially, many players blamed the ball for poor shooting, although it seems they have adapted over the last couple seasons.

Check out this interesting article in the LA Times about the creation of the Wilson NBA ball.

NCAA player grinning with basketball
Kyle Guy loves his Wilson basketball

Wilson is the official ball of the most popular league in the world — the NBA (and all of its affiliates … G League, WNBA, etc)

It is also the official ball of the NCAA, and FIBA 3×3.

The Wilson Evolution is also the most used high school game basketball in the United States.

So, it is safe to say Wilson is the more popular basketball brand these days.

Spalding is the official ball of the Euroleague, as well as some college conferences, and smaller leagues (NAIA, NBL, etc.). It is still a very popular basketball brand, but has fallen behind Wilson in the last couple of years thanks to the NBA partnership.

Product & Price Comparison

Spalding and Wilson have basketballs for every skill level.

Below is a quick product and price comparison of their similar products for the following five categories:

  • NBA / Professional Level (100% Leather)
  • NCAA / College Level
  • High School Level (NFHS approved)
  • Indoor/Outdoor (recreational use)
  • Outdoor (rubber cover material)

Overall, Spalding is a bit cheaper than Wilson. If you are looking to save a few dollars, then you may want to choose Spalding. Read on for more details:

NBA / Professional Game Ball (100% Leather):
Wilson NBA Official vs Spalding TF Model M

These are the top-of-the-line basketballs meant for professional indoor game use. The cover material of each is made with 100% genuine leather.

NCAA / College Game Ball:
Wilson Evo NXT vs Spalding Legacy TF-1000

These basketballs are used at the college and university level. Some professional leagues may also use a similar ball (e.g. WNBA uses Wilson Evo NXT variation). The cover materials are made with synthetic leather, and only meant for indoor use.

High School Game Ball:
Wilson Evolution vs Spalding Precision TF 1000

These basketballs are used in high schools across the United States (and other countries). They are both NFHS certified. The cover materials are made with synthetic leather, and only meant for indoor use.

Indoor / Outdoor Ball:
Wilson NCAA VTX vs Spalding Excel TF-500

These indoor/outdoor basketballs are meant for recreational use. The covers are made with a synthetic material which can be used either indoors or outdoors.

Outdoor (Rubber) Ball:
Wilson NCAA Killer Crossover vs Spalding Street

These basketballs are designed for use on outdoor courts. The covers are made with a tough rubber material which won’t get damaged on rougher outdoor surfaces. Outdoor basketballs are typically the most budget friendly choice.

Other FAQ

Who owns Wilson? Who owns Spalding?

Wilson Sporting Goods is part of Amer Sports, which was acquired by Chinese company Anta Sports back in 2018.

Spalding is a subsidiary brand of Fruit of the Loom, which in turn is a subsidiary company of financial / investment juggernaut Berkshire Hathaway.

Where are Wilson and Spalding basketballs made?

Both brands are mainly manufactured in China.

Materials may be sourced from other areas. For example, the leather cover material for the NBA game ball is sourced from Chicago-based Horween Leather Company.

Does the NBA still use leather basketballs?

Yes, the NBA basketball is still made with 100% leather.

What is the official NBA ball? How much does it cost?

The current NBA ball is the Wilson NBA Official Game Ball.

It costs around $200.

Are FIBA and NBA balls the same? Who makes the official FIBA basketball?

The official FIBA ball (and Olympic basketball) is made by neither Wilson or Spalding. It is made by Japanese company Molten (i.e. the Molten BG5000).

Which is better: Spalding or Wilson?

Overall, Spalding and Wilson have very similar histories and products.

Wilson is more popular these days thanks to its partnerships with the NBA and NCAA. These partnerships also allowed them to charge slightly higher prices than Spalding.

Now it’s your turn:

Which is your favorite basketball brand? Spalding or Wilson?

Or, is it something else (e.g. Molten, Nike, Baden, etc)?

Let me know in the comments below:

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Larry Lee

Larry Lee

Larry is a basketball addict, and the founder of Hoop Dojo. He started Hoop Dojo to share his love of the game and help the next generation reach their full potential.