In 1891, a physical educator named James Naismith invented the game of basketball. What was intended to be a simple competitive game ended up becoming the multi-billion industry we all love to watch and play today.
Basketball has undergone many changes through the years, and the game is still evolving in different ways. As the name suggests, the two most essential components of the sport are the basket and the ball. Much like many of the facets of the game, the ball used for the sport has undergone several makeovers and design changes.
If you’ve played the sport, you might wonder how many dots are on a basketball. You might wonder why they’re there in the first place and how they came to be. Well, we’ll answer all those here.
Why Does Basketball Have Dots?
When Naismith invented the game of basketball, he first used a pair of peach baskets and a soccer ball. However, apart from the fact that soccer already had its sport, a soccer ball was too light and small to be thrown. So, Naismith had to design a new ball specifically made for basketball.
To do this, he called for the help of one of the top sporting goods companies back then — Spalding. Naismith and Spalding got to work and the result was a design of a ball with four leather panels stitched and laced together.
The new ball weighed around 20 ounces and measured 32 inches — both exceeding the measurements of a typical soccer ball.
The basketball dots only entered the picture in the 90s and it was all because of Michael Jordan. The way MJ moved was nothing the world had ever seen, and even the way he gripped or palmed the ball during games was a point of fascination to many. Michael’s style of play influenced manufacturers to do something about the ball to make it easier to grip, and the answer to that was to add dots or dimples.
What are the Bumps on a Basketball Called?
Basketball dots, dimples, speckles, and pebbles are all used to call the little bumps on the basketball. These little dots provide better traction for the ball and give the handler a better grip on the ball.
During the earlier years of basketball, leather was the primary material used for balls. The material was durable and had a squeaky finish that provided natural traction. However, consistency became a problem as not all leather had the same natural finish or feeling.
Because of this, balls made out of high-grade synthetic leather became a thing, and it made sense because they were stronger, and manufacturers could mass produce the exact grip and feeling. Synthetic leather also allowed the manufacturers to add more consistent bumps to the balls to provide better traction and enable handlers to palm the ball like Mike.
Why Does a Basketball Have Lines and Panels?
The first basketball that Naismith and Spalding made was composed of four leather panels. These panels were stitched and laced together to create a ball (a bloated square would be a more apt term). The lines naturally occurred because that’s where the leather panels were joined together during production. ‘
As the sport evolved, so did the ball used for it. They increased the panels from four to eight to make the ball rounder. The panels still had to be stitched, but manufacturers started covering those stitches with a rubber lining to seal off the gaps — thus the black lines that we see today.
Apart from sealing the stitches, these black lines also provide grip points in the ball. While the dots on the ball provide traction, the stripes act as a deeper and longer dimple on which you can rest your fingertips.
How Many Dots are on a Basketball?
To answer this, you need to do a little bit of math. A standard basketball today has a circumference of 29.5 inches. If you count the dots in a square inch of the ball, you’ll find 122 of them. So, there are about 35,000 dots on the ball’s surface.
It’s crucial to have dots throughout the whole surface of the ball to provide consistent traction. However, these dots on a basketball can disappear over time. Constant use of the ball, especially outdoors, can scrape these dots off and make palming the ball much harder. If you notice that the ball is getting harder to palm or grip, this may indicate that it’s time to get a new ball.
Having a ball without enough traction can affect how you handle and dribble the ball. It can also cause your fingers to slip and make it harder for you to put a spin on the ball when shooting or passing.
What Materials are Basketballs Made Of?
When Naismith and Spalding made the first basketball, it was only composed of leather, laces, and stitches. However, as the sport progressed through the years, the ball followed. Now, basketballs are made out of multiple parts and, consequently, various materials.
Modern basketballs have four parts: bladder, windings, carcass, and cover. Let’s go over these parts one by one.
The bladder is the innermost part of modern-day basketballs. This part is responsible for holding the air inside the ball. The bladder is made of rubber to help it expand or depress when pumped with air.
The main job of the windings is to keep the shape of the ball by keeping the bladder in shape. This part of the ball pertains to the layer of polyester or nylon surrounding the bladder. It also adds a layer of protection for the bladder, which tends to be quite a delicate part of the basketball.
The carcass is another rubber layer on top of the bladder and windings. Compared to the bladder, the rubber used for the carcass is a lot stronger because its primary responsibility is to provide a protective crust around the inner parts of the ball.
Using rubber for this part of the ball also ensures that the right amount of energy is absorbed when dribbling the ball. Without it, the ball would bounce higher or not bounce at all.
The outermost part of the basketball is the cover, mainly made out of synthetic leather, genuine leather, or rubber.
Balls covered with genuine leather are the priciest ones but also give the most premium feel. NBA game balls are made out of leather exclusively procured from the Horween Leather Company — one of the oldest leather tanneries in the country.
Synthetic leather, on the other hand, is a little less durable than genuine leather but a lot cheaper. Most commercial basketballs that people use for casual games are made of this.
Lastly, rubber is the least durable and lightest of all the materials. Basketballs covered with rubber tend to be orange and have overemphasized dots. You’ll usually see these balls in arcades or toy stores.
Wrapping Things Up: How Many Dots are on a Basketball?
Much like the sport itself, modern-day basketballs have evolved through the years. It all started when James Naismith called up Spalding to develop a ball meant for the sport. After that, a series of improvements led to the creation of modern basketballs as we know them. Today, basketballs are mostly made out of a combination of rubber, nylon, and leather.
On the surface of basketballs are some 35,000 dots or dimples to give the handlers better traction and grip on the ball. These dots are essential because they allow players to control the ball, hold it better, and shoot it better. Unfortunately, these dots can decrease in number or disappear if you keep using the ball, especially on rough surfaces. So, even if these dots do not seem much, don’t take them for granted.
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