It’s been a long journey to the NBA finals. The 2019-20 NBA season went on hiatus on March 11, and it was not until June that the NBA’s Board of Governors and Players Association finalized plans for 22 teams to return under stringent health and safety protocols and accompanied by measures to promote social justice. Even the ball the referee threw into the air for the opening tip-off on September 30 took a long journey before arriving at the “bubble” in the middle of Walt Disney World where the finals are being held.
Though not from Harlem, an official NBA basketball is itself a Globetrotter, the product of a supply chain that spans North America, Japan, China, Malaysia and Vietnam. Not unlike the sneakers worn by the Los Angeles Lakers or Miami Heat, basketballs are part of a global network of designers, suppliers, manufacturers, distributors and retailers. Kentucky-based Spalding, which has had exclusive rights to make NBA basketballs since 1983, depends on efficient cross-border logistics and exacting quality control to ensure consistency and performance.