How Much Does an Authentic NBA Game Ball Cost?

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An NBA basketball on the court before a game

Today’s NBA is one of the most entertaining athletic spectacles there is. World-class superstars like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Steph Curry fly up and down the court with incredible precision, grace, and athleticism. But as you’re watching these players play, how often do you consider the tools they are using? 

Have you ever considered what an NBA game ball is made out of, who produces it, and how much money it’s worth? It’s probably more than you think. Let’s take a closer look at the ridiculous amount that one NBA game ball costs. 

An NBA basketball on the court before a game
An NBA basketball on the court before a game | Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images

The history of the NBA basketball

While a lot of equipment goes into the NBA game, there’s no single piece of equipment more important than the ball. And that piece of equipment has a history nearly as old as the game itself.

The first basketball ever used wasn’t a basketball at all. When Dr. James Naismith developed the game in 1891 in Springfield, Massachusetts, he had the first players use a soccer ball to play the game.

Naismith then went to A.G. Spalding and asked him to design a ball specifically for this game. The game’s official rules Naismith wrote mandated that Spalding make all official balls used for the sport. 

How the basketball has evolved throughout the years

Spalding designed the first synthetic leather basketball in 1972. In 1983, Spalding’s basketball became the official basketball of the NBA. In 1992, Spalding introduced the composite leather basketball, which had a lighter touch but also added durability.

Finally in 1997, Spalding became the official ball of the WNBA — this ball resembled the NBA’s ball, only it was orange and white instead of solid orange.

Spalding’s name is essentially synonymous with the NBA and WNBA now. It’s also synonymous with the idea of playing basketball for many young hoopers who play in elementary, middle, and high school as well as in college.

But while many people probably think the basketballs used professionally are the same standard-issue balls used in gyms all around the country, that couldn’t be further from the truth. 

How much does an authentic NBA game ball cost? 

The cost of an authentic, game-ready NBA basketball is probably way more than you think. It’s also way more than what you’d drop walking into a sporting goods store to buy most kinds of basketball. 

A Spalding replica ball retails at $59.99. At most sporting goods stores, you can get an indoor basketball for probably around $30. If you guessed either of those prices for how much an actual NBA game ball costs, you’d be way off. According to the Spalding website, an official NBA game ball costs $169.99

The Spalding website advertises the following features of their NBA game basketballs: 

  • Official NBA size and weight: Size 7, 29.5″
  • Full-grain Horween leather cover
  • Ships inflated
  • Designed for indoor play only

What does this mean? It means Spalding puts a lot of resources into the NBA’s actual balls – more than the resources that go into the basketballs that hit the shelves of most sporting goods retailers. You can obviously buy one of these, but they’re a lot less readily available than those other modestly-priced basketballs.

One important distinction? The ball is marked for indoor play only. Many Spalding balls double as indoor/outdoor balls that can be used in either setting. These are custom-made to be used on NBA hardwood floors. Using them anywhere else could do significant damage to the ball. 

While it’s true the NBA basketball is a bit pricier than the average ball, for the cost mentioned above you can have one of your own. Just be sure to take good care of it and not use it outdoors as it could be damaged — and you’ll be $169.99 lighter.