MUNDANE MYSTERIES: Why There Are Black Lines On A Basketball

With March Madness upon us, lets examine something few people ever really consider while watching our favorite team make their way through the big dance.

Pretty much all basketballs usually look a certain way, mostly all the same. Your regular basketball has a pebbled exterior, separated into eight panels by thin black lines. But, what do those thin black lines do? Is there a reason they’re there? Well, in reality, those black lines do more than just give a basketball its unique look. Those lines actually make the game of basketball easier to play.

Much like those pebbled dots covering the outside of a basketball, those black lines are actually grooves that make the ball easier to handle. And, with a game requiring players to move around a full court while bouncing (or, “dribbling”) a ball, control is key. The basketball’s lines allow a player to grip the ball better & steer it in a different direction from the moment it touches their hand. If the ball were totally smooth, controlling it would be much more difficult. Just ask anyone who’s ever played around with an old basketball with lines that were worn away; they’ll tell you just how much of a difference those thin strips of rubber make.

Nowadays, we tend to take the functional design of a basketball as a given, but it wasn’t always part of the game. Early on in basketball’s history, the game was played with smooth soccer balls on an oil-polished hardwood court. And, back then, getting a grip on the ball was almost as hard as getting it in the basket. Dribbling wasn’t introduced until later, so players had to throw the ball from where they caught it. Basically, more like dodgeball than basketball. But, the introduction of those lines on the ball definitely made things easier & brought us to the sport we know & love today.

Got a Mundane Mystery you’d like solved? Send me a message via social media (@AndyWebbRadioVoice), or shoot me an email at [email protected].

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