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Follow the bouncing ball.

This season, National Basketball Association [NBA] players took to the court with a new synthetic [artificial] ball. After complaints by many players, however, the league decided to switch back to leather balls.

"I'm very excited," LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers told a reporter after the announcement. "You see my smile, right?"

James was one of many NBA players who spoke out against the new ball. They said that the synthetic ball bounced differently from the leather one. Several also complained that the ball hurt their hands.

At the request of Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, two scientists from the University of Texas at Arlington performed tests on the synthetic ball.

Kaushik De and James Horwitz first did a simple bounce test. They used a camera that tracks distance and motion. The scientists found that the new synthetic ball bounced lower than a conditioned leather ball.

"What we discovered is that this new ball, when it comes back up, it doesn't always come up straight," said De. The next step was to figure out why. The problem, it turns out, was in the logo. On the synthetic ball, the NBA logo was embossed, leaving an uneven surface. On the leather ball, the logo is painted.

Visine Test

In another test, the scientists tried to determine how the balls reacted to sweaty hands. They used Visine, a solution that is similar to sweat. With only one drop of Visine on the synthetic ball, it became 55 percent more slippery than the leather one.

According to NBA Commissioner David Stern, the new ball led to more shooting and scoring. But, Stern said, the players' feelings were more important than the numbers. "The most important statistic," he said, "is the view of our players."
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Title Annotation:Sports
Author:Seitz, Blake
Publication:Junior Scholastic
Date:Jan 22, 2007
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