While Spalding might be the official ball provider for the NBA, most players grew up playing with Wilson balls. The Wilson Evolution is the most widely used indoor basketball in high school and collegiate level play, and it’s been the best selling composite leather indoor basketball for some time.
Wilson have produced a lot of basketballs over the years, but the name that sticks is the Wilson Evolution. It features a standard 8 panel design and simple design, so what exactly makes the Evolution so popular?
While you might assume many players simply grew to be fond of the basketball they used back in school, the Wilson Evolution has an incredibly soft and grippy cover that makes it easy to palm and pleasant to catch. Indoor composite leather basketballs are typically very soft and grippy, but the Wilson Evolution is noticeably more so.
Wilson attribute a lot of this additional grip to the ball’s “cushion core carcass”. This essentially replaces a more commonly seen foam inside with a rubber sponge lining.
Now, more grip doesn’t necessarily mean better. Yes, for the overwhelming majority of players, more grip is always welcomed. But the NBA once switched to grippy composite leather basketballs and complained about them feeling too grippy and unnatural, before quickly reverting to the smoother genuine leather balls. So different strokes for different folks, as as they say.
Channel Design And Pebbling
Another unique feature, that continues with the theme of superior grip, are the Evolution’s pebbled channels. Channels (those black lines that separate the panels on a basketball) are typically smooth, but the ones on the Evolution are pebbled, just like the panels themselves. That means the seams provide more grip than other basketballs.
Expanding on the channels, the pebbles also serve to give them moisture wicking properties. Player’s hands can become sweaty, and these channels reduce the impact that has on their handling.
Wilson market the ball as having “cushion core” technology to give it a superior bounce–we’re not entirely sure whether or not it’s something that makes much of a difference or is just a marketing buzzword. The difference is the standard foam inner lining is replaced with a rubber sponge lining.
In any case, being an NFHS approved basketball, the Wilson Evolution performs very well in bounce testing. The bounce is consistent, and isn’t too flat or too bouncy.
In general, indoor-only composite leather basketballs are among the most expensive basketballs because of the manufacturing process and materials required to produce their softer covers. The Wilson Evolution’s price is set at $59.99, so it costs the same at the Wilson Official Store, Walmart, Dick’s Sporting Goods and of course Amazon.
The Wilson Evolution is a high quality indoor ball that lasts a long time, provided you don’t play it on rougher outdoor surfaces that would tear through its incredibly soft cover. Like any other basketball, the cover will slowly wear away and lose grip over months of regular play. However, the ball keeps a good level of air retention throughout its lifespan and because of its originally high amount of grip, arguably feels even more natural after a few months of use.
Size and Weight
The Evolution is available in Intermediate (28.5”) and Official (29.5”) sizes.
It is regulation weight, although marginally lighter than some other popular composite leather balls like the Baden Elite and not quite as heavy as the official NBA game ball which weighs almost exactly 22 ounces.
Wilson have a winning formula in the Evolution ball. It’s a simple composite leather basketball that adds some neat little features that give it extra consistency across its surface and plays well even when moist.
There is no doubt, however, that softness, tack and grip are what makes it such a popular ball. Because of its widespread adoption, it’s also a great basketball for those who want to practice with a ball that is often used in training and competitions. It is currently our favorite indoor basketball.