The basketball is an international icon, and it has come a long way since James Naismith and A.G. Spalding & Bros stitched together their curious, leather-paneled creation in the 1890s. 

For over 130 years, the basketball’s development has mirrored the world around it, backed by the science of its time, culminating into the beloved, orange icon we know today. 

As a whole, the sports industry is constantly innovating as it tries to meet the strong demand for new and diverse product offerings. We've worked on several innovative projects ourselves, such as Swoops, an NFT-based basketball game, as well as helpful apps like NBC’s My Teams and NFL OnePass. Like any successful brand, the two largest basketball manufacturers—Spalding and Wilson—fully understand the need for continual improvement, as well as understanding how sound product naming comes into play for their business.

Naming Basketballs: The Big Players

Today, customers have a variety of basketballs to choose from for any kind of venue imaginable. Customers can easily browse the sports aisle and pick up Spalding’s Street Basketball, aptly named for those who simply want to enjoy a casual game of outdoor pickup with friends in the neighborhood courtyard. Within the same category, but catering to a younger audience, Spalding offers a derivative in its Street Phantom, a name that evokes the anticipation of launching smooth, wraith-like layups under the glow of street lights.

For a more mature audience, Wilson offers an indoor basketball, the NCAA Killer Crossover, whose name accomplishes two tasks: First, it highlights their standing as an official ball and secondly, Killer Crossover suggests to players what’s in store for their athletic abilities should they use this particular product. For those in need of inspiration, a player may be inclined to pick up Wilson’s Evolution, a name that subtly offers players the hope of gradual growth and improvement, culminating in play refined by time and determination.

And the basketball world still isn’t finished with new developments. In 2023, Wilson announced their currently nameless Airless Basketball, a 3D printed prototype developed by an aerospace parts manufacturer. We’ve seen the sports world lean toward aerospace technology before with products such as Carbitex, confirming for us that the industry is constantly leaning toward the new.

Main Takeaways

Spalding and Wilson intently listen to their audience, and by providing a wide breadth of offerings, they’ve ensured there is a basketball for anyone who wants to play. Some names blatantly describe what use they’re intended for, while others are more subtle, giving players the hope of athleticism and fun to be had. It’s exactly the type of naming that keeps Spalding and Wilson at the top of their game.

It’s not only names with us, we like games too! Have a project? Let’s get in touch.

Ben Dupuy is a naming & strategy intern at Tanj. He is a senior at USU with a focus on marketing & business, and a bad-ass fly fisherman, too.