Wilson Airless basketball bounces to market for four-figure price

The most compelling show of contemporary basketball skill at last year’s NBA All-Star Game didn’t necessarily come from one of the players dribbling a ball … it came from a ball itself. That ball was Wilson’s Airless basketball prototype, a futuristic piece of see-through design work that traded good, old reliable pneumatics for a 3D-printed lattice structure offering the supple bounce without the air. At the time, it wasn’t clear what – if any – future the ball had, but now Wilson has launched it as a limited edition. A very expensive limited edition.

Called the Airless Gen1, the new production basketball looks much like last year’s prototype to the naked eye, but Wilson promises it’s been given a full work-over by its R&D lab. It says that its team has improved performance while streamlining manufacturing processes enough to get the balls rolling out of the lab and onto the court.

Getting a little more specific, Wilson says the 3D-printed polymer lattice structure has been tweaked for more consistent performance and bounce while maintaining its traditional eight-panel look. It promises that the basketball nuzzles up close and cozy with the performance specifications of a regulation basketball, including in weight, size and rebound/bounce.

The Airless Gen1 launches on Friday, Feb 16 as part of the NBA's All-Star weekend
The Airless Gen1 launches on Friday, Feb 16 as part of the NBA’s All-Star weekend

Wilson Sporting Goods

Wilson worked with several partners in bringing the unique ball from prototype to limited production release. Digital solutions provider General Lattice delivered computational design services for optimizing performance, 3D-printing post-processing company DyeMansion provided color and finishing solutions, additive manufacturing solutions provider EOS oversaw technical and production planning, and additive manufacturing specialist SNL Creative provided the primary manufacturing hub for the initial launch.

“We were overwhelmed by the excitement from our Airless Prototype, and we knew it was time to bring this rare, first-of-its kind innovation to the world,” said Kevin Murphy, Wilson’s general manager of team sports.

The Airless Gen1 picks up right where the prototype left off, launching as part of this year’s NBA All-Star Weekend. It hit the market today in brown and white color options, as well as the original black. Each basketball also has a numbered label showing its place in the limited-run production line. That four-figure price? A cool US$2,500.

The Airless Gen1 is available in three color options
The Airless Gen1 is available in three color options

Wilson Sporting Goods

Wilson admits that while the Gen1 is ready to hit the court and ball, it’s really more of a showpiece for technology fanatics and “basketball hype curators.” It would certainly look nice in a display case next to memorabilia from one’s favorite basketball team or player. Then again, if you have $2,500 to spend on a basketball, you probably have $5,000 to spend on two – one for play on your home court and one for display.

Those who’d prefer to try before they buy (or just try, period) can do so at the NBA Crossover fan event that’s a part of All-Star weekend in Indianapolis this weekend. Wilson is hosting a demo area.

Source: Wilson

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