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BASKETBALL TEST 2002

We took a look at the three main balls on the market and assess which one comes out on top
 
 
 
PLAY: 2000 N-Touch FIBA

Manufacturer: Nike
 

You got the shoes, right? The shorts? Watched the Freestyle ad? Now buy the basketball? Maybe not if Nike's latest round ball offering is on the rack in front of you.

It's a disappointment when a company which does so much so well in rest of its hoops range lets the core product fall short of its usual expectations. The 2000 N-Touch isn't bad. it's just not very good either. Designed principally for indoor use we found it worrying when after only a week's play, the grip still felt very average, a surefire way to rack up those turnovers. 

The feel just isn't right either. Maybe it's because it's a little light. Possibly it's because the grooves on the outside are not sunk enough which feels decidedly weird on free throws, enough to make Shaq tremble at the knees. 

Perhaps, and this is strictly applicable to those of the vain persuasion, it doesn't look as good as its rivals despite the FIBA, ACB and Swoosh logos plastered on the side. Nike could do much better than this.
 

Rating:  6/10
 
 
 
PLAY: Baden 321

Manufacturer: Baden
 

Familiar as the BBL's ball of choice for the past seven years, the Baden ball promises Cushion Control Technology to give a better bounce and feel. 

The 321 version is a mid-range synthetic leather product suitable for indoor and outdoor use and it delivers on its boast, soft to touch without losing control on your shot.

It has a good feel all round although outdoor use appears to take the edge off the surface a little. To compensate however, it is a durable product and despite a reasonable amount of abuse in our test, there was no sign of major degradation - something which should ensure a good lifespan for your use.

With the distinctive red and white combination colours, it will be easy to find in those dark cupboards when the itch takes you to work on that half-court hook shot. And for a penny under £40, it's good value for your buck.
 

Rating:  9/10
 
 
 
PLAY: Spalding Infusion

Manufacturer: Spalding

You remember the TV adverts with Kobe boasting how he could work on his inside and outside game? You get the total hype with the Spalding, Bryant-endorsement with the signature of NBA honcho David Stern on the side. That in itself doesn't of course guarantee the quality but in this case, the product delivers.

Take-able to the playground or the gym, Infusion feels good on both courts with its leather exterior providing a good grip - and more importantly a comfortable handle. We admit we had less time to toy with the Infusion that the other two balls, so we claim no guarantee over its durability but there have been no rapid signs of wear and tear on our 'hit it against a wall' test.

I like Spalding. But the problem for this ball is that at £45 a pop you are paying extra for a signature gimmick - namely the little toy which inflates the ball without the need for a pump. There's undoubtedly been zillions of dollars spent on this but for the sake of working your abs out every couple of months to top it up, you'd be better off with Spalding's excellent All Court Basketball for half the price.
 

Rating:  7/10
 
 
THE VERDICT

Of the three balls in our test, the Baden came out on top - both in terms of value for money and in the product. Spalding have better options out there on the shelf worth exploring however. And as for Nike - must do better.
 

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