While industry materials have changed a basketball's composition over time, the design concepts underlying the ball's construction have remained constant since the Spalding Corporation first patented the design in 1929. Like their 20th-century predecessors, modern basketballs are composed from three layers of materials that vary slightly by manufacturer and model.
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The composition of the outer layer, or ball cover, varies depending on the style of basketball and the intended playing surface. Quality basketballs that are destined for indoor play have a soft leather outer shell that offers superior grip. However, leather covers tend to wear very quickly on asphalt surfaces, so outdoor balls instead feature more durable rubber covers.
A layer of thread insulates the area between the outside ball cover and the inner bladder, adding a layer of protection that helps the ball retain its spherical shape. Nylon and polyester are typically used to create a symmetrical layer of winding over the bladder.
When you use a pump to inflate your basketball, the air travels inside the ball to inflate a spherical bladder housed under its surface. Bladders are typically made from butyl rubber, a synthetic type of rubber that retains air more efficiently than natural rubber.