Suppose there was a basketball, a magical basketball that made the elements of Dr. Naismith’s game – dribbling, rebounding and shooting – much simpler and easier. Do you suppose the occupants of Madison Square Garden would be interested?
Anything that helps the New York Knicks would certainly be welcomed by a team that has spent so long in the doldrums of the NBA. And it just so happens that an old Knick, a guy who remembers and even played for the Knicks team that last won an NBA championship, has come up with just such a ball.
Henry Bibby has some credibility after playing for John Wooden’s championship UCLA teams – he won three national championships and lost just three games in four years as UCLA’s starting point guard– and then for Red Holzman’s championship Knicks team as an NBA rookie in 1973. He reached the NBA finals twice more with the Philadelphia 76ers.
After nine years in the NBA, Bibby coached in the Continental Basketball Association and then spent nine seasons coaching at the University of Southern California, UCLA’s bitter cross-city rival. Why not UCLA, where he is honored in the school’s athletic Hall of Fame? They never asked and USC did.
In his playing career, Bibby was surrounded by basketball royalty. His time under John Wooden at UCLA bridged the era of Lew Alcindor, who later became Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Bill Walton. With the Knicks, he played under Red Holzman with Hall of Famers like Walt Frazier, Earl Monroe, Bill Bradley et al. In Philadelphia, there were more Hall of Famers like Billy Cunningham and Julius Erving. They were a basketball Who’s Who.
Through 32 years of playing and coaching, Bibby’s passion for the game left him looking for ways to improve players and play. Computer engineer Alan Fujii created a model to simulate real play and that led to the invention of that bit of basketball magic called the Dribblepro 3-in-1 ball.
“You want the edge,’’ Bibby said. “I think this ball will give you the edge.’’
Bibby’s ball looks ordinary, except for the four nodules strategically mounted on its sides. Those built-in bumps were developed over several years of experimenting with size, shape and position on the ball. Every four or five normal dribbles, the ball strikes a nodule, forcing the player to adjust and improving hand-eye coordination. Ultimately, the nodules control where and how you dribble the ball. They train the ball handler on how to bounce the basketball with hand on top for better control. And if you control the ball, you control your game.
“It teaches you to keep your hands on the ball properly,’’ Bibby said. “It teaches you fundamentals – shooting, dribbling and rebounding.’’
For rebounding, the nodules connecting with the backboard produce unpredictable directions for the ball forcing players to adjust on the fly.
The invention was not an overnight event. Bibby tinkered with it for years, using the streetball playground games in Los Angeles – a rather serious laboratory—to work out the kinks.
Slowly but surely, Bibby became a basketball scientist, refining the ball, the position and shape of the nodules and how to design the tool for best results.
Spalding manufactures the ball and with another rebuilding effort underway, it could be something Bibby’s old pals at Madison Square Garden might want to investigate. At the very least, it would seem an improvement on the hated and, at last discarded, Phil Jackson triangle