NCAA Big Game Balls: Where Are They Now?

In big sports moments, the athletes typically get all the credit. No one cares about the balls. You’d be surprised to learn that some of these balls have fascinating personal lives. Wilson, the official game ball of the NCAA® Championships, is proud to present this exclusive look at the secret lives of basketballs.

1. North Carolina State’s Championship ball was tragically lost at sea

After North Carolina State’s improbable upset of Houston in 1983, this game ball fell on hard times. It was frequently over-inflated and ended up as the backup ball in pick-up games at Venice Beach. One day in 1997, during an especially heated game, a player tossed the ball into the ocean and it floated out to sea.

Hamed Saber / Via Flickr: hamed

No one knows for sure what happened to the ball, but some people claim to have seen it living with a school of dolphins off the coast of Catalina Island.

2. Duke’s 1992 “The Shot” Ball Retired In 1999

After facilitating one of the greatest moments in sports history, this ball hung around the college game for a few more years before entering a retirement home in South Padre Island, Texas.

M. Daughtery / Via Flickr: md888

The ball still sees some time on the court, but it’s a slower game and there aren’t as many painful dunks. Today it mostly spends its time hanging out in a box with its new friends, a shuffleboard stick and a badminton shuttlecock.

3. Bryce Drew’s game-winning ball went on to become a star in Hollywood

After helping Valparaiso upset highly ranked Ole Miss, this game ball decided it wouldn’t get any more famous in college sports, so it packed its bags and headed to Hollywood.

While basketballs don’t receive an official acting credit, you’ve undoubtedly seen this ball in classic movies such as Air Bud and He Got Game.

4. The 2006 Florida Championship ball went to outer space

After the final buzzer sounded, the ball was thrown upwards with such force that it left the atmosphere. It traveled in an arc towards Jupiter before the gravitational pull of the massive planet brought it back towards Earth.

In February the ball crashed though the atmosphere in a ball of flames, landing in Siberia.

5. Michigan State’s 2010 buzzer-beating ball left the game in 2011 to devote its life to meditation

After Korie Lucious sank this game-winning three to save Michigan State’s season and help his team to the Final Four, the ball spent the night floating around seedy hotels and bars in Spokane, Washington. The ball woke up the next morning seeking a new direction in life and decided to become a Buddhist monk.

PETER MUHLY/AFP / Getty Images

The ball moved to northern India to train under the Dalai Lama, who helped the ball attain total consciousness. So, the ball has that going for it, which is nice.

6. Indiana’s 1987 game-winning ball joined a Russian clown troop

Following Keith Smart’s last second, game-winning shot, the game ball became obsessed with replicating the adrenaline rush of the buzzer-beater. Nothing in college basketball could approach that level of excitement, so it quit the game and joined a Moscow clown troop.

Alexsandr Osipov / Via Flickr: da_belkin

Today this basketball entertains thousands of people across Russia every year.

7. Sean Dockery’s half-court, game-winning ball left sports and found success in politics

Following the Duke buzzer-beater, this game ball decided to get its competitive fix in another venue: politics.

MARK WILSON / Getty Images

The ball worked its connections with Oregon State basketball coach Craig Robinson, Obama’s brother-in-law, as well as Obama’s former aide (and former Duke forward), Reggie Love. The ball now serves as a top secret confidant and adviser to the president.

8. The ball from Kansas’ OT win over Memphis dedicated its body to science

After this magical moment in San Antonio in 2008, this elderly game ball decided it would spend its remaining days helping museum visitors understand the human body.

Paul Stevenson / Via Flickr: pss

The ball is now on display with a plasticized body at a science museum in Denver.

Clearly, the balls in the NCAA Championship are living much richer lives than most people realize.

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