Zack Hample

About the rubber band ball

How the rubber band ball came to be

Me with the ball in 1985

When I was four years old, my older cousin Nicho showed me his rubber band ball. That’s really how this madness got started. I thought he was the coolest guy in the world, so I decided I had to have a rubber band ball too, and soon after, with my mom’s help, I started making one. At that age, though, I must have been easily distracted; when the ball reached the size of a cherry, I lost interest in it, and my mom tucked it away in a desk drawer.

A year later, when I was five, I rediscovered the ball and put in a little more effort. I snatched up every loose rubber band I could find, and when those ran out, I convinced my parents to buy me a small package of bands at a stationery store. Within days, my cherry had expanded to the size a lemon, and I was hooked.

Over the next few years, my rubber band ball continued to grow at a steady pace, becoming as big as a softball and later a volleyball and eventually leaving my cousin’s sphere in the dust. That’s when I became the unofficial superstar of “show and tell.” When I brought the ball to school, all eyes were on me — in a positive way, for once. Kids my age who normally teased me were suddenly my best friend; older kids who never noticed me crowded around to gawk and ask questions. And it kept going from there.

In 10th grade, when the ball had a diameter of 15 inches, I used it for my math fair project. A few years later, when it surpassed the 100-pound plateau, I started buying oversize bands in bulk, and several years after that, I was invited to bring the ball to Junior Collector’s Day at the Queens Museum of Art.

For the first 30 years of its existence, the ball didn’t receive any media attention. That was never my goal. It was just a silly thing that amused me — a strange conversation piece with a connection to my childhood. Sometimes I didn’t touch it for a year. Other times I fell back in love with it and added five pounds of bands in a week. And then one day I posted a photo of it on Reddit.

I won’t claim that it went viral, but enough people saw it that a London-based newspaper took notice and published an article about me. That prompted the Discovery Channel to get in touch and pay me to travel with the ball to their studios in Canada for a TV segment. What we all discovered, thanks to a forklift and some gravity, is that a 259-pound rubber band ball has no trouble bouncing.

In 2016 I took the ball to Central Park and filmed it for YouTube, and in 2018 I featured it again on my channel for a Q&A video.

My rubber band ball now weighs more than 300 pounds. I’m trying to be consistent and add one pound of bands per month — just enough to keep the outer layer fresh without making it too big to fit through the door of my New York City apartment. I’m not sure what’ll happen to the ball in 10 or 20 or 100 years, but for now I'm just glad to have it and to let people know that it exists.