Chad’s basketball has its own consciousness and Chad is simply a vessel for its will. Chad doesn’t go ANYWHERE without his ball; rather, the ball doesn’t go anywhere without its Chad. Whoever lays hands on the basketball forges a bond with the entity and grows progressively more in tune with the basketball’s goals. This begs the question: what is the basketball’s agenda?
to answer this, let’s look at some of Chad’s traits. Extremely loyal to his friends and team, sometimes to a fault (placing the team above his best friend in the first half of HSM 1). He is often forthwith and direct, openly addressing his concerns or beliefs about certain people or events. Sometimes the aforementioned traits waver between movies, and these aren’t exactly unusual for high school students, but there’s something we’ve all gotten to know and love about Chad Danforth: his Wildcat spirit.
Chad is arguably, out of any other student at East High, the most devoted to the Wildcats. He is almost always (save for that one time in HSM 2) the one to start the “WHAT TEAM” chant among his peers. Even when separated from the ball for days or even weeks at a time during the events of HSM 2, he still retains this high spirit. I argue that the ball is the incarnation of the Wildcat spirit, passed on from basketball player to basketball player in a legacy stretching back to East High’s first class. This may explain why Chad places an emphasis on making Troy into the next Wildcat legend in HSM 1, citing previous Wildcat basketball legends as inspiration. I may also argue that Chad may have thought himself as the next incarnation of the Wildcat Champion, but upon knowing Troy’s aptitude for basketball he may pressure Troy to take the mantle instead. But why would the basketball spirit forge such a strong bond with Chad, even though Troy seems to be the next Wildcat champion? The answer: Troy is not 100% committed to the Wildcats. Troy is conflicted, his dedication split between basketball and theater. He can’t even decide when going to college, deciding to leave Albuquerque and study in California so he can pursue both basketball and musicals. Troy’s own future, both with Gabriella and with his interests, play a larger part in his life than his team and the Wildcats of East High. Therefore, I argue that the basketball only forms bonds with those that are loyal to the Wildcats and to East High.
So who else has the basketball forged a bond with besides Chad in the series? Well, although Chad is clearly the most connected to the Wildcat Spirit, I believe that the events of HSM2 concerning Ryan’s relationship with his peers are a result of his contact with the Wildcat basketball. If you watch HSM2, in the opening song “Summertime”, you will notice that Chad throws the basketball back, his excitement for summer momentarily overpowering his attachment to the ball, thus rendering it free to bond to whoever next contacts it. And who is that?
Although his contact with the ball only lasts for a second or two, the bond has already been set in place. In the first HSM film, Ryan was completely dedicated to his sister and to his art, feeling vengeful and betrayed when Troy and Gabriella dared to infringe upon his territory. Of course, he was never quite as hell-bent as Sharpay, but nonetheless Ryan was dedicated to his art. This changed, however, during HSM2.
Throughout the film, Ryan and his sister become more and more distant as Sharpay wishes to perform with Troy rather than her brother. This is, of course, not due to the influence of the ball, but rather a natural human reaction to being scorned by your own family. What is unusual, however, is how he is so quick to reconcile his differences with the other Wildcats and, despite his status as a member of the country club rather than an employee, become a part of their squad (that’s what kids use nowadays to describe their friend group, yeah?). In the baseball game in HSM2, meant only for employees to play, Ryan nevertheless is permitted to join in and become part of the Wildcat crew. This is also where Chad and Ryan have the most direct contact, to the point where I would argue that Chad realizes that Ryan has been influenced by the ball. It is where Chad claims that he doesn’t dance (he does not pursue his own interests over his loyalty to the Wildcats) whereas Ryan argues that both dance and sport are valid activities. And you know what?
Ryan’s dedication to theatre is not out of self-righteous glory (Sharpay) or a desire to fulfill his own fleeting interests (Troy), but rather to uphold a legacy. Ryan’s argument for why he and Sharpay deserve to be the leads in HSM1 and for them to perform together in HSM2 is because it’s what they’ve done for years and years. It’s upholding a tradition. In Ryan’s own way, he is serving the Wildcats not through upholding a sporting spirit, but through preserving the greatness and glory of the East High theater department. Why else would he be so passionate about keeping the most talented theater actors in the lead roles (whom he believes are himself and his sister), and yet so easily supportive of overthrowing his sister once he forges a bond with the other Wildcats in HSM2? It is because Ryan realizes that Sharpay is not serving the Wildcat legacy, only her own. It is for this reason that Ryan is considered a valid vessel for the ball, and possibly why he and Chad have so much chemistry.
tl;dr Chad’s basketball is a sentient incarnation of the Wildcat spirit that is using him as a vessel and is able to have an influence on true Wildcats through physical contact.