How to Choose an Outdoor Basketball

Itching to Shoot Some Hoops?

What makes the most suitable basketball for your game? Is it the size? The material it’s made of? How well that ball handles during games? What about bounce during dribbles?  Could it be whether you play indoors or not?

A good game of basketball should not be spoiled by the ball you use.

Stuff like a bad grip, inconsistent bounce, high moisture retention, and inferior material should not interfere with your Basketball skills.

Professional coaches like shooting coach James Pauley,  and professional basketball trainer Jordan Lawley, recommend certain basketballs as best performers that enhance the natural abilities of players.

You can also look to the major leagues for guidance.

But here’s the kicker:

There are hundreds of basketballs to choose from, but not every basketball can be used outdoors!

That been said, let’s take a closer look at some of the factors that make a great outdoor basketball.

The cover material

Basketballs made of genuine leather are not as common as they used to be.  Only Spalding remains a producer of these basketballs for the mass market. (NBA continues to use them as official game balls.)  If you insist on genuine leather, be prepared to break them in with practice rounds for top performance. Genuine leather balls last for a very long time even with constant use. They are however not cheap!

Then there are the composite or synthetic leather basketballs which have become quite popular. These are more affordable options that offer versatility and come ready to use.

If you’re really on a budget, then the rubber basketball may be your best bet. This option is, however not ideal for every occasion but is a good starter if you’re just learning the game and do not have the kind of money to invest on higher cost alternatives.  Rubber basketballs are long lasting on outdoor surfaces but they are not that great in the grip department.

Ball Performance

A vital consideration when choosing your outdoor basketball is how well it performs during the game:

·  The bounce: Ever wondered how the pro basketballer manages to get the ball moving across the court so easily and smoothly? It’s all in the dribble! But the real secret to a cool dribble is the way the ball bounces on the court.  Every bounce is consistent and the player knows what to expect at each bounce.  Otherwise, the rhythm will be thrown off and results may be awkward if not disastrous.

  • The grip: Anyone using the outdoor basketball should be able to hold or clutch it using one hand. The grooves on the basketball are not merely for show – they help with grip and ball control during dribbling and shooting. Wide grooves also allow for perfect finger placement for shots and passes.
  • Moisture wicking: This is simply the ball’s ability to keep sweat or water (e.g. from rainfall) from being absorbed into its material. The less moisture absorbed the better for handling and shooting. You wouldn’t want a waterlogged basketball during the game now would you?
  • The feel: It’s like the basketball is a part of your hand during the game. The feel of a well designed outdoor basketball balances the stability and the cushion of the ball. Consistency is also important, in that the basketball should not feet too much like plastic or too rough.
  • The Durability: When used as intended, does the outdoor basketball last as long as the manufacturer said it would?

The short answer should be – Yes!

Expect your outdoor basketball to stay in a good and usable condition for around two to four years on average.  More durable brands may last even longer.

The size

Standard basketballs come in three sizes – five, six, and seven.  Size seven basketballs, at 29.5 inches, are the largest and also the regulation size for major league and adult basketball games.  These balls are ideal for men and boys involved in professional games including to NBA level.

If the basketball you’re seeking is intended for a woman or a younger person, the size six would be a better choice. It’s just one inch smaller than the regulation size but in every other respect is just like the regulation basketball.


Small children are not to be given a regulation or a size six basketball for any reason!

The size five, which is the smallest size at 27.5 inches is best for growing children.  Not only is that basketball the right size for them, it also helps kids to enhance their dribbling and shooting skills without learning bad habits from using an incorrect ball. As kids grow, you can increase ball size.

The Price

You might have guessed from what we’ve covered so far that the price of a quality outdoor basketball would not be the same across the board. The main factor affecting how much you pay for your basketball is the material it’s made of.

Genuine leather is more expensive and may set you back more than $140 each, while a composite leather basketball is a little cheaper at an average cost of around $35 –$40 dollars. Rubber basketballs are the most affordable and can cost as little as $10 dollars.

Competition or home use?

Choosing your outdoor basketball is also dependent on whether you will be using it in competition or only at home.  If your intention is only for home use, then you are free to choose any outdoor basketball you like.

For competitions like college, high school, or club, its best to go with whatever ball those leagues actually use. For example the NBA relies on the Spalding, the international/ FIBA standard ball is the Molten, and the NCAA standard is the Wilson.

Top recommended outdoor basketballs

Experts agree that few basketballs really stand head and shoulders above the rest in all the areas outlined above.  Basketballs that have potential for outdoor use include the Spalding, the Wilson NCAA Replica, the Ribay Basketball, the Molton, and the Under Armour Street, which are all made of composite leather.  The Molten is highly recommended although it’s an Olympic or international standard ball. If price is your deciding factor then the Ribay basketball would be an acceptable substitute.


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