Without a good basketball, how are you expected to play at your best? After countless outdoor games, we decided to go out on a mission to find the best outdoor basketball.
With so many choices to choose from by Spalding, Wilson and a few other manufacturers, so many players get lost when it comes to choosing the best basketball for outdoor games.
Outdoor basketballs need to withstand outdoor surfaces. If it was not designed for outdoor play, then it will not be long before the ball starts to fall apart.
- 1 What To Look For When Choosing The Best Outdoor Basketball
- 2 Ball
- 3 Top 5 Best Outdoor Basketballs (Reviews Updated April 2018)
- 4 The Differences Between Outdoor vs Indoor Basketballs
- 5 The Worst Basketball For Outdoor Play – Avoid This One!
- 6 Don’t Disconsider Rubber For Outdoor Courts
- 7 The Final Verdict
What To Look For When Choosing The Best Outdoor Basketball
Outdoor basketballs have particular needs. A great outdoor ball needs to withstand the test of time. If you purchase the wrong type of ball, it will not be long before it starts to fall apart.
Look at what exactly your ball is made out of. Each material has benefits and drawbacks to the design.
The leather is a high-quality material that needs to be broken in. New leather is still hard to the touch, but it’s a great material to play with. Leather basketballs are strictly for indoor use because any uneven or rough surfaces can easily damage the leather.
Composite Leather, also known as Synthetic Leather, is made to feel like leather but with a better durability than the real thing. It’s also cheaper to produce and manufacture, so you can find these at a better price point than genuine leather basketballs. It doesn’t need to be broken in, so you can start playing with it immediately.
Many people wonder if composite leather is good for outdoors, after hundreds of games we can tell you with confidence that it’s great for outdoor play.
Rubber basketballs are made to endure the roughest and tumble surfaces. The rubber covering is ideal for concrete surfaces. Rubber basketballs are usually at the lower end of the price spectrum, so it’s a great first basketball for beginners.
The texture of a basketball comes from the pebbling on the cover. The pebbles are the bumps and determine the feel and grip of the basketball. The grip is how people measure the ball is to hold onto and play with.
A good grip lets you easily control the ball during play. Too little of a grip and the ball will have a slippery feeling. Too much grip and it can be harder to control.
You shouldn’t skimp out on buying a quality basketball, but you also shouldn’t be paying an arm and a leg for one either. Depending on the quality, you will see the price go higher gradually, but most of the balls you would use for outdoor play will be around the $25 to $35. Higher end basketballs can go up to $100, but anything more than that should make you feel a bit cautious about purchasing it.
As with all purchases, take all the above factors into account. Buying genuine leather? Of course, it would be more expensive. Rubber? Should be on the lower end of the spectrum. Don’t forget to think about the brand as well. Sometimes with name brands comes a price jump.
If you want to practice for a specific league, you need to make sure that you’re working with the correct gear. These specifications are very rigid and can include material, bounce, color, weight, and size. Look into what your organization of interest plays with and make sure you are familiar with their regulations on that front.
Here are a few organizations with an overview of what they require with their basketballs:
NBA (National Basketball Association)
- Size: 7
- Color: Orange
- Circumference: 29.5”
- Weight: 22 oz.
NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association)
- Size: 7
- Color: Orange
- Circumference: 29.5”
- Weight: 22 oz.
WNBA (Women’s National Basketball Association)
- Size: 6
- Color: White and Orange
- Circumference: 28.5”
- Weight: 20 oz.
FIBA (Fédération Internationale de Basket-ball Amateur)
- Size: 7
- Color: No Specification
- Circumference: 29.5”
- Weight: 22 oz.
- Made from synthetic or genuine leather
Basketballs regularly come in three sizes: 5, 6, and 7. Depending on what kind of game you’re playing and what age you are, you will want to take care to get the correct size for your game.
Basketballs that are size 5 are usually around 27.5” in circumference and are used by children 11 years old or younger.
Size 6 basketballs are usually around 28.8” in circumference and are better for teen players of around 12-15 years old. This is the size that the WNBA goes by.
Lastly, size 7 basketballs are usually around 28.5” in circumference and are used by male players above 16 years old. This is the size that most league organizations use.
Although there are recommended groups for each size of a basketball, take into account the players in your game to see what kind of basketball would fit their needs. In most league games, you will want to use a Size 7 ball.
Indoor or Outdoor
|Spalding NBA Zi/O Indoor/Outdoor||7||Composite Leather||Both|
|Under Armour 595 Indoor/Outdoor||6, 7||Composite Leather||Both|
|Spalding NBA Street||5, 6, 7||Rubber||Outdoor|
|Molten X-Series Indoor/Outdoor||5, 6, 7||Composite Leather||Both|
|Spalding 71023 NBA Street Phantom Outdoor||7||Rubber||Outdoor|
Top 5 Best Outdoor Basketballs (Reviews Updated April 2018)
Now that we have that out of the way, we can look at the specifics for each ball and see the pros and cons about each of them. We want to look at their durability, their feel, their bounce, and their price. With these factors, we will be able to figure out which basketball will work best for outdoor play!
Spalding NBA Zi/O Indoor/Outdoor Basketball
Spalding has a strong track record of having high-quality balls and good consistency on the make and use of them. This Spalding ball is made for both indoor and outdoor use. Spalding designed it to look like an official NBA Game Ball and it works well on both indoor and outdoor surfaces. It’s designed for both leisure games and league play.
The Spalding NBA Zi/O Indoor/Outdoor Basketball has a very high durability. Transitioning between surfaces can get rough for the cover of a basketball. If you exclusively use it outdoors, it will wear down faster due to it being of composite leather. Still, you can use this ball for a few years without it decreasing greatly in quality.
The composite leather gives the players a broken-in leather feel without the price, fragility, or the breaking in period. It has great grip and control. The channel design is directly taken from the design used in NBA Official game balls.
The bounce on this ball is slightly higher than what can be expected of a Size 7 ball. This may be a problem for some people who still need to get a handle on playing the game for the first time. For more seasoned players, you may find this ball suitable for games.
The Spalding NBA Zi/O Indoor/Outdoor Basketball is a great purchase at its price point. These tend to go for a lower cost than basketballs of similar quality and caliber. Its cost-effective design and durability make this a worthwhile purchase for anyone looking for a league or tournament basketball.
This Is Our Number One Pick For Best Outdoor Basketball
Under Armour 595 Indoor/Outdoor Basketball
Although Under Armour is well known for their athletic wear, they also manufacture and sell athletic gear like basketballs.
This is our runner-up in our best outdoor basketball list. As with most composite leather basketballs, the Under Armour 595 Indoor/Outdoor Basketball tends to wear out faster than its rubber counterparts. Still, it is a very durable basketball and will last a few years with proper care.
This ball has a genuine leather feel. The softness of the composite leather feels nice, but because of the smoothness, the pebbling is not as effective. The full pebbling was put in so that the brand “wouldn’t cut corners”, but it does not make up for the feel of the ball.
The channels are neither too deep nor wide. Overall, the handling of this ball is average, and you can usually find better grip and feel at a lower price point than this ball goes for.
With the grip being subpar, the bounce is also affected from that. It still bounces like an average ball would, but overall it is not spectacular. It is able to be handled with relative ease, but it does not go above and beyond in this department.
The average performance of this ball makes the price point a bit high. The performance of this ball would warrant an average price. It is not a terrible purchase, but it is mediocre for its price.
Spalding NBA Street Basketball
This outdoor-only basketball comes from Spalding and keeps up with Spalding’s assurance of quality. We can expect to see that this basketball does not fall under a lot of regulations from league organizations. Still, its use is for outdoor and pick-up basketball, especially on rough surfaces like concrete.
It is built for the rough and tumble of outdoor cement courts. Therefore, this ball withstands the hard surfaces with its rubber cover and durable build. It can be great for games at parks or a few rounds shooting hoops in the neighborhood.
One of the downsides of having a rubber cover ball is the grip. Since the grip is not as good, the handling of the ball can get out of hand for those who may be used to using higher-quality basketballs. This may not be a good choice for beginners as well since the handling of this ball would be different than the ones that are closer to league-regulated basketballs.
The ball is consistent with its bounce while dribbling and playing with it. Usually, with the way that outdoor-only basketballs are made, the bounce can be off and inconsistent. Fortunately, the Spalding NBA Street Basketball is above average in this department.
This is definitely an average ball and warrants its price. For a bit more money, though, you can have a better experience with an indoor/outdoor basketball. The outdoor-only aspect of the ball makes the quality drastically drop for the price point it is at.
Molten X-Series Indoor/Outdoor Basketball, FIBA Approved – BGMX
Molten basketballs are the preferred brand of the FIBA. As part of the X series, these balls have better functionality and visibility during play.
Although it has a good durability, the retention of air in this ball is not that great. You have to repump the basketball more often than other basketballs would. This would be something to watch out for if you use this ball consistently against concrete or other hard surfaces.
The pebble pattern on this basketball is uniform and close together, which makes the surface even and of the same consistency no matter where you hold the ball.
The bounce of the Molten X-Series Indoor/Outdoor Basketball, FIBA Approved – BGMX is of average quality. For the price of the ball, the bounce holds well and you can control the ball well enough.
The price is average for the quality that you would be getting from this basketball. If you decide that you want to have a higher quality ball, you could probably find one at the same price point.
Spalding 71023 NBA Street Phantom Outdoor Basketball
This basketball is an outdoor-only basketball. The difference between this ball from many others is its cover: the grip is softer than most other outdoor basketballs, but this comes at a price.
This is not the most durable Spalding basketball due to its softer cover. The pebbles are still dense so it can keep up for a few years, but expect some wear and tear on the outside of the ball sooner than you would for other outdoor-only balls.
The Spalding NBA Street Phantom Outdoor Basketball uses soft grip technology, so it has a great feel and grip. Spalding went out of their way to add a touch of comfort to an outdoor ball that usually comes in a rougher and less comfortable feel. The channels are larger than usual which adds to the grip and ease of control for the ball.
The ball is satisfactory in the bounce, but you may have to check the air pressure inside of the ball first. This basketball has a higher pressure than other basketballs of its size and caliber, so higher bounces can be a bit inconsistent.
As this is on the cheaper side, the quality is as you would expect of a lower priced basketball. This is a satisfactory ball and will give you what you paid for, but it is definitely mediocre in the larger span of things.
The Differences Between Outdoor vs Indoor Basketballs
It’s not thought about often, but it is important to take into account where a ball is made for use: indoors, outdoors, or in both environments.
Balls that are made for one environment or the other are engineered specifically towards whatever the location needs. Indoor balls may not be as durable as outdoor balls, but indoor balls tend to have a softer and more comfortable feel because they don’t need to be as rigid.
On the other hand, balls that are made for both the indoors and outdoors need to find the sweet spot between durable enough for the outdoors but have the feel of an indoor court ball. These balls may be overall weaker because of the tendency to compromise between the two locations.
Then again, the extremes tend to have major downsides if you choose an indoor or outdoor exclusive basketball. Indoor-only basketballs are more fragile, so they require better care. Outdoor basketballs need the durability for the hard surfaces, so grip and bounce quality aren’t the best.
Most casual basketball players don’t realize that there are important differences between outdoor and indoor balls. The differences between these two products are things that can make the difference between your basketball lasting a long time or you having to replace it every few months.
Difference In Material
A big difference between outdoor and indoor balls is their material. An outdoor basketball has to withstand hard concrete surfaces. The reason why is because concrete is very harsh and a ball not designed for concrete will not last long. Concrete could destroy even the highest quality indoor basketball. One way to test the material is to get the ball and practice some individual basketball shooting drills.
Which is the main reason that you should never confuse an outdoor and indoor ball? The material is also important because it will impact how the ball bounces. An outdoor ball is not going to bounce well on an indoor court.
Outdoor balls also tend to be harder than indoor balls. That’s why we really looked at the hardness of each ball when we were choosing the best outdoor basketball. This trait goes along with the material, but it’s one of the things that set the two apart. The main reason why is because an extremely hard ball is simply not ideal for an indoor court. A ball that’s too hard could even do damage to some floors. That is another reason why these are two different type of basketballs.
There are only a couple of things that set outdoor and indoor basketballs apart, but those differences are important. Using the wrong ball can do some significant damage to either the ball itself or an indoor floor. If you go to a store to buy a new basketball, the employees there know the differences between the two and will guide you in the right direction.
The Worst Basketball For Outdoor Play – Avoid This One!
The Spalding NBA Official Game Basketball is an example of how a great company that is widely trusted can sometimes get it wrong. This ball is nice to look at, but it is very challenging to play with it. It comes clad with the NBA logo, which adds to its appeal but it has major issues.
The major drawback in design is the fact that it includes the NBA twitter handle. That seems to be an unnecessary detail for a game ball.
This ball has some other issues besides the inclusion of the Twitter handle. One big problem is that it’s slippery under normal conditions. When players start to sweat it will become even worse. A good basketball needs to have grip for it to be useful. The fact that the Spalding NBA Official Game Basketball lacks in that department is troublesome.
This ball is not only slippery, but it’s also hard to play with it. Many users have stated that it feels unnatural in their hands and they can’t explain why. That would mean that playing a game with this ball could be a disadvantage because an uncomfortable ball is more of a distraction than a tool. Sadly because of the reasons stated above, we excluded this ball from our best outdoor basketball list.
Why People Would Never Play With This Basketball Outdoors
Another problem with the Spalding NBA Official Game Basketball is that you need to break in the leather. Some people won’t consider this a problem because perhaps they have other game balls to play with in the meantime. The problem will be for individuals who are buying this ball to play with right away. It takes a lot of time to break in the leather.
Until you break it in, the ball will be hard to bounce. The leather is beautiful to look at but the wait time is not worth it for most people.
The Spalding NBA Official Game Basketball is not a ball for someone who wants to use it right away. So, if this will be your only basketball, you should reconsider. This ball is also exceedingly difficult to play with and could cost you a few points. Overall, this is not a great option for a game ball.
Don’t Disconsider Rubber For Outdoor Courts
Please don’t usually purchase rubber basketballs because of their cheap price compared to other balls. But these basketballs are still a contender when it comes to outdoor play. Rubber is perfect for concrete or asphalt since it is incredibly durable and can withstand more pressure.
They are also waterproof so they do not wear down in the rain or fall apart when splashed in puddles. This is the cheapest type of basketball. Rubber basketballs are the perfect ball for beginners or casual players.
If you are the type that likes to go for a few rounds at the park with some friends, then a rubber ball would best suit your needs.
The Final Verdict
Out of all the basketballs covered, the best outdoor basketball we can recommend is the Spalding NBA Zi/O Indoor/Outdoor Basketball. Overall, it has the best durability, grip, and bounce for its price. Still, all of these basketballs are strong in their own right, and the best way to know if you love the basketball is to play!