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When it comes to hooping, we all need an outdoor basketball.
Not all of us have access to an indoor basketball court at all times, so a large percentage of our practice can end up being outdoors.
Whether it’s down at your local park, a portable basketball hoop on your driveway/in your garden, or maybe you are super lucky and have an in-ground basketball hoop and half court at your house, you will need a ball (make sure you’ve got a new basketball net for the hoop whilst you’re at it!).
I remember way back when I bought my first basketball, a cheap rubber Charlotte Hornets Spalding ball from Sports Soccer (now Sports Direct) and though it wasn’t the best outdoor basketball, it did the job to help me fall in love with the game.
In the 20 years since, I’ve owned countless balls, both made for indoors and outdoors and so in this guide we’re going to go through what you should know and buy when looking for your outdoor basketball.
Of course, this largely comes down to personal preference and budget, but what we’re going to do is give you a brief overview of the options available, the brands, the pros and cons and which one I would personally use.
If you wanna cut to the chase and skip the details, here are our recommendations for best basketballs for outdoor use:
Our Pick: Molten BG3000
Mid-budget Pick: Wilson NCAA Replica
Budget Pick: Nike Dominate
3×3 Pick: FIBA 3×3 Official Game Basketball
Anyway, with all that said, let’s get into it in more detail:
Positioned as both an indoor and outdoor basketball, the Molten BG3000 is our top option when it comes to your outdoor basketball needs.
Molten – the official supplier of FIBA, the international basketball federation – are known for their innovative technology solutions, and the BG3000 is an outdoor ball that is encased in hard-wearing synthetic leather and available in Size 7 (men’s official size and weight), Size 6 (women’s official size and weight) & Size 5.
Molten basketballs use a patented 12-panel design that not only gives it a unique look (you can spot a Molten a mile off), but also gives a solid grip – because of the design, Molten says more of the surface are of the ball is actually in contact with your hand than other basketballs.
The Spalding TF 250 basketball features an improved, softer cover for extra grip and is a great solution regarding durability and game characteristics. This all-purpose ball is produced from new durable composite leather and suitable for both outdoors and indoors.
It can collect dust and become slippery and you should not that if you use it exclusively outdoors, it will get worn down a lot quicker.
Though it does feel a little slick when it’s new, as soon as you’ve broken it in a bit, the grip adapts and there are no issues.
Spalding have been the official NBA ball partner for 30 years, though that agreement expires ahead of the 2021-22 season and the NBA has announced they will be moving to Wilson.
The Wilson NCAA basketball is another ball that is suitable for outdoor and indoor use, made from durable composite material for optimal grip and ball control.
It has a robust outer layer to improve its durability, with the composite leather surface also serving to absorb the moisture the ball might pick up from sweat.
After two months of playing every day outside with it, it looks like the picture on the right – has taken a good old battering and is worn, but retains its channels and is still perfectly suitable for an outdoor run.
This is a good medium-budget option at $30 (or £25.00).
The Nike Elite Competition indoor/outdoor ball is the best offering from Nike without going into the higher tiered pricing.
Because of its durable composite leather surface, it can be used both outdoor and indoor, but with its 86% rubber (14% synthetic leather) make up it does make it longer lasting on outdoor surfaces than other attempts at outdoor leather balls.
The construction delivers a great feel and supreme durability while concave channels provide consistent ball control.
A lesser known and underrated brand, Airball launched in 2019 with their ‘Black & White’ basketball – aptly named because it is literally half black and half white (see picture, below right).
Though I am personally yet to use one, my friend who has lived and breathed streetball for over three decades swears by it and says it is the best outdoor ball he has ever used.
It’s an 8-panel ball, with premium moister absorbent leather, for that grip and durability both indoors and outdoors.
And aside from it being functional, it looks pretty dope too, especially when you have a shot with a lot of rotation – watch it spin through the air and splash through the net!
It’s not cheap however, coming at at just under 50 euros.
If you are looking for an outdoor ball specifically for 3×3, you can’t go wrong with the Wilson FIBA 3×3 official game ball.
Made smaller so it is easier to palm and encourage highlights for the quicker and flashier style of play in 3×3, it is actually size 6 (28.5″ circumference) as opposed to standard size 7 for men, but weighs the same as a size 7, and uses Wilson’s patented Wave Triple Threat Technology – the grooves in the ball’s surface – for better grip.
The pebbled channels allow 100% surface coverage of pebbling so many hoopers call it the grippiest outdoor ball they have played with.
In the picture to the right you can see what it looks like after a fair bit of use – it does collect dirt easily, especially if you use it on wet playing surfaces.
A rubber option for those with smaller budgets, the Nike Dominate outdoor basketball is a cheap and cheerful option that is great for beginners or those without a lot of money to spend.
Though cosmetically it wears pretty quickly – especially the black line markings (see picture, right), the actual durability of the ball to play with is great and with the price coming in at under $20 (£15.99 GBP), it’s not an expensive risk to take when it comes to trying it!
Crafted specifically for the playground, it is a standard 8-panel ball, it has deeper channels than most outdoor rubber basketballs, giving you better grip which is why I like it at its price point.
Nike also claim that it has a ‘rotational wound butyl carcass’ (don’t ask me to translate that) but it gives it superior shape retention – meaning it won’t ‘egg’ as much – a common problem with rubber balls if they have a sharp impact.
Another Spalding option, the Spalding Zi/O Excel is a composite leather constructed ball, and is often seen on outdoor basketball courts around the globe.
It has super deep channels for better grip and control, and the composite leather cover maintains the soft feel whilst having solid durability in both indoor and outdoor environments.
The other think about the Zi/0 Excel is it has a foam lining to improve the feel and touch along with supplementing the grip.
When looking for the best outdoor basketball for you, it is worth considering a number of different things about the ball, including the material it is made from, price, durability, grip, weight and size.
Let’s look at a few of those things in more detail:
When it comes to the material your outdoor basketball is made out of, you generally have a choice between cheaper rubber balls or more expensive composite leather.
Though rubber balls do have their positives; they will last a lot longer, are considerably cheaper, do not absorb water if you choose to play when the floor is still wet, and retain their grip better, there are also downsides.
They definitely do not feel as nice on the hand, and differ massively from the indoor balls you are used to playing with during games.
If you want your outdoor play to transfer as much as possible to when you get back indoors, it is worth making the ball as close as possible to the game ball.
Composite leather balls are much closer to the indoor basketball feel you are used to, and are the best choice if you are a more experienced player, have a slightly bigger budget and don’t want to compromise on the transfer of your ball handling and shooting from outdoors to indoors.
The downside of composite leather, is that it is not as hard-wearing as rubber, so the ball will not last as long.
Your outdoor basketball court playing surface could vary massively to mine.
Here in the UK, a lot of outdoor courts are on a hard, gravelly concrete, meaning it really does wear down balls quick.
You might have a softer asphalt surface, or even a slightly spongey/bouncey surface, both of which will mean your ball should last a lot longer.
Even the types of backboard and nets your court has will impact the durability of your ball – if you have metal nets for example, you can expect that to take its toll on your ball in comparison to string nets.
All these factors should be taken into consideration for your outdoor ball choice.
It’s pretty much a given that if you are a serious level basketball player, the likelihood is you will end up buying a composite leather outdoor basketball to play with, however, if you are buying for a beginner then a rubber ball will do the job.
If a kid is just learning to shoot hoops, or has expressed an early interest in basketball and so wants one, a cheaper rubber ball like the Nike Dominate will do the job and if the child’s interest proves serious over time, you can look at upgrading to a composite leather outdoor ball later down the line.
Perhaps contrary to popular belief, all basketballs are not the same size and weight
Whether you are male, female, old or young, different basketball sizes are appropriate.
Not just that, but when it comes to using a ball, every time you bounce it, it will get a little bit worn down – over time, this will have an impact on its weight, as ‘layers’ of the ball get peeled off.
The quality of your ball will determine how quickly this happens, and altering weight of the ball can mess with your shot – try going from a super light ball to a new regulation weight one and see how it differs.
Below you can see our basketball size chart which breaks down the appropriate size for each playing group:
|22 oz||Men and boys ages 15 and up. This is official size for high school, college, and the pros.|
|20 oz||Boys ages 12-14. Girls and women ages 12 and up. This is the official size for women’s high school, college, and pro basketball.
|17 oz||Boys and girls ages 9-11 years old. This is the standard youth basketball you find in most stores.
|14 oz||Boys and girls ages 5-8 years old.
|10 oz||Boys and girls ages 4-8 years old. Also known as "mini" basketball.
|8 oz||Boys and girls ages 2-4 year olds. Also known as "micro-mini" basketball.
|1-5 oz||Great for toddlers 0-4 years old. And fun for young hearted adults too!|
There is nothing more frustrating than having to be constantly pumping up your basketball.
You do not want a ball that is slowly losing air the moment you pump it up and it is worth keeping an eye on that.
Cheap basketballs tend to deflate a bit when the temperature drops – though it is worth nothing all balls will deflate a bit with use, but a good outdoor ball will hold its air for a lot longer.
Also note that the heat could make your ball inflate – if you leave it in a sunny conservatory, don’t be surprised if you go back to it and it being a lot more bouncy than you remember!
There are two different things that happen with playing with an outdoor basketball in the rain, or on wet surfaces that are yet to dry:
1) They usually lose a bit of their grip and become more slippery
2) They can absorb some of the water and become heavier (happens more with composite leather choices, than rubber choices).
It’s important to know how your ball fares with both – if you dry it off with a towel, does it dry quick, or is the moisture still there? How long does it take to dry out after playing in puddles? Run all these tests when you buy your outdoor basketball, and ask your friends who already have a ball how it deals with moisture.
I know it can seem a little overwhelming, but with our recommended choices for the best outdoor basketball, you can’t go too far wrong.
Make sure you you consider all your individual needs and preferences and take the plunge – let us know how you get on and maybe we can feature your ball review in future!