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Updated December 2022
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
Bottom line
Pros
Cons
Best of the Best
Wilson NBA Basketball
Wilson
NBA Basketball
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Like the Pros
Bottom Line

This affordable basketball is designed like those used by NBA players and professionals around the world.

Pros

This undersized basketball measures 27.5 inches with an outdoor cover that survives the pavement. It retains air for a long time. The ball's pro seams were designed with player preferences in mind.

Cons

Some people don't like the way it bounces off pavement.

Best Bang for the Buck
Wilson NCAA Basketball
Wilson
NCAA Basketball
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NCAA-Approved
Bottom Line

This indoor/outdoor basketball just like those at many youth and college leagues around the world.

Pros

The composite leather has a professional-quality grip. It measures 29.5" - college regulation size. The pebbled rubber improves ball control. Its rugged leather look remains through constant play.

Cons

It deflates too quickly for such a quality ball

Baden Elite Indoor Game Basketball
Baden
Elite Indoor Game Basketball
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Customer Favorite
Bottom Line

A great basketball that has a soft feel and an excellent bounce.

Pros

Comes in intermediate our professional game size. The cover is easy to grip and feels soft when in hand. Ball wicks away moisture to ensure that it isn't slippery during elevated play. Air valve is hidden so that it doesn't affect bounce. Has a great bounce right out of the package.

Cons

The channels aren't too deep, which can make it harder to grip for smaller hands.

Spalding NBA Street Basketball, Intermediate Size
Spalding
NBA Street Basketball, Intermediate Size
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Best for Kids
Bottom Line

Great-looking basketball at an intermediate size that kids are sure to love.

Pros

Designed for outdoor play with a tough exterior cover that also gives you a great grip in all kinds of weather. Purple and pink ball appeals to young players. Uses an intermediate size, which is aimed at women's game and for young players.

Cons

May not stand up well if it strikes any sharp objects.

Spalding Spalding NBA Zi/O Indoor/Outdoor Basketball
Spalding
Spalding NBA Zi/O Indoor/Outdoor Basketball
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Indoor Use
Bottom Line

This regulation-size ball is quite dunkable with a heavy-duty grippy texture.

Pros

Regulation size with composite cover. Suitable for use indoors and outdoors. Pebbled finish for grippy feel. Good bounce. Foam-backed design improves the feel and grip of the ball.

Cons

It smooths and loses its pebbling quickly with outdoor use.

HOW WE TESTED

We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.

30
Models
Considered
106
Consumers
Consulted
12
Hours
Researched
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Buying guide for Best basketballs

People just starting to learn the game of basketball might feel like they can pick any ball because all basketballs look pretty similar.

While all basketballs have a similar shape, configuration, and official size, there are key differences. Having the right type of basketball will help your gameplay match the court conditions. Balls made of certain materials work better on indoor courts than outdoor courts, for example.

If you’re wondering how to choose the right basketball for your needs, our guide contains the key features to look for and our top recommendations. Whether you’re buying a basketball for a child or an adult, we can help you find the right one to match your game.

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Basketball players used a soccer ball in the first few years after Dr. James Naismith invented the game of basketball. The ball A. G. Spalding created for the game in 1894 had laces like a football.

Key considerations

The easiest way to differentiate basketballs is by size, materials, and color.

Size

There are a few different sizes available. You want to match the correct size ball to the player who will be using it.

  • 7: A size 7 ball has a circumference of 29.5 inches. It’s used in men’s high school and college leagues, international leagues, and the NBA.

  • 6: A size 6 ball has a circumference of 28.5 inches. It’s used in women’s professional, college, and high school leagues, as well as youth boys’ leagues (ages 9 to 12).

  • 5: A size 5 ball has a circumference of 27.5 inches. It’s commonly used by children up to age 8.

  • Mini: A mini basketball can have a circumference up to 27.5 inches. It isn’t designed for league play. Many of these balls have a rubber cover, which means kids can play with them anywhere. Mini basketballs printed with team logos are often sold as souvenirs.

Materials and layers

A basketball has two or three layers, depending on the type of cover it has.

  • Bladder: The bladder holds air inside the ball and usually consists of butyl rubber.

  • Winding or twining layer: Wound around the bladder is a thin layer of nylon or polyester thread. This layer gives the ball more shape and structural integrity. Basketballs with a rubber cover don’t require a winding layer.

  • Cover: The outer surface of the ball may be rubber, leather, or synthetic. In leather or synthetic balls, the cover consists of two pieces.
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Did you know?
Maintaining a basketball’s proper air pressure will help it last longer. It will also deliver a truer bounce-back effect when dribbling.
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Basketball features

Material

  • Rubber: Tough, durable rubber basketballs work best on outdoor cement courts. You can use a rubber ball indoors, but it has more bounce than leather or synthetic basketballs, which means that a shot that hits the rim has less chance of going into the basket.

  • Leather: Leather basketballs are only for use on indoor courts. Professional and college leagues use leather basketballs. The leather provides a good grip and feel for the players, but these balls don’t hold up well when exposed to weather or rough concrete courts. These basketballs are the most expensive.

  • Synthetic: Synthetic basketballs work either indoors or outdoors. These balls provide a high level of durability like rubber, but they also have a good grip and feel like leather. Repeated use on cement courts can mar the cover on synthetic balls, however.

Color

The traditional color for a basketball is a dark or burnt orange, almost brown. Most official basketballs are this color, but some leagues use variations. Official international rules basketballs have orange/brown panels along with some light-colored panels. The now-defunct professional ABA basketball league used basketballs with red, white, and blue panels.

For recreational use, basketballs are available in almost any color pattern you could want. Balls with fun designs or colors may encourage some younger players to be more excited about practicing. If you only want to practice your layups and jump shots at home, the color won't make a difference to your performance.

Training basketballs

Training basketballs are available in a few different configurations. These balls aren’t appropriate for official game play, but they can help players develop particular skills.

  • Shooting position basketballs: A shooter’s basketball has markings on it that help players position their hands properly on the ball. With enough practice, players should be able to repeat this hand placement on official basketballs.

  • Smart basketballs: Some balls contain chips that track the movement of the ball. During a practice session, the ball tracks the percentage of completed shots, among other statistics. Smart basketballs send the data wirelessly to a smartphone, where you can use an app to view it.

  • Weighted basketballs: These are commonly used for training. A weighted ball is two to four times heavier than a standard ball, which helps players develop greater upper body strength for ball handling and shooting.

Basketball prices

Inexpensive

The least expensive basketballs cost about $10 to $25. These are typically made of rubber and may have various colors or patterns. Most mini balls are in this price range, too.

Mid-range

These basketballs cost about $25 to $50. This price range contains both rubber and synthetic basketballs of all sizes, as well as some training balls.

Expensive

The priciest basketballs cost about $50 to $100. Balls that cost $150 or $200 are usually leather official balls for NBA, international, or college league play.

Tips

  • Stick to a budget. Don’t feel like you need to purchase a $100 leather basketball for a child who’s just learning to play. All official basketballs have the same weight and size, so a cheaper ball is just fine for learning.

  • Inflate the basketball to the proper psi. For the proper bounce, a basketball needs to be inflated to about seven to nine pounds per square inch. The ball should have its recommended air pressure printed near the valve hole.

  • Inflate the basketball slowly. Don’t use a powerful air pump on the basketball. A quick, powerful introduction of air could rupture the internal bladder. Inflating the ball slowly and steadily will help the ball last longer.

  • Don’t use an indoor ball outdoors. If you have a leather ball, don’t play with it on an outdoor cement court. The rough surface will damage the leather cover and ruin the ball.

  • Store the ball at a consistent temperature. Try to store your basketball in an area that doesn’t experience extreme temperature swings. This will help the ball last longer.

  • Clean the ball properly. You can wipe off mud or dirt with a damp cloth, but don’t dunk a basketball in water or it could become waterlogged.
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Official professional, high school, and college basketballs are different sizes for men and women.

FAQ

Q. What are the benefits of using a smaller ball for women and youth players?

A. Basketballs that are smaller than standard size are easier to handle for players with smaller hands. It’s also easier for younger players to dribble and shoot a smaller and lighter ball when learning the game.

Q. Do heavy training basketballs have any real benefits?

A. You’ll find coaches who believe strongly in practicing with heavy basketballs. They’ll use it primarily for ball-handling drills because the player must really snap the wrist to dribble or pass properly. When using a heavy ball for shooting drills, don’t alternate between a heavy and an official ball during practice. It could throw off your shooting technique.

Q. How often do I need to inflate my basketball?

A. Basketballs will naturally lose a little bit of air over time. A basketball that’s used regularly will need to be inflated more often. With regular use a few days per week, you should check the air pressure once a week. It might need to be inflated once or twice per month. An older ball may need to be inflated each time you use it.

Q. How does the size of a basketball compare to the size of the hoop?

A. When your favorite basketball team is trying to make a big free throw late in the game, the hoop may seem small compared to the basketball. In reality, the opening is almost twice the diameter of the ball. The diameter of a standard-size basketball is about 9.5 inches, while the hoop diameter is about 18 inches. Basketballs designed for women and youth have a diameter of about 9.2 inches.

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