Playing basketball outside is great fun. Whether playing pickup, or simply shooting around, you need the best equipment to maximize your enjoyment.
When ultimate basketball performance is your goal, then you must look at picking up the best indoor basketball. Indoor basketballs are known to have the most responsive covers and bladders.
Unlike their outdoor counterparts, indoor only basketballs don’t have to worry about being durable enough to handle rough surfaces. Instead, indoor basketballs are uniquely made to optimize the game within competitive environments. If you plan to spend a lot of time playing on hardwood, then you simply need an indoor basketball to get the most out of the experience.
Having played with most indoor basketballs on the market, I’m in a unique position to offer expert advice on the subject. But the truth is, the basketballs that I like may feel terrible to you.
Instead of telling you what I subjectively like, I decided to do objective testing that evaluated each basketball. The ratings in this article are based on the tested performance of each indoor basketball.
First place ended up being a tie between The Rock and the Spalding Precisionindoor basketballs. These basketballs do have some unique differences that will suit specific player types. In 3rd place is the surprising Baden Perfection Elite. Equally surprising is that most players’ holy grail basketball; the Wilson Evolution, came in second to last in front of only the Spalding TF1000.
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This is especially true when it comes to the basketball you use. Outdoor basketballs need to be able to withstand different playing surfaces while still offering quality performance.
To discover which outdoor basketball is best I spent many hours thoroughly testing some of the best selling balls on Amazon and Wal-Mart.
I tested seven indoor/outdoor basketballs and five outdoor only rubber basketballs.
Best Indoor Basketballs
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How I Tested
I decided to do something different in terms of how I ranked each outdoor basketball. Most reviewers simply rate basketballs based on how they feel to them.
The problem with this method is that everyone’s opinion is different. What feels good to me may feel terrible to you.
And the truth is, the vast majority of websites reviewing basketballs have never even bought, used, or even touched the basketballs they claim to “review”.
I decided to take a scientific approach to rating each basketball. To do this I developed tests that would objectively measure each basketball’s performance and compare it to the bunch.
Three main tests were used to compare the basketballs. The tests measured air retention, grip, and bounce.
I also took independent measurements of each basketball’s weight and size.
To determine how the basketballs were ranked I took into account each of these tests and took the overall average ranking.
So for this article a lower average rating is better.
|Basketball||Average Ranking||Air Retention (psi lost)||Grip Test (seconds)||Bounce||Size (Circ.) &
1 lbs. 4.6 oz.
|The Rock||2||-.17 |
1 lbs. 5.2 oz.
|Baden Elite||2.7||-.15 |
1 lbs. 5.6 oz.
|Spalding Game Ball||3.6||-.15 |
1 lbs. 4.8 oz.
|Wilson Evolution||4||-.16 |
1 lbs. 5.2 oz.
|Spalding TF-1000||4.3||-.19 |
1 lbs. 4.8 oz.
Indoor Basketball Reviews
1. Spalding Precision
A late addition to the indoor basketball test, the Spalding Precision ascended to the top spot. Sort of a mix of several different indoor basketballs, the Spalding Precision just does everything well.
To be honest, I’d never even heard of the Spalding Precision Basketball until I ran these tests. My experience has been that for indoor use Spalding had the TF-1000 and the Official NBA Game Ball. The Precision appears to be a new addition to the Spalding premium basketball lineup.
Spalding Precision Results
While not my personal favorite, the testing doesn’t lie, and the Spalding Precision will very likely meet your needs as a basketball player.
Taking a closer look at the testing you can see that the Spalding Precision Indoor Basketball performed well across the board. Air retention was where the Spalding Precision ranked the lowest. It finished in third place, losing .17 psi of air during the 24 hour period the ball spent in my refrigerator.
Grip for this basketball is very strong and I was able to palm this ball for 72 seconds. Only The Rock Basketball performed better on grip. I will say that the feel of this basketball is still exceptional despite the amazing grip, something I can’t say about The Rock.
The Spalding Precision Basketball also has superior bounce. On average, this basketball bounced 33 inches when dropped from a height of 44 inches. This was the most responsive indoor basketball we tested.
Spalding Precision Features
When I was a kid, my favorite basketball to use was the original Spalding TF-1000. I freaking loved that thing. It felt great and had an amazingly consistent bounce.
My experience with the newer Spalding indoor basketballs has been lackluster. It seemed to me that Spalding’s indoor basketball quality was easily surpassed by the Wilson Evolution and The Rock.
Spalding is on the right track by changing things up with the Precision. I would compare the cover on this indoor basketball to the one on the Baden Elite. Both feel super-cushioned without a ton of tact. The difference is that the Spalding Precision has a grip that matches this awesome feel.
Pebbling on this basketball is traditional for Spalding. The shapes of the pebbles are asymmetrical and seem to be huddled together in a random pattern.
Channels are comparable to basically all other decent Spalding basketballs. Not too deep or wide, the channels on the Precision are very much standard sized. Unlike the composite cover, the channels are made from rubber.
What you find with the Spalding Precision Indoor Basketball is that it does everything well. A cover that rivals the Wilson Evolution with a bounce and feel that are unmatched, this ball is a great all around performer.
Priced at the $55 mark, this basketball is sure to satisfy the pickiest players. Once you’ve picked this thing up, bring it to your local pickup games and it will more than likely become the game ball of choice.
1. The Rock (Tie)
Supported by a cult following, The Rock is the most mythical of all the indoor basketballs I tested. The company behind this basketball, Anaconda Sports, doesn’t even have a working website.
A lot of players have never even heard of this basketball, but that’s not due to the quality of The Rock. In fact, I’ve seen many players take an immediate liking to this basketball after using it for the first time.
The Rock Results
The Rock tied for 3rd place in air retention. It lost .17 psi of air over the 24 hour testing period. This amount of air loss is acceptable and should not deter anyone considering buying this indoor basketball.
What these players first notice about this indoor basketball is the amazing grip that it offers. The grip is so good on The Rock that it placed 1st in the grip test. I was able to palm this basketball for a full 98 seconds. It beat out the second-place finisher by 26 seconds. Basically, The Rock ran away with the crown.
I often talk about the balance of grip and feel. In regard to The Rock, it is certainly tilted toward grip. But considering its amazing grip it maintains a decent feel. Not my personal favorite, but certainly acceptable.
I’ve never felt that The Rock had a very responsive bounce. So I was surprised when it tied for 2nd place in the bounce test. It bounced an average of 32 inches after being dropped from a height of 44 inches.
When you put it all together The Rock had an average rating of 2nd place on the three tests. This is tied for 1st place the Spalding Precision. These basketballs are fairly different from one another, which offers two unique choices for buyers. For those looking for more feel, go with the Spalding Precision. Those who want the grip should opt for The Rock. Either way you can’t lose.
The Rock Features
When it comes to the features on The Rock you first have to discuss the channels. These things are super wide and deep for an indoor basketball. I find them to be similar to the Spalding Phantom Basketball that took the crown as the best outdoor basketball. Looking at the image below you’ll see the massive width and depth of the channels.
You’ll also notice that the channels are not made from rubber, like you find on most basketballs. Instead, the channels are also made from composite leather. This does make them feel softer than rubber, but in my experience making the channels out of composite leather makes it slightly more difficult to feel them.
The cover on The Rock is super tacky and grippy out of the box. Pebbles for this basketball are standard sized and similar in shape to what you’d find on most other basketballs.
You can pick up The Rock on Amazon for about $55. This is an average price for a premium indoor basketball made of composite leather.
A great indoor basketball, The Rock will be sure to satisfy anyone who loves optimum grip. The Rock is sure to perform well on the hardwood and draw plenty of attention from fellow hoopers.
3. Baden Perfection Elite
Baden may not be the first brand that comes to mind when you think basketball, but their Perfection Elite Game Ball is worth your consideration.
I find this basketball has a lot in common with the Spalding Precision in terms of the cover. The only difference is the Baden is even more focused on feel.
Heavier than the other indoor basketballs, the Baden Elite is best suited for advanced players who will be able to palm this basketball effectively.
Baden Elite Results
Let’s start by talking a bit more about the weight of the Baden Elite Indoor Ball. At 1 lbs. and 5.6 ounces, it is the heaviest indoor basketball I tested. Most of the other indoor basketballs were 1/2 to 1 ounce lighter. That isn’t much but I can tell that the Baden is slightly heavier than other basketballs when I hold it. Because of this younger players would probably benefit from a different basketball that features a lighter weight.
The Size of the Baden Elite is a pretty standard 29 and 5/8 inches in circumference.
With a palming time of just 15 seconds, the Baden Elite came in 5th place on the grip test. It was trailed only by the Spalding NBA Game Ball. As The Rock is focused on grip, the Baden is focused on feel. This doesn’t mean the Baden has no grip, just not as much. Personally I like the feel of the Baden, but think the Spalding Precision has a better grip/feel combination.
Air retention was a strength for the Baden and it finished tied for 1st place. It lost only .15 psi of air during testing. This points to a quality bladder underlying the pillowy soft composite leather cover.
Bounce is responsive on the Baden Elite and it bounced an average of 32 inches over the course of the five drops. This is second only to the Spalding Precision.
Baden Elite Features
As I’ve already mentioned, the Baden Elite has a very soft cover. Unlike The Rock, the Baden Elite’s cover does not feel tacky at all. Feel and cushion are the main priorities for this indoor basketball.
As with the other indoor basketballs, this Baden basketball has pretty standard pebble shapes and patterns.
You will notice that the channels on the Baden are slightly wide and pretty deep. Most of the lack of grip is due to the cover and not the size of the channels. Each channel is made of rubber.
As with the first two basketballs we’ve discussed so far, the Baden Elite can be bought for around the $55 mark. No doubt a worthy choice, the Baden Elite Indoor Basketball will work great for high-level competitors who have larger hands that can palm this basketball while benefitting from the incredible feel this indoor ball offers.
4. Spalding Official Game Ball
Unlike any other basketball I’ve used, the Spalding Official Game Ball is sure to be polarizing.
With a genuine leather cover, the Spalding NBA Game Ball uses Horween Leather. Most modern players have never used a genuine leather basketball which will take some getting used to.
Because of this basketball’s unique attributes, the tests I used may not accurately measure this basketball’s performance. I believe most players will find comfort in the more common composite leather covers, while this indoor basketball will be beloved by only the most skilled players.
Spalding Official Game Ball Results
All Spalding basketballs I tested did well on air retention and the NBA Official Game Ball was no different. It tied for 1st on the air retention test losing only .15 psi of air.
Grip is not a strength for this basketball. I was only able to palm this ball for 6 seconds. This performance was last place by a full 9 seconds. This is entirely due to the slickness of the cover. Genuine leather needs to be broken in and even then it will provide great feel and limited grip.
Coming in 3rd place, this indoor basketball bounced an average height of 31 inches when dropped from 44 inches five times. My experience is that this basketball has a responsive bounce that feels like an extension of your hand. Certainly a positive for this indoor ball.
Spalding Game Ball Features
There are a couple of unique characteristics found on this basketball that make it unlike anything else I’ve played with in the past. Starting with size, this ball was the largest indoor basketball I tested. It has a circumference of 29 and 7/8 inches. This will feel slightly larger than most of the indoor basketballs on this list.
While large, the Spalding NBA Official Game Ball is lightweight coming in at 1 lbs. 4.8 ounces. This is tied for the second lightest ball out of all the indoor basketballs.
You can’t discuss features for this basketball without dissecting its cover. Out of the box, this genuine leather cover feels hard to the touch and rough. The pebbles feel grainy and firm. But this only tells half the story.
When it comes to the Spalding NBA Game Ball you’ve got to do a little digging to get to the gold. And by digging I mean you have to break this basketball in. Think about a leather baseball glove and how stiff it feels at first. Over time the glove softens and becomes like an extension of your hand.
This basketball works in the same way. You must use this basketball regularly for about 2 months to get to its true performance. Over time the pebbles will wear down and the leather will take a darker brown tone. The leather becomes soft leaving a cover that has an optimally soft feel. Bottom line: the Spalding NBA Game Ball is all about feel.
This feel is why NBA players love this basketball. Players at the NBA level have hands that can easily palm and control any basketball, so feel becomes the most important factor of a basketball.
A positive to having a genuine leather basketball as your game ball is that when sweat and moisture come into contact with the ball it actually enhances grip and feel. This is the exact opposite of composite leather basketballs, which become slick when sweat and water get on the cover.
Channels on the Spalding NBA Game Ball are pretty standard and made of rubber. Here’s the thing, if you desire a basketball designed with grip in mind then you should look elsewhere.
Ready for some sticker shock? The Spalding NBA Official Game Ball is priced at $140! I imagine this high price is due to the genuine leather used on the basketball in combination with the prestige of this being the official ball of the greatest basketball league in the world.
Listen, this is a great basketball, but not for everyone. If I took this basketball to my local pickup games I’d imagine many players wouldn’t believe this was the actual ball used in NBA games. But what feels good to the best players in the world compared to local amateurs is completely different.
If you are a serious hooper then you’ll probably love the unparalleled feel this ball provides once it is broken in. For the vast majority of players, committing to breaking this basketball in and the lack of grip will be too much. If you are in the latter camp, do yourself a favor and buy a great composite leather indoor basketball. You’ll be much happier.
5. Wilson Evolution
With an average rank that suffered primarily due to a lack of bounce, the Wilson Evolution is surprisingly low on this list.
Many people love this basketball (myself included) and this result shouldn’t deter hoopers from choosing this basketball. Still a top-five performer for indoor basketballs, the Wilson Evolution features one of the nicest feeling covers of any indoor basketball.
Wilson Evolution Results
The Wilson Evolution did quite well on the air retention test. It lost only .16 psi of air after a day spent in my refrigerator between meatloaf and a few Michelob Ultras.
Going to the bounce test, the Evolution bounced an average of 30 inches when dropped five times from the same height. This was last place and hurt the Evolution’s overall indoor basketball average ranking. I’d recommend pumping this ball to a slightly higher psi than the other basketballs on this list.
Grip was good as I was able to palm this basketball for 33 seconds, which resulted in a 4th place finish. Personally, I really like the feel/grip balance of the Wilson Evolution Basketball. And I think this is why it is so popular among amateur hoopers around the USA.
Wilson Evolution Features
As with most Wilson basketballs, the Evolution comes with channels that are extra wide and deep. They are made from a separate piece of composite leather that makes the channels have a softer feel.
The cover is what’s special about this basketball. It just has the right amount of softness that feels at home in your hands. To play with this basketball is a satisfying experience that is hard to explain in words. My suggestion is to find someone with this basketball and take it for a spin.
I will say that one thing I don’t like about the Wilson Evolution is how slick the cover gets when wet. During pickup games you’ll have to stop to dry this basketball at least a couple times during play.
As with every basketball in this article the pebbles are asymmetrical with a random pattern.
At $60, this indoor basketball is priced about $5 higher than most others. It is also the best selling indoor basketball on Amazon with almost 1900 reviews at the time of writing this article.
Beloved far and wide by players, the Wilson Evolution has a great feeling cover. Unfortunately, it suffers from a slightly less responsive bounce than the competitors. I’d suggest comparing this basketball with the Spalding Precision to see which one you prefer.
6. Spalding TF-1000 Classic ZK
When I was growing up the Spalding TF-1000 was the best basketball I had ever played with. It felt comfortable, it had grip, it had it all.
Over time Spalding has changed things about this basketball to the point where the new version of the TF-1000 doesn’t have the quality of the original.
This lack of quality showed in my testing as the Spalding TF-1000 Classic ZK ranked last for the indoor basketball category. For most players there are simply better indoor basketballs to choose from before they should consider the Spalding TF-1000.
Spalding TF-1000 Results
Where the Spalding TF-1000 struggled was with air retention. This basketball lost .19 psi of air during the 24 hour testing period, finishing in last place. This ball lost more air than any indoor or outdoor basketball I tested.
Grip was actually decent and I was able to palm the Spalding TF-1000 Classic ZK for 35 seconds. This performance was good for 3rd place.
Lastly, bounce responsiveness was also good. Bouncing an average of 31 inches after five drops, the TF-1000 finished in 3rd place on this test. I find the bounce of this indoor basketball to be a bit stiffer than I’d prefer.
Spalding TF-1000 Classic ZK Features
The cover on this basketball is made of composite leather. Coloring on this cover is darker than normal and has a brown tinge. Unlike the original TF-1000, this new version’s cover feels stiff and not as soft to the touch as some of the other indoor basketballs that I tested. There is some noticeable tact with this basketball, which I feel is why it performed well on the grip test.
Pebbles are the same as all other Spalding basketballs. They are multiple shapes and don’t seem to follow any specific pattern.
Channels are also similar to other Spalding basketballs I’ve used. The channels are made of rubber and are neither too deep or wide.
At $55, this basketball is priced right in the average range for an indoor ball.
For those who prefer Spalding Basketballs, I’d strongly suggest you pick up the Spalding Precision over this TF-1000 Classic ZK. The former is simply better in every respect including feel, grip, and bounce. This basketball would be good for those who simply love the TF line of basketballs. While not exactly the same as the original TF-1000, the Classic ZK does have similar features and will feel familiar to many experienced basketball players.
Any basketball player will tell you that a basketball loses air in cold environments.
The truth is that how much air a basketball loses is determined by the quality of the basketball’s bladder.
Basketball bladders are underneath the outer cover and made of rubber.
To prep each basketball for the test I would fill the balls to 8 psi.
To test the air retention of each basketball, I placed each basketball in my refrigerator for 24 hours.
I then took an air measurement after the 24 hour period. Then I’d calculate the difference between the pre and post psi levels of each ball.
Grip Isn’t Everything
Grip seems to be the most hyped characteristic of a basketball. It seems that everyone wants to be able to palm the basketball they use.
Personally, I feel grip is important, but only in the context of feel. My experience has shown that there is a tradeoff between grip and feel.
To understand this I first have to define “feel” in terms of basketball performance. Feel is the characteristic of a basketball that makes it comfortable to use and an extension of your arm.
Basketballs with great feel will spin naturally in your hand just the right amount and will offer a super consistent bounce performance. A basketball with great feel offers no surprises.
The reason that there is a tradeoff between grip and feel is that basketballs with awesome grip tend to have deeper channels and stickier covers. These features can take away from feel.
When I’m looking to buy a basketball I try to find a basketball that offers the right balance between grip and feel.
Don’t get me wrong, grip is important. But it shouldn’t be the only factor considered when purchasing a basketball.
How I Tested Grip
To test grip I would palm each basketball for as long as possible while starting a timer. I’d give each basketball as many trials as it took for me to feel that I had maxed-out the palming time length. Once I felt that I got the best time possible, I’d move on to the next basketball and start the process over.
Bounce can have several different meanings when it comes to basketball performance.
It can refer to how high a ball bounces. It can also describe how consistent a ball bounces.
How I Tested
Bounce is by far the hardest thing to test properly. I decided to measure how high each ball bounces from a set height of 44″. We did five drops for each ball and took the average.
Having the most bounce may not be a great thing. A ball that bounces too high can be tougher to control.
On the other end, balls that don’t bounce high enough can feel dead.
Rubber Vs. Composite Balls
What I found was that there is a big difference in bounce between the composite indoor/outdoor balls and the rubber outdoor-only balls.
Composite basketballs do not bounce as high as the rubber balls. I actually tend to think this is a good thing as it can enhance “feel”.
However, a ball that bounced too low was the Spalding Replica. It even sounds dead when it hits the ground.
You’d be surprised to know that all “official” size basketballs are in fact not the same size.
Because of this variability in basketball sizes I wanted to know the truth. How big are each of these basketballs?
To measure the size, I took a measure of each basketball’s circumference using a sewing measure. This is a flexible version of the tape measurer often seen in men’s dress shops. All basketballs were measured at 7 psi.
The standard official men’s basketball size is supposed to be 29.5″. What I found was that out of all the outdoor basketballs I tested for this article, only two were measured to have a circumference of 29.5″. The rest were larger to some degree, with two measuring a full half-inch larger than expected.
The take away here is to consider who’s going to be using the basketball and what size will work best. If the men’s ball is larger than expected, it goes to reason the other sizes will be slightly large as well.
If kids will be using the basketball, consider buying one that is on the smaller side.
For advanced players, you’ll probably want a ball slightly larger than the 29.5″ circumference to match your ability.
Weight is another factor that should stay fairly equal between basketballs. But at some point everyone has played with a ball that feels lighter or heavier than usual.
To measure the weight of each basketball I used a digital scale. On the scale I calibrated a large tupperware-style container and individually placed each basketball in the container. All basketballs were weighted at 7 psi.
The basketballs we tested were very similar in terms of weight. The lightest ball we tested was 1.6 ounces lighter than the heaviest.
Preference toward either heavy or light basketballs is very individual. Some players like the slight range increase provided by a larger ball, while others like the feel a heavier basketball provides. Think about your preferences and needs when deciding if you’ll be happier with a light basketball or heavy basketball.
Things to Consider When Buying an Outdoor Basketball
1. Cover Material
The majority of outdoor basketballs available for sale today are made of a composite leather material. Composite leather is a synthetic leather material that is cheaper and more versatile than genuine leather.
Basketballs that are made of composite leather do not have to be broken in and come out of the box ready to perform at their peak.
Higher end composite leather basketballs (like the Wilson Evolution) are indoor only basketballs and are often used in high school and collegiate games. More moderately priced indoor outdoor basketballs are also made of composite leather, but are created to be able to take the wear and tear that occurs on the courts.
Rubber is the cheapest material that is still used to make basketballs today.
Basketballs made of rubber are very durable on hard surfaces making them a good option for outdoor use. The weakness of rubber basketballs is that they often feel hard and generally have a poor grip. Because of this we recommend rubber basketballs for children who are just learning the game or for homes with a hoop over a gravel or concrete driveway.
Whether a player desires a basketball with an ultra soft cover, a sticky grip, or one that works to mimic the unique feel of a genuine leather basketball is based on personal preference.
29.5″ Regulation Size – Men’s
For adults and boys who are in their teenage years, a standard 29.5″ basketball will be the best choice. This is the regulation sized basketball that is used for men’s basketball games from high school all the way to the NBA. Due to the increased size of the regulation basketball, it also weighs slightly more than the other sized basketballs.
It is worth noting that through my testing I discovered that most regulation sized basketballs are in fact slightly larger than the claimed 29.5 inch circumference. I imagine this trend also impacts the smaller basketballs as well.
If you are looking to buy a basketball for a women hoopers or a youngster, then take a look at the 28.5″ sized basketballs. With only one inch difference in circumference the difference between this basketball and the regulation size will be hard to differentiate by many.
Tip: If you have a high school aged daughter having her practice with the regulation size basketball at home will make the 28.5″ used during the games feel like shooting fish in a bucket!
Youth sized basketballs are meant to be used by children who are growing up and learning the fundamentals of basketball.
Great for elementary aged boys and girls, youth basketballs can work well with both full sized rims and some smaller mini hoop rims. Having a smaller basketball will help children develop proper shooting and dribbling mechanics.
The price of each basketball is likely to vary due to several factors that we have listed throughout this guide.
The most important factor on basketball price is the cover material. Genuine leather basketballs are the most expensive (~$140).
Composite leather basketball prices can vary depending on whether it is an indoor only basketball (+$50) or an indoor/outdoor basketball ($20-$50).
Rubber basketballs are the cheapest and can be found pretty easily for somewhere between $10 and $15.
When looking at which basketball to buy, overall performance is an important consideration. It will depend heavily on what you specifically are looking for to determine what is the best outdoor basketball for you.
Ask yourself a few questions to help make this decision.
Where will you use your basketball?
What materials do you want your basketball to made of?
What is your budget?
I always recommend perspective buyers to use our interactive quiz to get personalized basketball recommendations.
How to Find the Best Outdoor Basketball for You
There are literally hundreds of outdoor basketballs to choose from. With so much selection a decision can be difficult.
You have to think about what matters to you including cost, brand, size, color, feel, and grip. Do not forget to consider how you plan to use the basketball and your own basketball related goals.
With our interactive chart you will find valuable information regarding each basketball we have listed. Make sure to look at each ball and its characteristics to make a decision that meets your balling needs.
Instead of having someone else tell you what ball to buy, check out the list we have compiled and use the data to decide which is the best outdoor basketball for you!