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What Makes a Great Outdoor Basketball?
When engaged in a heated battle on the court you have several things to worry about. Should I take this shot? Is my teammate open? Can I thread the needle on this pass? Often, these decisions have to be made in a split second. One thing that no basketball player wants to worry about is the consistency and quality of the basketball. You should NEVER have to be thinking about whether a ball will bounce consistently, or if it will be difficult to handle. Having a great basketball can help you focus on what matters…the game!
I recognize how important it is to have the best outdoor basketball for players who expect a top quality product. Because of this, I have listed below the top 5 outdoor basketballs. While we all have different preferences, I feel you will find any of the basketballs on our list are worth of being crowned best outdoor basketball.
1. Spalding Replica Game Ball
Spalding is the most popular basketball brand in the world and for good reason. They have been the official basketball brand for the NBA since 1983, and the official basketball of the Euroleague since 2012. The number one best outdoor basketball from my testing is the Spalding Replica Game Basketball. This basketball provides a softer cover and consistent performance that is unrivaled. Just like the Official NBA Game Ball, the replica version comes with the NBA logo and commissioner’s signature.
- Softest we’ve ever felt on a basketball that is approved to be used outdoors
- Bounce is super consistent giving players confidence in the Spalding Replica’s performance
- Feel is unparalleled for an outdoor basketball
- Reasonably priced compared to other basketballs with inferior performance
2. Molten GM7x Indoor/Outdoor Basketball
The Molten GM7x is the second best outdoor basketball that I’ve ever reviewed. The bladder of this basketball is top quality and provides the most consistent bounce out of all the outdoor basketballs I’ve tested. Molten may not be a well known brand in the USA, but it is popular overseas and is even the official basketball of FIBA. The 12 channel design on this basketball is sure to be polarizing, but I found it to be helpful with grip and spinning the ball off my shooting fingers during a shot. This basketball does seem to run a bit small, and probably has a 29″ circumference, rather than the standard 29.5″.
- Great consistent bounce thanks to a top quality basketball bladder
- 12 channel design helps with grip and shooting
- The outer cover is very durable and has held up very well compared to the other basketballs I’ve reviewed
3. Spalding TF-500 Indoor/Outdoor Basketball
Coming in a close third is the Spalding TF-500 basketball. The second Spalding in my top 5 basketball list, the TF-500 has some unique features that separate it from the Spalding Replica Game Ball. First, the Spalding TF-500 has a more firm and durable cover than the Spalding Replica. This is a great choice if your top priority is a mix of high quality performance and durability.
- Has a great outer cover that is durable and has lasted years of use
- Bounce is consistent and is a fun basketball to use, and instills confidence
- Continues the Spalding TF legacy, which has a storied tradition in the realm of basketballs
4. Baden Contender Performance Composite Basketball
Similar to Molten, Baden is not the first name that comes to mind when thinking of basketballs. But don’t let that stop you from realizing the quality of the Contender Basketball. Not only does it have a great feel and consistent bounce, but it also has some features that are exclusive to the Baden brand. The most unique of these features is the stealth valve, meaning this basketball has an inverted air valve (an innie in belly button terms) and keeps the valve from messing up your dribble.
- Comes in a great variety of color ways from standard orange to red, white, and blue
- Stealth valve technology keeps the bounce consistent on this basketball
5. Under Armour 595 Basketball
Rounding out the top five outdoor basketballs is the Under Armour 595. Under Armour is a new to the game when it comes to basketball manufacturing, but I must say that this basketball is a good effort from them. The cover is very durable, but a bit on the firm side for me. Channel design is standard and makes for a pretty traditional basketball overall. The GripSkin technology touted by Under Armour is underwhelming as this basketball is not grippy, and hard to palm.
- Bounce is consistent and true
- Very durable due to the outer cover, but does become slick over time due to the cover being on the firm side
- A good basketball overall but inferior to other basketballs that rank higher on my list
My Testing Process
Why Most Basketball Reviews Suck
If you are like me, you’ve often used Google Search to try to find reviews on basketball-related products you’re interested in buying. I’m also guessing that, like me, you’ve been disappointed to find that most of these reviews on other websites are vague and seem to simply rehash information that you can find on Amazon.
The reason for this is that those other basketball review websites have not actually purchased the products they are reviewing. They simply look up reviews and information on Amazon and publish this in their own words.
The Hoops Fiend Difference
At Hoops Fiend I pride myself in thoroughly testing the basketballs that I review. That means I’ve forked over my own money to purchase these basketballs and actually use them for games and shooting sessions. This allows me to develop a personal opinion of each basketball and gives me a deeper understanding of the strengths and weaknesses that each basketball brings to the table.
Testing Each Basketball
When receiving a basketball for review, I first dribble the basketball to see how consistent the ball bounces. I’ve found that many outdoor basketballs lack in dribble consistency and this often leads to “off” bounces that make it hard to handle the basketball with confidence. During the dribbling session, I also pay close attention to the feel of each basketball and evaluate the outer cover for things like cushion, grip, and overall feel.
Next, I take the basketball outdoors (or indoors for indoor basketballs) and shoot with them. I want a basketball that feels like a natural extension of my hands when I’m in shooting form. If the basketball feels too firm then it is difficult to feel the basketball come off of my fingertips. Likewise, if the basketball is too soft then it may feel sticky (especially true for some indoor basketballs). Balance is key when it comes to the feel of a basketball.
Over time I am able to take inventory of the durability of each basketball. This factor obviously takes time as I can’t spend all hours of the day beating up a basketball to see how it wears. However, after several months the wear process of each basketball happens naturally as they get used by me in rotation for practice or games.
Who Am I?
My name is Nick Daniels. I’ve been playing basketball my entire life, from elementary school through adult recreation leagues. A sharp shooter who lacks height and athleticism, I have developed skills that allow me to outthink and outplay bigger and faster opponents.
I’ve always loved the game of basketball, and starting this website has allowed me to continue being involved with the game as an adult. You can see some of my basketball tips, as well as various reviews on basketballs, basketball hoops, basketball training aids, and basketball programs on this site.
Why I Do This
At the end of the day, my goal is to provide valuable information on each basketball based on my personal experiences. This gives potential basketball buyers data they can actually utilize to make a reasonable and informed decision. In my opinion, other basketball review sites are deceiving their visitors by not actually buying and using the products they review.
Now that you have the perfect outdoor basketball it is now time to turn your attention to finding the best outdoor basketball hoop to match. There are literally hundreds of basketball hoops to choose from for your home and the characteristics of each can vary greatly across price, features, materials, and size. It is important for any basketball enthusiast who wants to bring the game to their home to seriously consider each of these variables when choosing a basketball system. Below we have selected what we consider to be the best five basketball hoops for your home. You can see our extensive list of reviewed hoops, and our picks for the best portable and in ground basketball units.
1. Goalrilla FT In-Ground Basketball Hoop
Goalrilla, one of the most well known high-end basketball hoops manufacturers, had recently come out with the FT In-Ground Basketball Hoop. A unique extension board arm design that attaches to the one-piece support pole enhances overall stability of the system. With pricing ranging from $1300 to $1900, this hoop is best for those serious about the game.
- Comes in three different backboard size options: 54, 60, and 72 inches
- 6X6 inch square one piece support pole (5×5 inch for 54 inch size) that offers that maximum stability and durability
- 3/8″ tempered glass backboard thickness
- Professional quality breakaway rim that can take punishment like dunking and hanging on the rim
- Internal Height Adjustment System that Allows for Limitless Adjustment from 7.5 – 10 Feet
- Limited lifetime warranty that includes the backboard
The top portable basketball hoop available for purchase, the Spalding Beast features a tempered glass backboard and two-piece support system, both rare features for a portable basketball hoop. For those wanting the quality and stability of an in-ground hoop, but need something that can be transported with relative ease, this is the best hoop for you.
- Residential portable basketball system adjusts from 7.5-Feet to 10-Feet
- 60-Inch glass backboard, Pro Image breakaway basketball rim, all-weather white net
- 50+ Gallon capacity dual capacity base fills with water or sand for stability
3. Silverback SB-54iG In-Ground Basketball System
Silverback Hoops are the perfect combination of quality and reasonable pricing. The sister brand to Goalrilla, Silverback Hoops have many great features like tempered glass backboards and two-piece pole design. The Silverback SB-54iG is perfect for those who want a basketball system with a quality components at a price point under $1,000.
- Backboard size is 54 x 33-Inch with 5-Millimeter tempered glass and 3/4 x 1 3/16-Inch internal frame
- Pole 4 x 4-Inch, two piece in ground DuPont powder coated features benefits swedged two piece pole simulates characteristics
- 2-Feet overhang, all-steel actuator DuPont powder coated ultimate protection against the elements
4. Spalding Portable Basketball System- 60″ Acrylic Backboard
Another great portable basketball system from Spalding, this 60 inch portable basketball hoop comes with an acrylic backboard and a 40 gallon base that keeps this thing in place even in high wind environments. Don’t want to fork up the money for the Beast? Then give this hoop serious consideration.
- 40-gallon base fills with sand or water for added stability and to minimize tipping
- Screw Jack lift system adjusts from 7.5 to 10 feet in infinite increments
- Portable basketball system with 60-inch acrylic backboard
- Arena Slam breakaway rim
5. Lifetime 52-Inch Portable Basketball System
Lifetime specializes in value priced portable basketball hoops that are great for families and anyone interested in bringing the game of basketball to their driveway. Priced at under $400, the Lifetime 52 Inch Portable Basketball Hoop is a solid investment. While not up to par with more expensive portable basketball hoops, the Lifetime 52 inch does have a exposed spring breakaway rim and can be easily adjusted in height from 7.5 feet to 10 feet.
- Front height adjustment with just a squeeze of the handles
- Orange slam-it rim with two compression springs
- Steel backboard frame with frame pad
- 52 inch polycarbonate backboard
All Basketballs are NOT Created Equal
We’ve all been there. Having to play a pickup game with a ball that just does not make the grade. It is either too slick or too rubbery, or inconsistent in its bounce. A great basketball has the correct grip balance while maintaining a smooth feel. Do you really think that Billy Hyle or Sidney Dean would play with a sub-par ball? Of course not! Great ballers want to have the best outdoor basketball because this gives them the best opportunity to play their A-game. This is the same for almost every sport. The best performers for a given sport are always playing with the best equipment, because it makes a difference.
The best outside basketballs are almost all made from a composite or synthetic leather material. While genuine leather gives the ultimate feel for a basketball it is not appropriate for outdoor use due to leather’s lack of durability. But there is good news! Today’s composite leather is of great quality and does an amazing job simulating the feel of genuine leather. So good in fact, you may have a difficult time telling a genuine leather basketball from a high quality composite leather basketball.
FYI, if you are looking for other great sporting goods product reviews be sure to visit ListofFit.com.
Things to Consider When Buying a Basketball
1. Cover Material
Genuine leather basketballs were at one point in time much more common than they are today. In fact, only Spalding continues to mass produce a genuine leather basketballs, which is the Official NBA Game Basketball. Genuine leather comes out of the box needing to be broken in through regular play. At first the basketball may feel slick and harder to control than a composite leather basketball. However, if you are patient and are willing to work the genuine leather basketball in over time, then there is no other cover material that can compare. Once at peak performance, the genuine leather basketball will feel nicely cushioned and will last for years and years.
The majority of basketballs available for sale today are made of a composite leather material. Composite leather is a synthetic leather-like 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 it a good option for outdoor use. The weakness of leather basketballs is that they often feel hard and generally have a poor grip. Because of this we recommend rubber basketballs for children who just learning the game or for homes with a hoop over a gravel 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
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 ways slightly more than the other sized basketballs.
If you are looking to buy a basketball for a lady baller 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!
This sized basketball is meant to be used by children who are growing up and learning the fundamentals of basketball. Great for elementary aged boys and girls the youth basketball can work well in 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. Here at Hoops Fiend we review basketballs on a scale of 1 to 5 in several categories including:
When dribbling the basketball does the ball perform consistently, or does it have off center bounces making it hard to control? Basketballs with off-center bounces are frustrating to use and often end up in the closet or the trash.
This seems to be a popular feature for those wanting to be able to palm a basketball. Grip is essentially a measure of how easily a basketball is to clutch or hold. A proper amount of grip allows for the basketball to be controlled during, but not so much grip that it loses feel.
Similar to grip, but different. When using the basketball does it feel connected to your hands making dribbling and control effortless? A basketball with good feel has a good balance between cushion and stability. Feel is the most important factor for dribbling in basketball performance.
How long is the basketball likely to last under normal playing conditions. Generally, you should expect an indoor/outdoor basketball to last a couple years with normal play. We do not measure indoor basketballs and indoor/outdoor basketballs the same in this regard as their playing purposes are different.
When including features and material quality does the basketball give a good bang for your buck. Some basketballs out there charge a premium price but have nothing special to offer. While other high performing basketballs may be a steal.
Now that you know how we rate each basketball we review be sure to see our basketball reviews to find out how each basketball stacks up against the competition.
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!