Playing basketball outside is great fun. Whether playing pickup, or simply shooting around, you need the best equipment to maximize your enjoyment.
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.
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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.) &
|Spalding Zi/O||1.6||-.15 |
1 lbs. 4.6 oz.
|UA 495||2.3||-.17 |
1 lbs. 5.0 oz.
|Spalding TF500||2.7||-.15 |
1 lbs. 4.8 oz.
|Molten GM7x||3||-.17 |
1 lbs. 5.4 oz.
|Wilson Replica||3||-.18 |
1 lbs. 4.8 oz.
|Baden Contender||3.7||-.15 |
1 lbs. 4.8 oz.
|Spalding Replica||4.6||-.17 |
1 lbs. 5.1 oz.
Indoor/Outdoor Basketball Reviews
1. Spalding Zi/O
As the clear winner in the indoor/outdoor category, the Spalding Zi/O offers superior performance.
For those who want a high performing indoor/outdoor basketball that checks all the boxes, this is the one.
Starting with size, the Spalding Zi/O is slightly larger than expected with a circumference of 29 and 6/8 inches.
Spalding Zi/O Results
This was the lightest indoor/outdoor basketball we tested. Weighing in at only 1 lbs. and 4.6 oz., the Spalding Zi/O will please those who prefer a lighter feeling basketball.
After spending 24 hours in my refrigerator, this basketball lost only .15 psi. This was tied for 1st on this test. Based on the testing I can say with confidence that this ball features a quality bladder that retains air effectively.
Knowing this will give potential buyers peace of mind that the ball will not require frequent inflating.
When I first felt this ball I didn’t expect it to perform better than average on the grip test. But it ended up being the second best, only trailing the Under Armour 495.
I think I felt this way because the Spalding Zi/O has a traditional channel design. My experience has been that basketballs with deeper and wider channels are generally easier to palm.
Bounce on the Spalding Zi/O is very reasonable for an indoor/outdoor basketball and it took 2nd place.
Spalding Zi/O Features
There are really no surprises when it comes to the Spalding Zi/O. I think this is why it ranked so well. Spalding didn’t try to do too much with this ball’s design. They made it so that it does everything well, and built this ball with quality materials.
As with most Spalding basketballs, the Zi/O has a very traditional channel design. The channels are made of rubber. They are not particularly wide or deep.
Pebbling will also be familiar to those who have used Spalding basketballs in the past. The pebbles are not symmetrical by design and are darker compared to the rest of the cover.
Put all these factors together and you have a traditional basketball with great quality. Whether you desire a ball with great grip, bounce, or air retention, the Spalding Zi/O will meet these needs.
Considering the price for this basketball is under $30, this will be the ball of choice for most readers of this article.
2. Under Armour 495
I’ll be the first to admit it, I didn’t think I’d be seeing an Under Armour basketball at the #2 spot. But that’s why I went through an objective testing process.
Similar to the Spalding Zi/O, the Under Armour 495 performed well across the board.
Its major strength was in the grip test, where it took the crown. Weaknesses included a slightly less responsive bounce.
Under Armour 495 Results
When looking at the testing you can see that this basketball performed admirably in each category.
During the 24 hour air retention test, the Under Armour 495 lost .17 psi. This is right in the middle of the pack for the basketballs we tested.
To be honest, almost no one will notice the 0.2 psi difference between this basketball and the others that had the least air loss.
Grip is where the UA 495 shined. Beating the second place basketball by a full six seconds, I was able to palm the UA 495 for 33 seconds. Because of this result, I recommend this to buyers who want an indoor/outdoor basketball who highly value grip.
For the bounce test, the Under Armour 495 Basketball took 4th place. When dropped from 44″ this basketball bounced an average of 30″.
To some this ball may feel a little bit of flat or “dead” side, but only slightly. If you are keen on finding a very responsible basketball you may want to look elsewhere.
UA 495 Features
You’ll find that the UA 495 has a lot in common with the top-performing Spalding Zi/O.
Both have traditional rubber channels that are neither extra wide or deep. Each has a similar pebbling pattern.
In regard to the pebbling, the pebbles on the Under Armour 495 are slightly larger than those found on the Zi/O. This means there is less space between each pebble. This may account for the quality grip this ball offers.
One thing I don’t like is the extra large “UA” logo on the cover of this basketball. Unlike the other balls we tested, the UA logo is made of a completely different material than the cover. I find this material to be slick and may distract players when shooting or dribbling.
At around $30, this basketball is priced in the average range for a quality indoor/outdoor basketball.
I recommend this basketball to those who care most about grip and least about bounce responsiveness.
Overall, I’m impressed with how this basketball performed on my tests. Well done, Under Armour!
3. Spalding TF-500
Coming in third place of the indoor/outdoor category, the Spalding TF-500 does a lot of things well.
A bit firmer and with a focus on feel, the Spalding TF-500 is able to stand out on its own.
A good all-around performer, it has a significant strength in air retention.
Spalding TF-500 Results
Starting with size, the Spalding TF-500 has a circumference of 29 and 5/8 inches. Surprisingly, this is a 1/8 inch smaller than the Zi/O. I’m not sure if Spalding did this on purpose or if this is simply due to imperfections in the manufacturing process.
Weight for this basketball was 1 lbs. and 4.8 oz. Two other indoor/outdoor basketballs weighed the same as the TF500, making this a common weight for the basketballs we tested.
Moving on to performance, the TF-500 tied for first in air retention. When set in my family fridge for a day this ball lost only .15 psi of air. Want a ball that can withstand temperature change? Then give this basket ball a close look.
For both the grip and bounce test, the Spalding TF-500 found itself in the middle of the pack.
In terms of grip, the TF-500 took 4th place. I was able to grip this ball for a max length of 15 seconds after several trials. Based on this result, I’d recommend this basketball to players who are looking for a ball that has a good balance of grip and feel.
As for bounce, this ball tied for 4th with the Under Armour 495. It bounced an average height of 30 inches over the course of five drops. For some this bounce will feel a bit dead. I’d suggest pumping a bit more air into this ball compared to some others.
Spalding TF-500 Features
The Spalding TF-500 shares a lot in common with the first two basketballs we’ve reviewed so far. A standard pebble pattern is combined with a traditional channel size.
The channels are made of rubber on this ball. If you used a Spalding basketball in the past, then you’ll know exactly how the channels look and feel on the TF-500.
Where this ball differs from the Zi/O is in the cover. The Spalding TF-500’s cover feels slightly firmer with less cushion. Personally, I like the firm cover as I get a bit more stability when dribbling compared to the Zi/O.
At under $30, the Spalding TF-500 is an above-average value. This ball is perfect for players who demand a basketball with superior feel. Air retention is an obvious plus as well.
Whether or not the ball provides enough bounce responsiveness will depend greatly on player height, skill, and preference.
4. Molten GM7X
While the first three basketballs have been similar in design, the Molten GM7X is something different entirely.
Just looking at the ball and you can see Molten thinks about basketball design in a way most other basketball brands do not.
Extra channels and a unique cover are just the beginning of what makes this ball stand out.
Molten GM7x Results
As I’ve already mentioned most standard sized basketballs are slightly larger than the expected 29.5 inches in circumference. In the case of the Molten GM7X, it is exactly 29.5 inches in size.
While a bit smaller then other indoor/outdoor basketballs, the Molten GM7X was the heaviest basketball we tested in this category.
It lost .17 psi after testing air retention, tying it for 2nd place.
For players focused on grip, the Molten GM7X is not the best choice. I was able to palm this basketball for only 12 seconds. This performance was good for 6th place, second to last.
Bounce responsiveness was great for the GM7X. It took 1st place with an average bounce of 33 inches. I will say that I feel a noticeable spring to the bounce of the GM7X. It seems happy to return to your hand without feeling overly excited.
Molten GM7X Features
Continuing to the features, let’s discuss the cover of the GM7X. I would describe the cover on this ball as firm but with tact.
I’ve talked to others about this ball and found that those who didn’t like the ball thought the cover felt “plastic-y”.
A young man came into my local YMCA who had been using this ball for one and a half years. This ball was used both indoors and outdoors.
I was able to play with his used GM7X and was impressed with how it has held up. Sure, the shine and tact had worn away, but what was left was a broke in ball that offered incredible comfort.
Channel design is shallow compared to other basketballs. But on the flip side the Molten GM7X features 12 channels, rather than the standard 8. No doubt this set up takes some getting used to, but in the end I find it feels fine. In fact, I really like shooting with this ball due to the extra channels.
Taking a closer look at the pebbles, you’ll see that they are symmetrical. The pattern reminds of something found on a ping-pong paddle.
In fact, if I had to describe how the cover feels I would liken it to the surface of a ping-pong paddle.
As with other indoor/outdoor basketballs, the Molten GM7X is around $30.
Out of all the indoor/outdoor basketballs this ball will best suit veteran players who value feel over grip. This ball will move with you through dribbling and offers no surprise bounces. In my opinion, this is the most satisfying ball to dribble out of the bunch.
5. Wilson NCAA Replica
Deep channeled and sufficiently cushioned, the Wilson NCAA Replica ball will appeal to a lot of readers.
With third place finishes across the board, this ball has some distinct pros and cons.
If you like deep channels and an emphasis on grip, you’ll like this basketball.
Wilson Replica Results
Air retention was an area that the Wilson NCAA Replica struggled to meet expectations. It ended up finishing last on this test having lost .18 psi over the 24 hours the ball spent between beers and leftovers in my fridge. This is 18% more air loss compared to our top performers.
I was able to palm the Wilson Replica for 17 seconds. To be honest, I thought I’d be able to palm the NCAA Replica for longer given the channel design. Still, this is a solid third place performance for the ball.
In terms of bounce, the Wilson Replica is a quality choice. With an average 31 inch bounce from our drop height, it offers good responsiveness.
Wilson NCAA Replica Features
Like the Molten GM7X, the Wilson NCAA Replica brings some unique features to the table.
The channels on this ball are very wide and deep. You’ll also notice that the channels are not made of rubber, but instead a compound that is similar to the rest of the cover. On this basketball the channels are even pebbled.
This basketball has some of the largest pebbles you’ll find. Because of this, there is not much space between the pebbles. Pebbles on this basketball are not symmetrical and are in a seemingly random pattern.
Only $20, the Wilson NCAA Replica is one of the best indoor/outdoor basketball values.
I would recommend this basketball to beginner and intermediate players who need extra grip to help them control the basketball. The pebbled channels can take away from feel as the material feels so similar to the rest of the cover.
A good all-around performer, the Wilson NCAA Replica will satisfy at a reasonable price.
6. Baden Contender
Baden is not the most well-known basketball brand. That being said, I’ve liked the Baden basketballs I’ve used in the past.
The Contender is Baden’s flagship indoor/outdoor basketball. With a great emphasis on feel, this ball will disappoint those wanting a grippy basketball.
While it doesn’t have a whole lot of grip, it is one of my personal favs.
Baden Contender Results
While the Baden Contender finds itself towards the back of the pack, this doesn’t tell the whole story.
The Baden Contender placed 1st in air retention and 3rd in bounce responsiveness. Not bad at all.
Unfortunately, it was the last place finisher in the grip test. I tried to palm this basketball many times, but was only able to get a max palming time of 3 seconds.
The funny thing is that I really like the cover on this basketball. I liked it better than all the other indoor/outdoor basketballs. But in the end I feel that what the testing shows is a superior representation of how buyers as a whole will feel about each ball.
Baden Contender Features
The pebbles on the Contender are larger than those found on the Spaldings or Under Armour 495. There also seems to be greater variance in the shapes of the pebbles on this basketball.
Channels are standard and made of rubber like several other basketballs on this list.
As with most of these basketballs, the Baden Contender is priced right at $30.
With the strong emphasis on feel, this basketball will best suit advanced players who have large enough hands to palm the basketball regardless of grip.
Younger hoopers and players of less skill should look for a basketball with more balance between grip and feel.
7. Spalding Replica
Rounding out the 7th and final spot is the Spalding Replica Game Ball. This basketball simply didn’t perform how I’d hoped on the tests.
This in combination with the ball’s dead feel and lackluster sound when it hits the ground caused it to be our last choice.
Spalding Replica Game Ball Results
The Spalding Replica performed near the bottom of each of the three tests. It did tie for 2nd in air retention with .17 psi lost.
However, on the other two tests, it finished in the bottom half of the basketballs. I was able to palm this basketball for 14 seconds after many attempts. Not horrible, but not great comparatively speaking.
The real issue for this basketball is in bounce responsiveness. When you drop this thing it sounds like a brick hitting pavement. The sound is matched by a lackluster bounce back.
Last by a full two inches, the Spalding Replica had an average bounce of 28 inches.
My guess is that this is an issue with the bladder used on this basketball. Hopefully Spalding will change to a higher quality bladder for this ball in the future.
Spalding Replica Game Ball Features
Different from the other two indoor/outdoor Spalding basketballs, the Replica Game Ball brings something unique to the table.
The cover on this basketball is super tacky out of the box. Over time this will wear off as I experienced when I owned this ball in the past.
There is no color difference between the pebbles and the spaces between.
Channels on the Spalding Replica Game Ball are essentially the same as they are on the other indoor/outdoor Spalding basketballs.
The bladder on this ball is just not good and makes a weird sound when dribbled. It is hard to describe and I may upload a video to show readers.
This is the only basketball that I can’t recommend. Simply put, Spalding needs to fix the bladder.
There are also several better options I’ve tested that will fit every player type.
Outdoor Basketball Reviews
Now we move on to the rubber outdoor-only basketballs. Meant for concrete, pavement, or gravel, these basketball have a keen focus on durability.
Many of these basketballs lack grip and can feel cheap. To figure out the best I took five of the best selling rubber basketballs and put them to the test.
It is worth noting that I did the exact same testing for the rubber outdoor-only basketballs as I did for the indoor/outdoor basketballs.
|Basketball||Average Ranking||Air Retention (psi lost)||Grip Test (seconds)||Bounce||Size (circ.) &
|Spalding Phantom||1.3||-.15 |
1 lbs. 5.8 oz.
|Spalding Street||2.3||-.16 |
1 lbs. 6.2 oz.
|UA Steph Curry||2.3||-.17 |
1 lbs. 4.6 oz.
1 lbs. 5.8 oz.
|Wilson Crossover||3.3||-.17 |
1 lbs. 5.6 oz.
Outdoor Basketball Reviews
1. Spalding Phantom
Taking the crown for the best outdoor basketball, the Spalding Phantom has amazing grip and bold style.
This ball is quite different from other Spalding basketballs and comes as a bit of a surprise.
With 1st, 1st, and 2nd place performances, this ball will be a great choice for most readers looking for a rubber basketball.
You can’t talk about the Spalding Phantom without talking about grip. Bottom line: the grip on this ball is far and away the best for any outdoor basketball you can buy.
I was able to grip this basketball for an astounding 70 seconds. The second place finisher had a max grip length of 17 seconds. Without a doubt, this basketball is the king of grip. This thing has so much grip that even my wife can grip this ball, something she’s never done in her life.
Losing only .15 psi during the air retention test, this basketball will also hold air well in every environment. This was good for first place in the outdoor (rubber) basketball category.
Bounce responsiveness was the category where the Phantom took 2nd place. When dropped from 44 inches, this ball bounced back an average of 34 inches. To best honest, these rubber basketball felt a bit too lively except for the Spalding Street.
I would recommend lowering the air a bit on the Phantom from the suggested 7-9 psi inflation.
Spalding Phantom Features
The Spalding Phantom is full of unique and interesting features that are sure to be polarizing.
A black cover certainly looks cool, but it is downright hot. When taking photos for this article I noticed quickly that the Phantom was the hottest to touch. This thing absorbs heat like crazy due to its black cover.
Personally, I would like to see Spalding release a standard orange version of this basketball.
More akin to a Wilson basketball, the Phantom has extra wide and deep channels. These are easily the deepest channels out of all the basketballs I tested. These channels are even more pronounced because of a slight ridge that forms just before the channels. Look closely at the photo below to see what I mean.
This comes back to the balance of grip and feel. I’m not a huge fan of a basketball with this much grip. And using this basketball confirmed for me that it lacks feel. When dribbled it simply sticks too much to your hand and doesn’t allow for the free flowing sensations that are provided by basketballs that focus on feel.
Pebble design for this basketball is a bit different than composite Spalding basketballs. The rubber Phantom has circular pebbles. The pattern of the pebbles is fairly standard for Spalding.
Pricing for the Spalding Phantom is right around $20. The lettering comes in several different color options including green, silver, orange, and blue. All Spalding Phantom basketballs come in a black cover.
Many beginning and young players will find the Spalding Phantom to be a great choice. The extra grip will help them handle the basketball more easily.
2. Spalding Street
Easily my favorite of the outdoor basketballs, the Spalding Street brings a composite feel to rubber.
Relying on a keen balance between grip and feel, this basketball is a great performer for all outdoor environments.
Combining a ridiculously low price with these attributes, the Spalding Street is a steal.
Looking at the testing, you see that the Spalding Street performed admirably on all three tests.
Coming in second place to the Spalding Phantom, the Street lost only .01 more psi of air. This will be unrecognizable to anyone reading this.
The grip test resulted in another runner-up finish for this basketball. This time the Street was far behind the Phantom’s ridiculous 70 second palming length. I was able to palm the Street for 17 seconds after multiple trials.
But as I’ve said throughout the article, this is closer to the feel/grip balance I look for. Whether or not this suites you will depend on your skill level and preferences.
Bounce responsiveness was less for the Spalding Street than the other outdoor basketballs. But with a bounce of 33 inches, the Street would have tied for first place in the indoor/outdoor category. Rubber basketballs simply tend to bounce higher.
In my opinion, this is another strength for the Spalding Street. It performs a lot more like a composite basketball than a rubber one.
Spalding Street Features
Two aspects of the Spalding Street that not everyone will love is this ball’s weight and size. It was the heaviest rubber basketball we tested at 1 lbs. and 6.2 oz.
The Spalding Street is also large with a circumference of 30 inches. Because of this ball’s size and weight, I would not recommend this basketball to younger players or beginners.
Where the Spalding Street really stands out is with its cover. While it is still rubber, there is a composite feel to it that is unmatched by any of the other outdoor basketballs we tested.
My experience is that most rubber basketballs simply feel too hard and provide literally no cushion. If you feel that’s been your experience as well, then you should be inclined to pick up this basketball.
Pebbles on the Spalding Street are circular and relatively flat. Again, this gives the basketball a feel similar to a composite ball due to this smooth outer cover.
Channels on this basketball are wider than most Spalding basketballs, but nowhere near those found on the Phantom. Depth of the channels are pretty standard making this basketball a good in between in terms of channel design.
There is already so much to love about this basketball, and then there’s the price. Amazingly, you can pick up this ball for only $11!
I’m not sure how Spalding did this, but they created a rubber basketball that I actually don’t mind using. And it is about the same price as a Chipotle Burrito.
Made for more advanced players, the Spalding Street is a unique outdoor basketball that I highly recommend.
3. UA Steph Curry
Branded with the logo of the best shooter ever, the Under Armour Steph Curry basketball performed well according to testing. But there’s more to the story.
Surely to catch eyeballs with its unique color combinations, the UA Steph Curry basketball is likely to be a hit with fans of the Golden State Warrior legend.
UA Steph Curry Results
Tied for third in air retention, the UA Steph Curry basketball lost .17 psi of air. This shouldn’t stop you from buying this ball as there was only a .02 difference in psi loss between 1st place and last (3rd).
Unfortunately, this basketball is lacking in grip. I was only able to palm this ball for 3 seconds. The UA Steph Curry benefitted greatly from the even weaker performances from the Wilson Crossover and Mikasa BX1000.
This is the one basketball that doesn’t fit my feel/grip balance theory. Even though this ball is not able to be palmed easily, I actually don’t think it has great feel either.
Bounce responsiveness for the UA Steph Curry resulted in a 1st place finish. This basketball bounced an average of 35 inches after being dropped 44 inches five times.
As I’ve mentioned previously, this may be too much bounce and you’ll want to consider lowering the psi inflation of this ball to get a bounce that works for you.
I have to make a statement about the testing and this ball. This is the only instance where I feel my testing process failed to show which ball was the best.
While the Spalding Street and UA Steph Curry have the same average rating, the Street is a much better basketball. Simply put, the UA Steph Curry is not that good in comparison.
UA Steph Curry Features
Large in size and lightweight, the UA Steph Curry has a unique profile.
This basketball weighed in at 1 lbs. and 4.6 oz. making it the lightest outdoor basketball we tested.
On the other end this basketball has a circumference of 29 and 7/8 inches. This is 3/8s of an inch larger than expected for a standard sized basketball.
The first thing you’ll notice about the cover is the cool color scheme. The version I bought came with blue and yellow accents on top of a black cover.
What I noticed about the cover of the UA Stephen Curry ball is that the pebbles are really hard. This makes the ball feel a bit harsh to your hands.
Channels on this basketball are pretty wide, but not deep. This lack of depth contributed to my inability to palm the basketball for an extended period of time.
I can say that the bladder is quality and the bounce for this ball is true. You can dribble this ball and know exactly where it will end up.
Pricing is high as would be expected for a branded basketball. Currently, you can pick up this ball for $25 on Amazon. Pretty expensive for a rubber basketball.
This basketball is a decent choice, but not a great value. If you are a fan of Steph Curry or want to buy a ball for younger hoopers I’m sure it will be enjoyed.
4. Mikasa BX1000
Mikasa is probably not the first brand when you think of basketballs.
For the curious reading this, they do make every type of basketball from rubber to indoor composite leather.
Their BX1000 was the ball we used for testing. Not really standing out in any way, I would look to some of our other options before deciding to pick up this ball.
In terms of air retention, the Mikasa BX1000 finished in a tie for 3rd place. It lost .17 psi of air during the testing phase.
Grip was weak, and I was only able to palm this basketball for a maxium of 2 seconds. This was primarily caused by the slick cover of the Mikasa and its shallow channels.
The BX1000 tied for 2nd in the bounce test. This basketball bounced an average of 34 inches when dropped.
Mikasa BX1000 Features
Taking a look at the size of the Mikasa BX1000, this ball had a circumference of 29 and 5/8 inches. The smallest standard sized basketball of the bunch, the Mikasa BX1000 makes a great choice for anyone looking for a smaller ball.
Weighing in at 1 lbs. 5.8 oz., the Mikasa BX1000 is a bit heavier than average. The bigger problem for me is how the weight of this ball feels. I liken it to the feeling of the rubber dodge balls we used to use in school.
Basically, it feels heavy and kind of “dumpy” for lack of a better word. I believe the bladder on this basketball is not the best based on this observation.
Pebbles are pretty standard for an outdoor basketball. A bit firm and perfectly circular is how I’d describe them.
The channels are a disappointment. They are decently wide, but channel depth is basically nil. You can see from the picture below that the channels are almost perfectly level with the rest of the cover.
The lack of channel depth explains why this ball was so difficult to palm. After many attempts I was able to hold on to this basketball for 2 seconds. Essentially, I can’t palm it.
More meant for elementary gyms than the courts, the Mikasa BX1000 will be great for kids.
It has a soft rubber feel. Unfortunately, the strange weight distribution and lack of grip sets this basketball back from the top competition.
On the plus side, this basketball is only $10. At that price, most buyers will be satisfied with this ball’s performance.
5. Wilson Killer Crossover
My least favorite basketball I tested, the Wilson Crossover just didn’t suit me as a basketball player.
Extra large with a super slick cover, the Wilson Killer Crossover is hard to handle for anyone with smaller hands.
My issues with this basketball were demonstrated on the testing as this basketball finished last in the outdoor basketball category.
Wilson Killer Crossover Results
During the air retention test, the Wilson Killer Crossover lost .17 psi of air over the 24 hour testing period. This was tied for 3rd place.
Let’s talk about grip for a second. This ball has none. I literally couldn’t palm this basketball at all. After more failed attempts than I’d care to recall, I gave up and scored this ball as the least grippy basketball in the outdoor category.
The Wilson Killer Crossover basketball bounced an average of 34 inches over five trials. This performance was tied for second place. I will say that this basketball does have a consistent bounce when used. I know where it is going to be when I dribble with it.
Wilson Killer Crossover Features
Like the Spalding Street basketball, the Wilson Killer Crossover has an extra large circumference of 30 inches. Because of this I don’t recommend this basketball to younger players or those who have smaller hands.
While the size of this ball is large it is the second lightest outdoor basketball I tested. The Killer Crossover weighed in at 1 lbs. and 5.6 oz.
My biggest issue with this outdoor basketball is its cover. It is hard to describe just how slick this basketball is. Maybe Wilson is dumping these balls in a vat of grease, because that’s how slick it feels.
I do believe that over time this ball will become less slick. However, it is still hard to fathom why Wilson went for a cover with this type of feel.
The width of the channels on this ball are about what you’d expect for a Wilson basketball. On the flip side, this outdoor basketball lacks the channel depth found on other Wilson balls.
This is unfortunate, because deeper channels could help with the lack of grip.
At around $17, I can’t recommend this basketball when the others on this list are better.
Wilson makes some great basketballs, but I can’t count myself as a fan of this one.
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!