There's a lot to factor into finding the best basketballs, especially when you consider all the different surfaces you're likely to play on.
For instance, leather basketballs tend to be used indoors, while rubber basketballs are more suitable for outdoor courts, making them ideal for practice in your backyard ready for your next game.
With that in mind, we've compiled a list of our top picks for both indoor and outdoor sessions based on price, reviews, and any unique features that make these basketballs ideal for sinking threes into your basketball hoop.
We've also answered some of the most frequently asked questions surrounding basketballs to help you gain a better understanding of what to look for before you make your next basketball purchase.
So, without further delay, here's our list of the best basketballs available now...
- Best all-round basketball - Spalding Zi/O Excel
- Best indoor basketball - Wilson Evolution
- Best outdoor basketball - Molten X-Series
- Best premium basketball - Wilson NBA Official Game Basketball
- Best basketball for grip - Spalding TF-1000 Classic
Best all-round basketball - Spalding Zi/O Excel
Spalding has been manufacturing sports equipment since 1876; however, the brand is perhaps best known for its high-quality basketballs which were once used in the NBA.
This Zi/O Excel looks to be a great example of Spalding's expertise, particularly with its composite construction that should suit both indoor and outdoor use.
Moreover, the ball comes with deep grooves designed to make it easier to handle, and a foam backing to increase grip - a vital part of passing, dribbling, and shooting in-game.
So, get your basketball shoes ready as this Spalding ball looks ready for training.
Best indoor basketball - Wilson Evolution Game Basketball
This official NBA-sized basketball is one of the top, microfibre options for when you want to take your game indoors.
It features Cushion Core technology designed to be soft to hold, but also highly responsive to dribble with. As a result, this Wilson Evolution is the ball of choice for many high school and college players looking to hone their skills.
Moreover, the microfibre cover comes with deep pebbling to maximise the friction with your hands which, in turn, should improve your control over the ball on a fast break.
Best outdoor basketball - Molten X-Series
There is a huge difference between playing on a smooth indoor court, and a harder, grippier outdoor one which is why there are different kinds of balls for each setting.
If you do prefer to play outdoors, then you'll probably want something like the Molten X-Series which has been designed to hold its air thanks to its butyl bladder even after being repeatedly bounced off the floor.
Moreover, Molten boasts its basketball should remain easy to control during wet weather due to the grippy synthetic cover with strong pebbling to increase friction.
This bit of kit is also FIBA-approved which means you should be getting something that's good quality and built to last with this Molten basketball.
Best premium basketball - Wilson NBA Official Game Basketball
The NBA Official Game basketball comes with a premium price tag but should undoubtedly be one of the best on the market, particularly for indoor use, as it's used by top stars like LeBron James and Steph Curry whilst wearing some of the best NBA jerseys around.
The genuine leather construction alongside the world-class standards of the NBA should mean this basketball will last.
Also, Wilson state that once the leather has loosened up, the cover should start to feel incredibly grippy, thus making it a great pick for dribbling drills or, more importantly, game day.
All in all, this official ball from Wilson looks to be an excellent choice if you've got the available budget.
Best basketball for grip - Spalding TF-1000 Classic ZK
As Spalding specialise in making basketballs, it is no surprise they feature again with what looks to be one of the grippiest basketballs around.
Having something that can offer a ton of grip is the key to scoring a layup or dunk without dropping it before you reach the hoop.
The added grip should also help you beat opponents with your dribbling skills as you're able to exercise more control over the basketball, especially if you're rocking some of the best Nike LeBrons.
It comes in two sizes, 6 and 7, to suit a variety of age groups and is made out of durable faux leather with ZK microfibers that have been designed to become soft once you break the ball in, which helps to increase grip levels.
Moreover, the basketball comes with a butyl bladder, like some of the best footballs, to maximise air retention and nylon windings engineered to increase structural integrity and, in turn, improve its longevity.
Overall, this high school-approved ball has been adopted by the states of Idaho and North Dakota so will most likely be good enough for all your indoor court action.
Frequently asked questions about basketballs
With so many different options to choose from, you probably have a few queries about these top basketballs.
Don't worry though, because we're here to clear up some of the more common questions.
What should you look for from a basketball?
According to Wilson Sporting Goods, the following are worth looking out for when buying a basketball:
- Size - Getting the size right is important for maximising your control over the ball. Generally speaking, a size 7 ball is right for adults, with size 5 and 6 balls usually reserved for younger age groups. A size 7 ball has a 29.5" circumference.
- Material - You'll need to select the right material for the type of court you'll be playing on. Typically, you'll want to use a leather ball for indoor games, and synthetic balls for outdoor courts as they will be less likely to wear down on the rougher surface.
Are all basketballs the same?
There are three main types of basketball: indoor, outdoor, and synthetic hybrids.
Indoor balls are the most common type, but typically more expensive.
This is because they're usually constructed out of premium leather and offer the best grip and feel over a longer period of time since they are normally bounced off polished wooden floors.
Conversely, outdoor basketballs are usually made from rubber since they are designed to be used on rough, concrete surfaces. Therefore, the rubber is included with the aim to increase longevity and durability.
Hybrid balls sit somewhere in between, utilising a composite leather construction allowing them to be used on either surface.
How much should you spend on a basketball?
Deciding on how much to spend on a basketball really comes down to your available budget.
Top-of-the-range NBA replica balls can be quite expensive; however, there are a plethora of great alternatives available for less as shown by this list.
Having said that, we'd recommend avoiding overly cheap basketballs as these will most likely wear down quickly and lose grip fast due to poorer construction and materials.
It's also worth keeping in mind that outdoor balls may need to be replaced more frequently than indoor basketballs because of the rougher playing surface. As a result, we'd recommend factoring this into your purchase.
How do you maintain a basketball?
As mentioned above, one of the best ways to maintain a basketball is to ensure you're using the right ball for the right court.
Once you get that right, there are several additional methods to keep in mind to help maintain your basketball.
These methods include storing in a dry, ventilated place to avoid cracking, wiping off dirt and debris with a damp cloth, and avoiding drying with direct heat to stop the ball from warping out of shape.
How long does a basketball last?
While the NBA might replace its basketballs every one to four games, the average basketball should last you significantly longer providing its properly maintained and inflated correctly.
In fact, a basketball may last up to five years or more at times, although this will depend on its build quality, the surfaces you play on, and how often you use your basketball.
For instance, a basketball used every day on an outdoor court might not last as long as a basketball used sparingly indoors.
Generally speaking, we'd recommend replacing your basketball if it develops a puncture or you notice a significant drop off in its performance, specifically its 'bounce'.
How do you pump air into a basketball?
Inflating a basketball is not something you'll find yourself doing all that often; however, when the time does come to pump one up, here's what we think you should know.
To inflate, simply insert the needle of your pump into the basketball and begin to inflate until the ball seems firm and spherical. We'd recommend something electric, like this Pumteck Smart Pump, to help you work out exactly when the ball is filled with air.
The best way to tell whether your basketball is pumped up correctly is to hold the basketball out around level to your face and drop it. If it bounces back up to around waist level then you should be good to go.
Do you need to break in a basketball?
A brand new leather basketball needs to be broken in otherwise won't have the feel or grip you might expect during the first use.
The easiest way to do this is by playing with it on a court as the continuous bouncing off the rough surface as this will help soften the material.
Having said that, basketballs made from a composite shouldn't need breaking in as much as their surfaces are not as slippery during first use.
Why are there lines on a basketball?
Pretty much every basketball you encounter comes with a pebbled exterior, separated into eight panels by thin, curved lines.
Much like how the pebbles are there to improve grip, the indented lines are actually grooves designed to make the ball in question easier to handle.
In theory, the lines allow a player to grip the ball better, and then control it in a different direction from the moment it touches their hand.