Most everyone prefers to hoop indoors. Indoor basketball courts offer a controlled environment away from the varying weather that comes with the different seasons and is simply more comfortable. However many would argue (including myself) that real hooping is found on the outdoor courts.
The change in courts also affects everything from the clothes you wear to the actual basketball you bring. There are several big differences between indoor basketballs and outdoor basketballs. Those designed for use on the playground are created to withstand the harsher conditions and the withstand thousands of bounces onto cracked blacktop, rugged concrete and pebbled cement courts that come with hooping outside.
While you do not need to worry about your new basketball getting ruined by one-time use on a concrete or blacktop covered court, it’s better to have a ball that is designed for the different surfaces you’ll encounter on the streets.
To help you determine the best outdoor basketball to buy for yourself or one of your children or friends, we have gone through and ranked some of the best outdoor basketballs available on the market. Spoiler alert: outdoor basketballs are generally much less expensive than those designed for indoor gyms.
What Type of Basketball Should I get for Outdoors?
A common debate that arises time and again when buying an outdoor basketball is if one should get a rubber or composite leather basketball. Almost no one plays a genuine leather basketball outdoors since it just ruins the ball. Composite leather basketballs use synthetic leather and many of them feel very similar to real leather basketballs. Most high school and college conferences have shifted to composite leather balls, so it’s only pro leagues that feature the full leather basketballs now-a-days. Although rubber basketballs are cheaper than composite balls that you can find in the store, they are harder to grip, and typically not popular with older players who are serious about their game on the playground or other outdoor courts.
What Should I look for in an Outdoor Basketball?
Almost all outdoor basketballs are made to be able to take the harsher conditions of outdoor play versus the gym. You don’t need to worry about one game ruining your ball, or two. As a result, a player will sacrifice some softness compared to an indoor basketball for one that is tough enough to handle the outdoor environment. Some basketballs that you will find on the market are even marketed as indoor and outdoor basketballs sacrificing a little on both ends.
The first big decision to make when selecting an outdoor basketball is what covering do you want? The two choices are composite leather or rubber. Composite leather balls feel closer to those used indoors; however, rubber basketballs have been making a lot of improvements in recent years. If cost is your primary driver, then a rubber ball will probably be your choice acknowledging you will need to buy a newer ball sooner than if you go with a composite one. Otherwise, finding one that has the grip, softness, and overall feel will be most important while debating between which brand of basketball to purchase.
9 Great Outdoor Basketballs
|1||Spalding NBA Zi/O||$39.99|
|2||Wilson Replica NCAA Game Ball (Indoor/Outdoor)||$40.95|
|3||Nike Dominate Outdoor Basketball||$29.99|
|4||Wilson Evolution Outdoor Basketball||$25.99|
|5||Molten X-Series GM7X Indoor/Outdoor||$49.99|
|6||Under Armour 495 Gripskin Size 7 Basketball||$27.99|
|7||Wilson NCAA WAVE Microfiber Composite||$69.95|
|8||Chance Premium Indoor/Outdoor Composite Leather||$39.95|
|9||Spalding React Basketballl||$39.99|
We Review: The 9 Best Outdoor Basketballs
#1 Spalding NBA Zi/O
The Spalding NBA Zi/O is an excellent outdoor basketball that is designed to support both indoor and outdoor play. The ball is made from composite leather and is foam-backed to deliver a solid and consistent bounce for the player. The bounce is similar whether one is playing at the playground or in the local gym. The basketball covering is slightly tacky which makes it easier to palm and dunk for those who can soar high-enough above the rim (or on a shorter goal) to work on their dunks. The latest release of the Zio has improved the overall grip from past versions of the ball, and it is affordably priced. On Amazon, Moody Fashionista had this to say about the ball, “Great indoor outdoor basketball for the price.Was looking to replace a stolen basketball for my son. He said he didn’t want one from the national retail chain check (that everyone knows it will be nameless)…So if you’re a mom like me and you are looking to buy your kids a basketball… bottom line don’t look any further! This is the ball for you, plus my son tried it and really liked it . He said it was fire!”
#2 Wilson NCAA Replica (Indoor/Outdoor)
One of the best outdoor basketballs for the money is the Wilson NCAA Replica. This ball is a combo, indoor-outdoor model, but stands up to usage outdoors (and comes in different colors). The Replica is composite leather and offers a good grip and more than a suitable bounce. Priced under $50 USD, it is very affordable and for players who are rough on outdoor basketballs very durable as well. Wilson uses moisture absorbing material to deliver a superior grip that performs even when playing on a damp playground hoop.
#3 Nike Dominate Outdoor Basketball
The Nike Dominate Outdoor Basketball is a versatile ball that can be used for both indoor and outdoor play. Its durable rubber cover provides excellent grip and bounce, while its deep channels make it easy to handle during dribbling and passing. The ball also features a butyl bladder that helps it retain its shape over time. According to one customer on Amazon, “This ball is great for outdoor play. The grip is excellent, and it has held up really well to the rough concrete surfaces.”
#4 Wilson Evolution Outdoor Basketball
If you’re at all familiar with the Wilson Evolution brand, you know it’s the far-and-away preferred indoor basketball by hoopers in the United States. That said, it’s no surprise to see the Wilson Evolution Outdoor Basketball being high up on the outdoor basketball list. This excellent outdoor option features a composite leather cover with deep channels for better grip and control. Its high-quality construction ensures that it can withstand the rigors of outdoor play, while its cushion core technology provides a consistent bounce. As one customer on Dick’s Sporting Goods notes, “This basketball is the real deal. It has a great grip, perfect weight, and a true bounce.”
#5 Molten X-Series GM7X Indoor/Outdoor
Motlen is a Japanese sporting equipment company that is the official supplier of basketballs for FIBA competition. The GM7X is the companies indoor/outdoor composite leather model that is a good option for players looking for an outdoor basketball. The GM7X has a Giguario design that has 12 panels. This means there are more channels on the basketball that is preferred by some players since it helps better see the backspin on the ball when shooting. The company uses consistent touch pebbling on the ball which is different from other brands. For an outdoor ball, the GM7X is one of the grippiest for outdoor balls, and it can lose the grip when playing in a damp or wet environment. The 12 panel design of the ball can also result in a bit of an inconsistent bounce. The price of the ball is competitive with other indoor/outdoor balls, and for those looking to play a FIBA approved ball is one of your best choices.
#6 Under Armour 495 Gripskin Size 7 Basketball
The Under Armour 495 Gripskin Size 7 basketball is a great choice for playing hoops outside. The combo inside/outside basketball by UA uses the companies GRIPSKIN composite covering for the ball. As a result, it has a great feel and grip to go with a deep channel design. The company uses 80% Nylon windings to help retain the basketball’s shape over time, and it also features a 100% Butyl bladder to maximize the air retention which becomes more important for outdoor balls. The UA 495 Gripskin has full ball pebbling, and it comes in the full range of sizes from official through intermediate and women.
#7 Wilson NCAA WAVE Microfiber Composite
The Wilson NCAA WAVE Microfiber Composite basketball is another popular indoor/outdoor ball produced by Wilson. The ball is made up of composite leather and costs a little more than other basketballs designed for outdoor play. The composite covering is Wilson’s microfiber composite that differs a bit from other coverings that you will come across. The company also includes Wave Triple Threat Technology, or T3 grooves, that are cut into the basketball carcass that provide for excellent ball control. It also has composite, laid-in channels and Wilson’s Cushion Core Technology that combines low-density sponge rubber and durable butyl rubber that delivers a better overall grip and feel. One for you to check out when shopping for outdoor basketballs. All-Access Customer writes on Amazon, “I have played hoops for 35 years. The only brand of basketballs I have ever purchased were the Spalding synthetic leather indoor/outdoor models, which each lasted 10+ years each…I don’t know what happened to Spalding, but this ball has made a Wilson fan out of me.”
#8 Chance Indoor/Outdoor Composite Leather Basketball
Chance offers a unique ball design that can be used for outdoor play for someone looking for an option other than a main-stream brand. The company is unique in that they offer a big change in design from other composite-covered basketballs, and all their options are indoor/outdoor, so players have the full range of options of where to use the ball. Chance delivers full pebbling on all the basketball designs, and they have a spongy feel but a tad less than those that are foam-backed balls like the Zi/O we reviewed earlier. Overall, the ball has solid grip, unless you are looking for style points, this may not be the basketball for you. The overall durability of the ball for outdoor play is rated as average, and now that it has been on the market for a bit, the price is competitive with other outdoor basketballs.
#9 Spalding React All-Surface Ball
The Spalding React All-Surface (Indoor/Outdoor) is another great option for basketball players who are looking for the best ball to play outdoors. Before Spalding lost out to Wilson, they were the sole provider of game balls to the NBA, and this model comes with a all-surface composite covering that makes for a great grip and consistent bounce on the playground.
The basketball is more expensive than the Wilson Replica; however, those who have tried out the ball love it. Worth checking it out before buying if you are able to do so. When purchasing directly from Spalding, the basketball comes with a warranty too.
Most Affordable and Best Outdoor Basketball
Wilson Replica NCAA Game Ball (Indoor/Outdoor),
You can’t beat the price point for the Wilson Replica NCAA Game Ball (Indoor/Outdoor model). Coming in south of $50 USD, the composite leather ball delivers the perfect balance between durability on outdoor playing surfaces, grp, and bounce. The moisture absorbing material that the company uses in the covering also makes this one of the best choices if you are an “All Weather” basketball player and don’t want a damp court or light rain get in the way of playing basketball.