Having a good basketball isn’t a necessary condition to have fun with your friends at the court. However, knowing how to pick a ball based on its features will improve a lot of aspects of your game including dribbling, bouncing, grip, and the general feel of the basketball. Different kinds of surfaces also require a different type of ball, so knowing which are the best indoor or outdoor basketballs can be helpful when choosing the right model for you or your kid.
In this guide we will go through some of the best models for this year, dividing them into indoor/outdoor models, strictly indoor ones, and ones that are best for outdoor basketball games. We will also dive deeper into each of the basketball’s features and see how they all reflect on the quality of a certain ball. Let’s start now with the 2-in-1 models that are good for all types of surfaces…
Best Indoor/Outdoor Models
|Basketball||Cover Material||Size||Price||Our Rating|
|Spalding NBA Zi/O||Composite Leather||Sizes 6 and 7||$$|
|Wilson NCAA Replica||Composite Leather||Sizes 6 and 7||$|
|Spalding NBA Neverflat||Full-grain |
|Molten X-Series BGMX||Composite Materials||All Sizes||$$$|
|Chance Premium Basketball||Rubber||All Sizes||$$|
|Under Armour 495||Composite Leather||Sizes 6 and 7||$$|
Spalding NBA Zi/O Excel Basketball
The Spalding NBA Zi/O is one of the best options if you are looking for both an indoor and an outdoor basketball. It is made out of durable composite leather that won’t last you as much as a proper outdoor ball when you’re playing on the concrete court, but it will hold its ground well for quite some time. Inside is where it truly shines, though. It has a foam-backed construction design which really helps with the feel and grip. It doesn’t come in all sizes but is available in sizes 6 and 7 which is what most people are after anyway.
- Doesn’t require breaking in
- Excellent feel and bounce
- Grips well
- Zi/O Tournament cover
- Foam construction deisgn
- Good bang for the buck
- Doesn’t come in size 5
- Not ideal for a lot of outdoor playing
Wilson NCAA Replica Game Basketball
Another very good 2-in-1 basketball is the Wilson NCAA Replica. It isn’t the original but it certainly has one of the best price to value ratios in its class. It is particularly good for indoor use since it has a moisture absorbing cover material which improves your drip even after longer games. It also is fully wrapped in a composite leather cover that is also fairly resistant to outdoor usage. Just like the previous Spalding ball, though, it doesn’t come in a size 5. With the size 6 you also get a pink cover leather suitable for women’s games.
- Comes in two colors
- Very grippy
- Moisture absorbing cover material
- Good for both indoor and outdoor usage
- Super cheap for what it’s worth
- Really soft
- Doesn’t come in size 5
- Cannot keep a steady inside air pressure
Spalding NBA Neverflat Indoor/Outdoor Basketball
While the Wilson NCAA replica ball couldn’t keep a steady air pressure, this Spalding offers the exact opposite of that. If loss of pressure is what worries you, this ball is one of the best at exactly that. It holds its air pressure for very long, has great bounce to it, and is made out of a special composite leather that is durable enough to take on continuous outdoors play as well. The air valve is reinforced so air virtually cannot leak out. All that will cost you some more money, though, which is potentially its only downside
- Perfect at air pressure retention
- High-performance composite leather
- Soft and comfortable grip
- Has a great bounce
- Particularly good for indoors use
- Isn’t too cheap
- Doesn’t come in size 5
Molten X-Series Indoor/Outdoor Basketball, FIBA Approved – BGMX
Molten isn’t really the most well-known brand out there but their X-series basketballs are nothing short of incredible. They bring tremendous value for the money and are really durable. These one in particular here is the BGMX model which is the lowest trim, and also the best bang for the buck in my opinion. It has a composite cover material, whereas the BGGX has a premium composite, and the BGLX has top-grain leather. Still, this one performs decently enough on all types of surfaces and is also backed by a full year of warranty.
- Great for all types of basketball courts
- FIBA Approved
- Durable Butyl bladder prevents leaks
- 12-panel design
- 1 full year of warranty
- Comes in all sizes
- Cover material isn’t great on the lowest trim level
- Can feel expensive compared to a similar Spalding
Chance Premium Rubber Outdoor/Indoor Basketball
The chance Premium Ribber Basketball is yet another product that stormed the market by surprised. More and more people are getting this ball and are vouching for its quality. It isn’t a composite leather ball like the rest on this list but a rubber one instead. That rubber cover helps it perform perfectly on the outside courts as well as the inside one, although you will instantly feel that it is geared more towards concrete. It comes in all three official sizes and has a free-return policy if you don’t like the way it feels in your hand. That is a great policy since not a lot of people are used to rubber basketballs.
- Decent value for your money
- Rubber cover material
- Excellent bounce on outside courts
- Also good for indoor use
- Very durable and long-lasting
- Comes in all sizes
- If you are used to composite leather balls this one will feel wrong at first
- The bounce is too much for some people
- Grip isn’t perfect especially with sweaty hands
Under Armour 495 Indoor/Outdoor Composite Basketball
The Under Armour 495 Composite Basketball is a solid choice for anyone looking for something known and well-executed. What I mean is that the brand sticks to its quality across all of their products and this ball is no exception. It also is a fairly good value for your money. The feel of it is decent and the deep grooves help improve grip and throwing accuracy. Even though it is designed for both indoor and outdoor use, it really feels much better when played on a wooden court.
- Great grip
- Good value for your money
- Excels at indoor usage
- The bounce is moderate on wooden surfaces
- Fairly good at retaining air when used indoors
- Comes in two sizes
- Won’t feel great on your alley court
- Deflates faster when played outdoor
Best Outdoor Basketballs
|Spalding NBA Street||Performance Cover||All Sizes||$|
|Spalding NBA Varsity||Premium Rubber||Size 7||$$|
|Spalding NBA Street Phantom||Performance Rubber||Size 7||$|
|Mikasa BX1000 Basketball||Rubber||Sizes 4-7||$|
|Spalding Never Flat||Composite Leather||Size 7||$$$|
Spalding NBA Street Basketball
The Spalding Street Basketball has been one of the few kings of the street for quite some time now. It comes in the official NBA size 7 and weight. Has a performance outdoor cover which is a mix between premium rubber and composite leather in its feel. It bounces great and has one of the best grips for an outdoors basketball out there. The best feature of this ball isn’t the grip or the bounce, though. It is the price. Despite being one of the best in this list, this is the cheapest street ball here.
- Extremely cheap
- Great bounce
- Good amount of grip and feel
- Deeper channels provide better overall control
- Handles air pressure well
- Has a performance outdoor cover
- Comes in all sizes and two colors
- Wears out slightly quicker than its competitors
Spalding NBA Varsity Outdoor Basketball
The Varsity Outdoor Basketball is one of my favorite outdoor basketballs not because it performs well or has a good cover material but because it just looks super cool and you can have as many as 9 different color options. That is certainly a thing that brings you at least a few street points. Apart from that, the ball is really of good quality, has great bounce and the grooves are perfect for dribbling control and handling.
- Tons of colors to choose from
- Great feel
- Good bounce and grip
- Perfect for concrete courts
- Fairly cheap
- Only comes in size 7
- People who don’t like rubber balls should pass this one
Spalding NBA Street Phantom Official Outdoor Basketball
The Street Phantom is a great street basketball that is entirely made out of rubber and only comes in Size 7. It has 5 different color options which all change the color of the lettering. The Rubber cover material might nto be by everyone’s taste but it has a surprising amount of grip to it and bounces really well just like any quality rubber ball.
- Comes in 5 colors
- Perfect for street basketball
- Great bounce
- Good grip and feel
- Feels good even with sweaty hands
- Doesn’t hold air pressure well
- Only comes in size 7
- A bit expensive compared to other rubber balls
Mikasa BX1000 Premium Rubber Basketball
Just like the Street Phantom, the BX1006 basketball by Mikasa is made out of a premium rubber cover material. While rubber isn’t my favorite, I cannot deny how good this behaves on an outside court. Not only does it bounce well and has a steady grip, but it also is one of the longer lasting balls in this list, which is incredible considering that you can get it for less than 10 bucks, depending on its size. Speaking of sizes, it comes in all sizes, including a size 4 and an even smaller unofficial size.
- Most size options out of all its competitors
- Surprisingly grippy
- Perfect for concrete
- Super cheap
- Can deflate a little after heavy continuous usage
Spalding Never Flat Outdoor Official Size Basketball
Unlike the previous Never Flat basketball by Spalding, this one is made with the sole purpose of being used outdoor and well.. ever getting flat. There are a few pressure retention technologies in place here – the reinforced air vent, the “nitroflate” patented feature (basically a better internal membrane), and the cap on the valve. That particular combination of features practically makes it impossible for air to come out and the only times your ball will feel deflated are if you take it out on a really cold day to play.
- Always stays inflated (best at 8psi)
- PU-coated composite leather cover
- NitroFlate air technology
- Valve cap to prevent air leaks and dirt getting inside
- Good amount of bounce and grip
- Only comes in size 7
Now, let’s see which are some of the most well-rounded models which are suitable primarily for indoor use…
Best Indoor Basketballs
|Wilson Evolution Basketball||Composite Cover||All Sizes||$$|
|Baden Elite Basketball||Microfiber Cover||Sizes 6 and 7||$$|
|The Rock Basketball||Leather||Size 7||$$|
|Spalding Precision||Eco-Grip Composite||Sizes 6 and 7||$$$|
|Spalding® NBA® Official||Full-grain Leather||Size 7||$$$$$|
|Spalding TF-1000 Classic||Microfiber Composite||All Sizes||$$$|
Wilson Evolution Game Basketball
The Wilson Evolution is one of the best indoor basketballs for a lot of reasons. First, it isn’t that expensive considering what it is offering. Second, it has one of the best grips for an indoor ball thanks to its microfiber composite cover material. It also has composite channels that provide even further control during dribbling and shooting. As a whole, it is the perfect ball to play with, even when you are sweaty from a long game.
- Decent price to value ratio
- Comes in three sizes and 6 colors
- Microfiber composite material
- Superb grip and feel
- Decent bounce
- Isn’t great at maintaining its air pressure
- Bounce could feel lacking if you’re used to strong bouncing balls
Baden Elite Indoor Game Basketball
Another indoor basketball that has a microfiber composite cover material is the Baden Elite Indoor Game Basketball. It isn’t the most well-known ball out there but it is a great bang for your buck and is longer lasting than some of the Spalding alternatives. It also does an excellent job at maintaining its air pressure. The grip is okay. Not quite there yet but it is good as a whole. Bounce is a little weak for me but some people actually prefer it that way so it is slightly subjective. It grips hard just like the other microfiber composite balls do.
- Microfiber Composite for better grip
- Can be played with sweaty hands without issues
- Good price
- Decent bounce and feel
- Doesn’t come in size 5
- Bounce can feel weak to certain people
The Rock- Basketball – Official Mens
The Rock Basketball is a decent all-in-one package for anyone looking for a cheap indoor basketball. It is used by a lot of people in a lot of wooden basketball courts and is a great all rounder. Nothing is spectacular here – it has good bounce, decent grip, nice feel to it and the cover feels good. Nothing stands out, although it does tend to get a little on the slippery side once you get a little sweat on your hands.
- Fairly cheap
- Great all-rounder
- Good grip and bounce
- Long-lasting cover
- Comes with a certificate of authenticity
- Slippery when wet
- Comes in 1 size only
Spalding Precision Indoor Basketball
The Spalding Precision is really a worthy holder of that name. It is one of the best balls if you want to practice your free throw. The Eco-Grip composite cover material is excellent at its job and combined with the groove channels, it provides an enormous amount of control during shooting. The responsive cushion system gives a good feel, although some might dislike it for feeling far too indirect in its dribbling control. In terms of durability, though, this ball is almost unmatched.
- Made out of recycled materials
- One of the most long-lasting indoor balls
- Great for practicing accuracy
- Good grip and bounce
- Retains air well
- Slightly expensive
Spalding® NBA® Official Basketball
The spalding NBA official basketball doesn’t really require any introduction… It isn’t a replica, but an exact match of the ball that every player in the NBA uses. It has full-grain leather for its cover material and comes in size 7 only. It also has all the performance you need from an indoor basketball. The biggest downside for me is that it costs just too much, more than twice the price of some of its closest competitors which just isn’t worth it unless you don’t have a limit on your budget.
- Great in almost every aspect
- Superb feel and control
- Good bounce
- Top-quality materials
- The same ball the professional NBA players use
- Far too expensive
- Comes in size 7 only
Spalding TF-1000 Classic Indoor Basketball
The TF-1000 Classic ZK basketball is really a “classic”. It is one of the most well-known Spalding models and there is a reason for that. It might be last on my list but that is mainly because it is more expensive than the rest and it doesn’t really bring that big of a performance upgrade to prove its worth. It is super durable, though, so if you are looking for a long-term investment this should be on your shortlist. The well-known microfiber composite material does an excellent job at keeping the ball steadily in your hands.
- Microfiber composite material
- Superb grip and feel
- Very durable and long-lasting
- Wide channels for better accuracy and recognition
- Good amount of bounce
- Comes in a lot of official and unofficial sizes
- Too expensive compared to other similar Spalding models
Now that we’ve gone through all the models and seen all their pros and cons, let’s go through what are some of the most important questions regarding basketballs.
Basketballs Buyer’s Guide
Basketballs have been around for ages and they haven’t seemingly changed, right? Well, that isn’t entirely true. Modern basketballs have become grippier, more controllable through their bounce, and easier to handle. They also perform better depending on the surface type they are optimized for. Both indoor and outdoor basketballs have specific features of their own that make them the best for the specific environment in which they will be used. In general, though, you can choose a good basketball based on some of its general features, no matter where you will play with it. Let’s begin with that.
General Features To Consider
Some of the most important things you need to look for in any basketball (both indoor or outdoor) are:
- Cover Material
- Bladder and air retention
Each of these aspects is equally important to the overall performance and can play a major role in your final decision and I haven’t ranked them by importance. Usually people focus the most on the cover material, the grip, and the bounce. What I want to say upfront is that things like the size, weight, and air retention are also crucial to how your ball will perform when you dribble and throw it. So, let’s take a look at all of those features one by one now…
There are two main types of cover material for a basketball – Genuine leather and Composite leather, which is practically a composite rubber material. There are also synthetic rubber basketballs but those are usually kids ones and/or cheaper models.
Genuine leather balls have been on the decline these past few decades with Spalding being the only modern brand that keeps on mass-producing them. They are also the official ball of the NBA and are some of the most sought for balls nowadays despite their steep price tag. Their main disadvantage is the fact that you will nee to break in the leather through continuous play in the beginning. During that time, the ball will feel harder to the touch and also harder to grip as opposed to a composite leather one. Despite that, once you spend the time needed for it to peak, you will be rewarded with a soft and controllable basketball that will outlast most of its modern composite competitors.
The composite leather balls, on the other hand, are easily accessible and are sold everywhere at various prices. They are cheaper than genuine leather basketballs and the composite rubber on them doesn’t require any sort of breaking in. Right out of the box, they are ready to perform at their best. The higher priced indoor/outdoor basketballs which are of composite materials are made to last when played on a basketball court but don’t count on them being as reliable as the real leather ones.
Grip has always been one of the most important characteristics to many people that disregarded all other parts of a good basketball. Most people look for a ball that they can easily hold with one hand but that isn’t always a good thing. What grip can give you, the ball might lack in terms of feel. The feel of a ball allows you to control it and its spin better and to “feel” it better as the natural extension of your arm it should be. A good feeling basketball will also bounce consistently through your dribbles.
For a ball to have a good grip, it needs to have deeper grooves (channels) and a cover that will stick easier to your skin. These particular traits can reduce the amount of feel a ball has, so there always will be a natural trade-off when it comes to those two features. This is why you need to look for a ball that has a good balance of both without lacking one or the other.
You can test the feel of a ball by playing with it and seeing whether it feels natural to dribble and throw it or your hand feels disconnected from the process. The grip is somewhat easier to test as you can simply grip a ball in your palm and see how much it will last there. The more it does, the stronger the grip of that said ball is.
The bounce of a basketball is largely determined by its composition, its insides, how well its inflated, and the surface you are playing on. It can also refer to two separate things – how high it bounces or how consistent it is throughout its bouncing.
High-bouncing balls are usually a bit harder to control but are also better for higher players that don’t have a low stance. On the contrary, balls that don’t bounce as high might be easier to control during a low dribble but are lifeless in terms of feel as soon as you start moving around with them.
You can compare how well balls bounce by dropping them from the same amount of height on the same surface. Pick the one that feels the best to your stance and dribbling power.
Size can vary a lot in basketballs, even across what are officially the same balls. Some 29.5 inch Men’s basketballs can vary in their circumference with more than half an inch which is a significant difference, especially considering they represent an official size.
It all ultimately boils down to who will play the most with the ball. For adults, get the Men’s official size, while smaller balls are recommended for kids, youth, and women. Larger balls are also easier to control the better you are, so if you are advanced, then maybe a slightly larger than 29.5 inches ball might suit your needs better.
I will get into the details of basketball sizes further down the guide.
Even though most basketballs are generally the same weight, you’ve all experienced a time when you play with a ball that just feels heavier (or lighter) than what you’re used to. This is why this feature shouldn’t be neglected. One thing that affects basketballs weight is the pressure at which they are inflated. 7-8 psi seems to be the golden middle for most models when weighing them.
When deciding whether you want a lighter or heavier basketball, it all boils down to your personal preference. Some people might want a lighter ball that is easier to throw and control, while others would like the dribble feel of a heavier and bigger ball.
Bladder and air retention
The inside of a basketball consists of two parts:
- The bladder
- The carcass
The bladder is that balloon-like structure which holds the air inside the ball. The carcass is the layer of nylon/polyester treads between the rubber bladder and the ball’s cover material.
The quality of that same bladder will determine how much air a ball loses during temperature drops. Most cheaper balls tend to get quite deflated when it gets colder primarily because their bladder allows it. More expensive balls remain consistent through temperature changes and continuous amount of playing, which also increases the ball’s inside temperature and adds more pressure to the bladder.
One of the last few factors that I want to go through is the basketball’s performance. This is yet another feature that is rather subjective and depends on the player’s needs. The feel of a ball is the main attribute that takes part of the overall performance. The official NBA ball might feel great to an NBA player but take that to the street courts and it will most likely only keep you company at the benches when you watch the local game.
Things like the bounce, grip, cover material, or even the bladder quality might all affect the performance a ball has for its particular user. If you aren’t aimed at a professional level, then getting a composite leather ball that is designed for most amateur players is the safest bet in terms of how it feels and how it performs. Just make sure you get an indoor one if you predominantly play inside. I will get into that in a bit.
That aspect of a basketball is strictly up to the individual buying it and is hard to discuss objectively but with good basketballs it is particularly easy to lose track of the price tag and go way above your initial budget. That is especially valid if you end up looking for basketballs with real leather cover materials.
Most modern basketballs are in the 20-30 dollar range so price differences shouldn’t be a major factor in your decision, unless they are substantial.
Differences Between Indoor and Outdoor Basketballs
While indoor basketballs mostly deal with wooden floors, outdoor basketballs are faced with a much tougher environment (asphalt, concrete, etc). Indoor basketballs are mostly made out of full-grain leather which, as I already mentioned, will need to be conditioned before it reaches its peak performance. If you use it outside and constantly expose it to the elements, you will significantly shorten its life and the leather will rapidly deteriorate.
Outdoor balls, on the other hand, are primarily made out of composite rubber and are a little bit heavier for that same reason. They have a better bounce on solid surfaces and can last you longer. They are also decently good for indoor surfaces, especially if the manufacturer claims that they are a 2-in-1 type of basketball. These are the ones that people are most after for obvious reasons. One ball to rule them all, right? The ball that could probably handle both tasks equally well is the one made out of composite leather and has a good amount of feel and a natural bounce at both softer and harder surfaces.
Indoor Basketballs Features
Indoor basketballs, unlike their outdoor rubber competitors, use either real or composite leather for their cover material. That results in a softer sensation that also has more grip and better control. That results in better shooting and dribbling feel.
The downside to some composite leather models is that they are quite slippery at first, especially if your hands are sweaty. Indoor balls also do a worse job at retaining their inside air pressure. Normally, NBA balls have a psi of around 8.
If you are constantly training hard and are sweating a lot, you might want to consider an indoor basketball that has a moisture reducing surface for added grip. Also pay attention to the depth of the ball’s grooves and the width of its channels as they play a key role in stability when shooting.
Outdoor Basketballs Features
With outdoor basketballs there are a few things you need to take into account. The very first thing is the deflation of your ball. We already know a ball deflates in the cold, right? Well, that is the exact reason why balls made specifically for outdoors use have a stronger, more durable bladder that will keep the inside pressure relatively constant (although keeping it entirely constant is impossible). Still, having a good basketball pump is essential on really hot or cold days, as the ball’s bounce will inevitably change a little bit.
The feel of outdoor basketballs is also important. The better models will replicate the feel of an indoor one almost exactly as it is while still being able to withstand the rough environment.
Now, the most important factor will obviously be durability but that is… well, too obvious, so manufacturers pay the utmost attention to it. That means that most of the balls are similarly durable when it comes to lasting on the concrete court but if you are set on using a composite leather ball, it might require you to get a new one from time to time.
No matter how durable a ball is, though, there is always wear and tear and the ground will slowly act as a sandpaper, taking away from the ball’s weight bit by bit. Cheaper models will feel significantly lighter after a year while more expensive ones won’t lose that much. If you are training seriously on an outside court this should be a thing of consideration.
Choosing The Right Size
While programs like VertShock can improve your vertical, nothing improves your handles better than the right basketball size for your hand. That is a feature far too often overlooked and that is why you see me talk about it a lot, especially since there are quite the few sizes out there, outside the official ones.
The role of the ball is quite crucial in your development. The reason behind that is that you will be developing your muscle memory with a specific ball size that has a specific feel and weight to it. This is why sticking to the official numbers is a good idea in this case. If you are only looking for a ball to play for fun, then sizes aren’t such a huge factor unless you want to get a ball that your kids will have an easier time to handle.
There are three main sizes and a lot other non-official ones. Here are the main ones:
- Men’s – 29.5 inches (size 7)
- Women’s – 28.5 inches (size 6)
- Youth – 27.5 inches (size 5)
Adults and teenage boys will be the most comfortable playing with 29.5 inch balls and for that reason that same size is used in all high school, college, and professional games. These balls are also a bit heavier than the others thanks to their bigger size. they weigh roughly 22 ounces.
Younger kids or women will benefit the most from the 28.5 inch balls, even if one inch will hardly make any difference to most people. Many young women and kids train with the bigger sized Men’s basketball at practice and when getting to the smaller women’s one, it feels like a night and day difference. The weigh of these basketballs is around 20 ounces.
Kids and younger children will have it the easiest with balls below 27.5 inches. These balls work great with some good portable basketball hoops and with some mini hoops. They are also ideal for developing the basketball shooting fundamentals in little kids. They are the lightest out of all the sizes here and usually weigh around 18 ounces.
Taking Care Of Your Indoor Basketball
As you already know, indoor basketballs are a little more fragile in terms of their durability and resistance against certain conditions. This is why you need to take better care of them, especially if you are used to an outdoor ball which basically requires no maintenance.
The first thing to remember is to never use your indoor basketball outdoors. The rougher surfaces on outside courts will scuff and tatter the cover material. Theoretically you can use an indoor basketball outdoors but you will have to choose one with a better cover material. Even then it won’t last nearly as much as a proper outdoor model.
The next important step of handling your ball properly is never kicking it, as that will make the ball’s shape warped in time, due to the bladder permanently losing its round shape. Flat basketballs shouldn’t be left for longer periods either, as that can also damage the bladder and cause air leaks down the road.
After you’re done playing with the ball it can be a good habit to clean it with a cloth in case there is any sweat, dust, or dirt left on it that can negatively affect the leather.
Picking the best indoor/outdoor basketball should be based on all the features that we went through. Most importantly, you need to know where you will be mostly playing with the ball and then think of the other features such as bounce, feel, size, weight, and others. If you aren’t going to play solely at one surface (indoors on a court or outside on the concrete) then you need to pick a ball that can handle all sorts of conditions. The modern composite basketballs are ideal for these cases, although they won’t last as a rubber outdoor basketball if you mostly play on asphalt or concrete. If the choice is too hard, you can always check out some of my suggestions, as I have tried and tested each basketball and have a general idea of how good each of them performs on a day to day basis. Being constantly around basketball, I can also observe how much a ball lasts depending on its usage and how people treat it.