Have you ever played basketball with a ball that sounds weird then it bounces? There is a reason balls sound and bounce in a different way and if you want to have a basketball close to the professional ones you need to know what you are looking for. A ball has three aspects:
The most important aspect is the actual material of the ball, so naturally we will start with that.
The Ball Material
In terms of NBA and other smaller leagues there are official materials chosen by the league’s head coaches. This is why you will have to know the different types if you want to play in a competitive environment. Other than that, all these different materials affect the way the ball behaves, the height of its rebound, even its weight so it’s good to know those things even if you take basketball more as a hobby. There three types of materials are leather, composite (synthetic material), and plain rubber.
Leather balls are used in the professional games and are normally more expensive. They are soft to the touch and leather in general is more flexible. The greatest pro here is that you have an immense amount of control of the ball. Even when you have sweaty hands you will be able to easily maintain a great level of grip.
Another advantage of leather balls is that they are gentle to any type of playing surface. Gyms which have wooden floors always opt for leather balls as they are great for this type of surface (in terms of not damaging it).
A disadvantage for this type is that you cannot (or should not) use it outside. Harder surfaces like concrete or asphalt will ruin the leather and decrease its life expectancy a lot. Also, if you want to use a ball in a competition, leather models usually require a so called break-in period before their first pro game. If you search for different break-in methods you will get a ton of results in google, some faster than others but be careful not to damage your ball.
The next material is called composite or synthetic and is the middle ground for basketballs. These balls do not require break-ins and are great for both indoors and outdoors. Sure, they won’t have the level of grip a true NBA leather ball has but they are far more durable and will last you longer. The only downside is that it will scuff up the wooden floor at the court a bit.
Last (and also least) are the rubber basketballs. They are often called outdoor basketballs since that is what they are only good for. They are extra bouncy and more durable than the other two kinds. If you are a learner this is a great option since it will last you forever and will develop your dribble.
Material also affects the sound your ball produces. Leather balls create a nice soft sound whether rubber ones have a high pitched bounce sound that can be annoying if you aren’t used to it.
If you are looking for a proper basketball hoop, check out my Buyer’s Guide in which I’ve compiled tons of useful information on portable hoops and have given you the best selling models of this year!
The Size Of The Ball
Younger players will need smaller balls to learn how to dribble. Luckily for you, there is a ball for everyone. Mini-basketballs start at seven inches diameter and are ideal for kids who are just now entering the world of basketball. If you want to improve your aim or skills these balls are also a good option. They won’t have as high of a bounce as the bigger ones but are easier to hold and throw.
For real basketball players, there are three ball sizes and types. The men’s league uses balls with the size 7 which is 29 and a half inches in circumference. Youth and female leagues use a size 6 which is an inch less.
Children under the age of 10 should better stick to size 5 balls which have a circumference of 27 and a half inches.
Lastly, let’s mention the ball’s coloring.
Everybody knows the typical basketball orange color but there are also blue, black, and even yellow balls (as well as ones which have all the colors of the rainbow). Of course, the official ball color is orange and all other colors are catering mostly towards the style of street players rather than official rules.
Do You Want To Get Better?
If you want to improve your dribbling, throwing and every other aspect of your game, you should consider getting a training ball. This is a basketball which is made of rubber, weighs a lot more than a normal rubber ball and is primarily meant to improve your handling skills.
To shoot more accurately there are shooter balls which have signs on them for where to put your hands when throwing. We found that those greatly improve accuracy over time but try not getting used to them, as you would feel confused when handling a real ball.
The newest invention in terms of ball types are the so-called connected basketballs which are digitally enhanced to track all your stats such as shooting percentages and other game stats. Many of these balls have apps that allow you to share results with friends or coaches and even compete in improvised online games. The ball itself is Bluetooth-enabled and connects to your smartphone. While it might seem like a gimmick, some professional players use them to see where the holes in their game are.
All in all, knowing what type of ball you want to get comes from knowing what type of game you will play and most importantly – where will you play. If you want to play with friends on an outside concrete court, then get a synthetic or rubber ball. If you go to a gym with a wooden floor and want to play in a more competitive manner (or even a league), get a leather ball, provided you don’t get one from the officials there.
If you also want to improve your shooting accuracy and throwing technique I suggest you check out this article where I explain what it takes to improve your shooting fundamentals.
So, do you need a good basketball? Well, if you want to learn, progress, and further develop your ball handling skills, then – yes, you definitely do. If you are just going to play from time to time with your friends you would most likely not notice a significant difference in the game when using different types of balls each time.