ESPN has always been the centerpiece of sports and all associated events. Since the early 2010s they really started focusing on merchandising and expanding their brand into all sorts of sports-related games and items. They have air hockey tables, ping pong and foosball tables, and now they’ve targeted the basketball arcade world with their well-built products. The ESPN EZ Fold Indoor Basketball Game is one of the best values for your money on the market and it comes in two different version – Classic and Premium. In this review, I will go over the Premium model since it has a few major improvements that separate it from the rest of the competition at this price point.
My Verdict: When it comes to affordable products, you’d always want them to be sturdy and not remind you that you tried to save a few bucks. This is exactly the case with this ESPN arcade which feels nothing like the money you’ve spent on it and is a great all-rounder for both kids and adults. If you are willing to look past the difficult installation and the occasional issues with the scoring display, then this is definitely something you should consider.
Overview & Features
Even though I consider this arcade to be one of the most well-rounded and budget-oriented out there, I still have to mention that this is the deluxe version and there is, in fact, a cheaper version which has a few compromises compared to this one.
The cheaper “Classic” version has a MDF (medium density fiberboard) backboard, while the Deluxe has a polycarbonate backboard that is also transparent and has slightly different graphics. The Deluxe version also has a better scoring display placed at the top of the backboard. The return ramp and main metal structure are also differently colored and have a slightly different design.
I will go into that further down the review but the main point is that if you want to make your kids a present, then you can save a few bucks by getting the cheaper version which offers almost the same amount of quality and durability. According to most people, it also has the better return ramp graphics design but that is subjective.
The dimensions are pretty standard on this arcade, as it measures 81 inches in length, 48 inches in width, and 80.5 inches in height at its highest point where the backboard is. The width is actually 5-6 inches more than most other models which allows for better competitive games without the basketballs of each team or player hitting each other constantly.
When folded, it is 23 inches deep which is one of my favorite aspects of this arcade. Most games still remain very far out even when folded. This one cuts that distance in half by being just 23 inches. That is one of the features that make it a suitable option even for smaller rooms, as it won’t get too much in the way when your kids aren’t using it.
The cheaper model has the same dimensions but cuts down 3 more inches when being folded to just 20 inches in depth, so if you are really short on space, opt for the Classic version of the ESPN EZ fold. Both versions have the secure locking system which ensures that the game won’t fold in half while you are playing. It primarily consists of a small metal rod that prevents the folding mechanism, so make sure you tighten that up well enough.
If you want to check out other arcades with different dimensions and perhaps a model that is height adjustable, I suggest checking out my full Buyer’s guide on some of the best basketball arcade games on the market for this year.
Materials and Durability
The materials are where the Deluxe version really outshines the Classic one. Not only does it have a polycarbonate transparent backboard but it also has a slightly different metal construction which allows for more intensive games.
The steel tubes are sand coated which will add to their longevity and will make the game a bit more kid-proof. The straps, netting and everything else is also well-built together, assuming you assemble it properly, on which I will touch in a moment. The ball return channel nets have double stitched seams that reinforce the net.
The rims are made out of steel as well. That combined with the backboard adds to the authentic feel this arcade is going after. The nylon nets are heavy-duty and are really hard to tear but they can feel a little too tight at first before you work them in.
One thing that really made me scratch my head was that the Deluxe version doesn’t have the padding on the front steed handle around the control panel, while the Classic one does. It is such a good feature for smaller kids to hold onto or not bump their heads or bodies. Also, that padding wraps around the steel pipe and covers the wire that connects the control panel to the scoreboard as well, keeping it secure.
The scoring sensors are accurate above my expectations and the scoreboard is big enough to be easily seen from a distance. The scoreboard is divided into three pieces – Home, Visitor, and Time. That is great but what it lacks is the triple-digit score counter which many other models for this price have. With this one, your score can go up to only 99 instead of 999 on a triple digit scoreboard. It really is a missed opportunity to make this an even better product.
The LED display is located at the top of the backboard on the Deluxe version and is between the rims on the Classic one.
The basketballs are 7 inches each and are made out of rubber which is pretty standard. I only wished there were more balls when you get the Deluxe version, since you are paying extra and 4 balls is the lowest you can get on any cheap model anyway. Still, these basketballs do retain air well and also come with an ESPN air pump which has a needle (an accessory that some brands forget to add). The balls are a good fit for the 12 inch rims and rarely get stuck.
The assembly part is quite difficult, especially if you are alone. Luckily, there is a third-party app that can help you with the process.
You can download BILT app to see ESPN’s free 3d Assembly instructions that will guide you step-by-step throughout the whole process. It even has voice-guided support and you can look around the 3D model as you are assembling your arcade.
If you are having trouble you can also contact ESPN for assistance and if any of the parts break or are missing they can send you a full parts package.
Additional features and accessories
There aren’t many additional features here that are worth mentioning besides the control panel upfront and the 8 games that come pre-installed on both the Deluxe and Classic versions. The control panel also controls the buzzer and sound effects. The whole system runs on 4 AA batteries which do not come included in the package.
Design and Practicality
In terms of the design, I really like both versions but the Deluxe one stands out a bit more. With its wooden floor and transparent backboard it just feels far better, although your kids might love the Classic version as well since it has more action-based graphics.
The practicality is great on both versions since they are super compact when folded, and take more than half the space of other games (folded). The weight is also reduced significantly barely reaching 35 pounds which makes the game really easy to move around but also slightly wobbly if you don’t position it correctly.
The price is on point for both models, with the Deluxe costing 30$ more, which is a nice increment considering the extra-features it brings to the table. Still, if you are on a budget and you can live without the special backboard and colors, I suggest you opt for the Classic version as it is pretty similar, if not better in some aspects.
If your kids are big EA sports fans and want an arcade that comes from their favorite gaming company, then you can get the cheaper EA Sports 8-in-1 Indoor Basketball Arcade Game which also offers a significantly good value considering its low price.
Advantages & Disadvantages
- When folded it is the smallest arcade out on the market
- Very reliable
- Scoring sensors are accurate
- Perfect for competitive games due to wide dimensions
- Includes 8 game options
- Polycarbonate transparent backboard
- Can withstand heavy plays even from adults
- Has a Classic version which is cheaper and offers similar performance if you are on a tight budget
- Definitely needs an improvement in the electronics department. Multiple users complained that the scoring screens stop working after a few months.
- Assembly takes some time
- Only comes with 4 basketballs
If you want to read more on the topic of shooting accurately through various shooting drills, then head over to my dedicated article on the topic!
As a whole, I gave the ESPN EZ Fold Indoor Basketball Game a four and a half out of five star rating mainly due to its issues with the scoreboard and how difficult it is to assemble on your own. Other than that, it really is an amazing game for both kids and adults and is far more practical than its competition. If you are looking for something that won’t take a lot of space in your room but will be just as good when unfolded, this is a good place to start.