Basketball is one of the few sports out there that we can play both outdoors and indoors. When indoors, you usually follow official rules. Outdoor games are normally more relaxed, though.
If you play both indoors and outdoors, chances are you need a basketball to bounce well and resist all kinds of surfaces.
You can probably remember your first basketballs years ago. No one cared if they were made for indoor use or outdoor surfaces. Then, you wondered why they peeled within weeks only. You wondered why the channels are gone after a month or two…
Well, this guide will introduce you to the best indoor/outdoor basketball, a concept that cannot really exist because different players will swear by different basketballs.
I was lucky enough to try out, own, or play with the most reputable basketballs out there. Here is an insight into what you should expect from each of them.
Spalding Zi/O TF Excel – Best Overall
Spalding advertises this ball as being competitive on all surfaces. Try it on a few different types of terrains outdoors, take it indoors, play a few games, and you will realize that the claims are true. This basketball does provide a flawless experience anywhere, anytime.
It comes in the official size 7, and it is enhanced with the so-called Zi/O Tournament composite cover. It feels great, maybe a bit tacky, but give it time. After a few games, it will literally stick to your hand. The bounce is consistent, so you can easily control it without looking at it.
The ball has a foam-backed design, which also contributes to how it feels. It stays by your side, but it will also fly smoothly when you shoot. It maintains the direction through the air with no surprises at all. After all, it is a Spalding ball. I have never had any issues with the brand.
If there is one thing I could complain about, that is the fact that, just like other Spalding balls, this one may need to break in. Indeed, it is not real leather, and you can normally play with it out of the box, but it simply feels better and easier to control after a few games.
- Great control
- Durable cover
- Consistent bounce
- Ships inflated and ready for a game
- Good value for money
- May need breaking in
Wilson NCAA – Best for Grip
Wilson is the relatively new official name for the NBA. I find it hard to believe it will last as much as Spalding did. This is why most people see Spalding as being synonymous with basketball. However, Wilson has dramatically increased its quality standards over the past few years.
This ball is designed with grip and control in mind. Trust me, you can play indoors, outdoors, in light rain, or even with sweaty hands. It simply sticks to your hand. Once you get the ball, it will stay there and follow your moves.
How come? First of all, Wilson has brought in a soft touch composite cover, which makes the ball feel butter soft and easy to control. Then, the deep channel design allows great control both indoors and outdoors. Even when used outdoors in a dusty environment, control is still above average.
Available in the official size 7, the ball has a superior carcass design, which boosts the rebounding capabilities, but also adds to its durability on any surface. For best results, make sure you inflate it to 8PSI. Finally, the ball is also available in a bunch of different colors and combos.
- Available in more colors for a change
- Improved grip and control
- Good air retention
- Rebounding capabilities are flawless
- Great value for money
- Slippery in the beginning, but excellent after a couple of games
Baden Contender – Best for Consistency
Available in a few different sizes, including the official one, Baden’s Contender Basketball has climbed among the front runners over the past year, and for some good reasons. The ball is soft and comfy, which adds to the control, but it can also be super tough for an aggressive game.
Baden has designed this ball with the intention to perform. Therefore, you have a top-notch composite cover that adds to the grip and control. It is consistent, but it will also retain its capabilities in the long run. No matter what surface you use it on, it will provide longevity and long-term performance.
The symmetrical design adds to its perfect balance. Also, the ball is built with wide panels, meaning there will be no lumps later on to affect the bounce. Air retention is just as good. Sure, I still checked the pressure every now and then, but I was surprised by the consistency.
Finally, apart from different sizes, you can also choose from different colors. Most people stick to that classic light brown design, but you can also opt for some funky styles. For example, you could get this ball in navy and white or perhaps red and white.
- More sizes and colors
- Good air retention
- Consistent performance
- Wide panel design
- Both soft and tough
- Bounce may sound a bit cheap when compared to a Spalding or Wilson ball
Spalding React TF-250 – Best for Air Retention
Spalding’s React TF-250 model could be the best indoor/outdoor basketball. It has more reviews than any other Spalding design, and believe it or not, it is likely to become a cult. It has been produced for years, and chances are it will not suffer from too many improvements in the future either.
Available in the official NBA size and weight, the ball features an all-surface composite leather cover. Let me make it simple for you. It feels like leather and offers the same type of grip and control. However, it is not real leather and will resist harsh outdoor surfaces too.
What truly impressed me about this ball is the air retention. I have had Spalding balls before, and you still need to check the pressure every month or so. But this one was flawless. I only had to add a bit of pressure every three or four months, mostly because of the butyl rubber bladder.
The ball ships inflated and can be used out of the box. Unlike other Spalding basketballs, it feels alright as soon as you start playing. It does not feel like it needs breaking in, yet some people claim it feels better after a week or so.
- Impressive air retention
- Feels like it sticks to the hand
- Good control and grip
- Consistent bounce
- Official size and weight
- Graphics fade away much faster when used outdoors
AND1 Street Grip – Best for Attractive Designs
AND1 has always been associated with freestyle basketball, tricks, fun games, and shows. This ball makes no exception either. While the ball does raise to professional standards, it stands out with its unique designs, gold letters, funky colors, and so on. There are lots of options to choose from.
Now, moving on to the actual performance, the ball comes in the official weight and size. Just like other balls in this range, it features a composite leather cover. However, it feels like the material is much better than what you can get from other brands.
You have an easy grip, and great control, but what truly surprised me is that you have the exact same level of control after a few months of playing. Sure, make sure dust does not settle in the channels, but other than that, it retains its capabilities. It has a deep channel design too, which definitely helps.
If you have bought a basketball before, you probably know already you need to get ready with a pump. The last thing you want is to get a ball and find yourself unable to play because it is deflated or underinflated. No worries! AND1 added a 12-inch inflation pump in the package, so there will be no issues at all.
- Available in more funky designs
- Retains its grip over time
- Good feel
- Comes with a pump
- Deep channel build
- Might get a bit slippery when wet
Why Choose an Indoor/Outdoor Basketball?
A simple search over the Internet will give you different specializations for basketballs. Some of them are suitable for indoor use only. Take them outdoors on hard surfaces like concrete, and they will wear out within weeks only. Plus, handling could be an issue when the dust settles in the channels.
On the same note, an outdoor basketball is more likely to last when used indoors, but the bounce and design are suitable for rough surfaces. When used indoors, chances are it will bounce too much and may often surprise you with the direction.
Indoor/outdoor basketballs offer a bit from each world. They are not perfect indoors and they are not perfect outdoors, but they get the job done without any surprises. Here are a few reasons why I think they are excellent.
Not Sure Where You Play
This is the main reason wherefore so many people buy indoor/outdoor basketballs. If you are just getting into basketball, you have no clue where you will spend most of your time playing. It could be an indoor court or the harsh concrete outdoors. Play it safe and go for this type of basketball.
You Will Play Everywhere
An indoor/outdoor basketball is also suitable if you know you might play on indoor courts, as well as outside with your friends and neighbors. Sure, you could buy two basketballs then, but having an all-purpose one is just more convenient.
You Want the Best of Everything
Even if you only play indoors or outdoors, indoor/outdoor basketball will give you the benefits of both worlds. What does it mean? Good bounce, great control, and durability. The ball will never be too bouncy or squeaky either.
Choosing the Best Indoor/Outdoor Basketball – Our Buying Guide
Ask five people about the best indoor/outdoor basketball, and there is a decent chance to get five different answers. Of course, there are a few front runners out there, and for some good reasons. Keep asking, and some names will start repeating. But then, how do you choose the best basketball?
Alright, I admit it, the brand is not that important if you have performance. You can find quality basketballs made by brands other than Spalding and Wilson. However, I still recommend going for a world-renowned brand, and I will explain why.
You can buy a cheap rubber basketball from a toy store for about $10, or you can spend three times more for a branded one. Going with a reputable brand guarantees high-quality standards and a more professional experience.
With these ideas in mind, I would stick to Spalding, Wilson, AND1, Baden, or Nike. There are, indeed, a few other brands making it big and matching quality standards, but be cautious about buying a nameless basketball.
This aspect defines value for money. You want a ball that will last for a few good years, offer consistency and never lose its grip. It might be a bit difficult, especially if you smash it daily on hard surfaces without any maintenance at all.
But generally speaking, when it comes to outdoor games, you need the ball to be durable. Stick to a ball that is actually rated to be designed for indoor/outdoor uses. Just because an indoor ball will perform well outdoors for a while, it does not mean that it will last.
Outdoor and indoor/outdoor balls feature a composite material that can handle asphalt and concrete better than indoor composite or even leather.
Size and Weight
Unless you buy this ball for a kid, opt for the official size because it provides the best bounce and performance. Besides, manufacturers tend to focus on this size, while smaller sizes might be slightly overlooked.
The official size is 7 and comes with a 29.5-inch circumference.
Control and Grip
Wide channels add to the bounce and control, even if the ball gets a bit dusty. Pebbling is just as important, yet the surface will slowly wear out with time. Moisture-wicking capabilities are just as useful when your hands go sweaty.
Indeed, checking the grip and control is difficult by looking at pictures online. I recommend trying and playing with different balls, whether you play in school or with some friends. You can then get a better idea of what to expect.
If you only rely on the online experience, opt for deep channels, good pebbling, and moisture-wicking features.
The price is extremely important when looking for the best indoor/outdoor basketball. You cannot spend more than what you can afford. Now, here comes some good news. A nameless rubber ball from a toy store will cost about $10. A quality unit from a reputable brand will cost between $30 and $40.
This kind of price will not break the bank. If you can afford $10 on a terrible ball, I believe you can make an effort and afford $40 on a quality one. A good ball will last for at least a year, maybe up to a few good years. It offers good value for money as well.
Moreover, most quality balls tend to go in the same price range.
Best Indoor/Outdoor Basketball – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What is the best material for basketballs?
Genuine leather is the most professional material out there. It is soft, but it needs breaking in. It is only suitable for indoor use. Indoor/outdoor basketballs, as well as outdoor basketballs, will require a composite material that imitates leather but offers more strength and durability for harsh surfaces.
What happens when you use an indoor ball outside?
Indoor balls are suitable for smooth surfaces like parquet. Use it outside on rough asphalt or concrete and it will wear out within weeks only, losing control and grip. In more severe cases, leather will actually crack when used outdoors.
What type of basketball has the best grip?
Leather ensures a perfect grip, but cannot be used outdoors. Composite or synthetic leather offers the same high-quality grip, but more durability for outdoor uses too.
Deciding on the best indoor/outdoor basketball can be tricky because there are many quality options in this range and they come with similar properties and features.
Wilson NCAA could be the best option out there because it provides flawless grip and control, which is imperative, regardless of your playing style. On the other hand, Spalding Zi/O TF Excel goes a bit further in quality and offers excellent value for money.