When it comes to basketball, most of us will need an outdoor ball.
The truth is unless you have your own indoor court or you can gain access to one, most of your training will go outdoors.
When I think about my first basketball, it was a cheap rubber piece from a local supermarket. It was far from the best basketball, but it bounced, and it helped me appreciate the game.
In the 15 years since that first basketball, I have been through pretty much any type, make, or model of basketball. In this guide, I will help you identify the best outdoor basketball, as well as what you should expect from the top-rated balls on the market.
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Wilson NBA DRV Series
Best Balanced Overall Performance
Spalding Zi/O TF
Best for Indoor Outdoor Uses
AND1 Street Grip
Best Style and Design
Spalding Street Phantom
Best Cheap Basketball
Molten BG3800 Series
Best Air Retention
I have managed to put together a list of top outdoor basketballs out there. Each of them has its own particularities, hence the necessity for some research.
Spalding might have dominated the industry for decades, but Wilson managed to take over when it became the official NBA supplier in 2021. The NBA DRV Series brings in the size, feeling, and quality of an official basketball, and you can tell straight away.
It comes in more sizes, including the official size 7. In terms of design, it does not personally affect me. After all, you need quality and performance. I could play with a plain ball with no markings if it bounced perfectly. Anyway, the ball has the official NBA branding, as well as the traditional Wilson theme.
The ball features the Tacksin cover. It is a new type of cushion that affects the surface of the ball. I see it as a grip improvement. Basically, the ball sticks to your hands but can release with no issues at all when shooting. It is excellent in all weather conditions.
The new channel design may also add to it. After all, it comes with the NBA professional seams.
Designed with outdoor uses in mind, Wilson’s basketball can take some abuse without showing any signs of wear and tear. It makes no difference if you have an aggressive play or you only enjoy throwing balls and shooting.
Talking about new technologies and extra, the NBA DRV series comes with a modern air retention lining, which ensures air is trapped inside for longer periods of time. Also, you can get it in a few different colors and styles, with DRV Pro being the most popular one.
- Multiple colors and styles
- Good grip in all weather conditions
- NBA seams for a better control
- Good in all weather conditions
- Great performance
- The pump included in the package is not the best
I did start my basketball adventure with a nameless cheap rubber ball from a supermarket, but Spalding was the first major name I played with. It was the first branded basketball I got, and it was for a good reason. Back then, Spalding was the official ball supplier of the NBA. Everyone wanted one…
Anyway, Spalding Street has a self-explanatory name and has been designed with outdoor uses in mind – great for concrete. It comes in an official size, yet you can also opt for an intermediate smaller size or even the youth size. All sizes feature the exact same design.
Based on rubber, this is one of those balls that will last forever. You might as well stick it into the boot of your car, as it is always handy for a quick game, anywhere, anytime. I find it generally good for all playing styles, even if you are just trying to practice three-point shots.
The deep channel design ensures excellent control. Even after a year or two of intense games, channels will still be deep enough to ensure a good experience. You can try to use it indoors if you have no other options, but the bounce will be unusual.
The ball comes deflated. You need your pump. Spalding went a bit cheap here if you ask me, as many manufacturers send small pumps with their balls. Sure, they are not perfect, but they get the job done, meaning you can play within a few minutes after getting the ball.
All in all, if you want value for money and balanced performance, this was the best outdoor basketball for me.
- Balanced performance
- Great value for money
- Good channel depth for control
- Durable design
- Holds air well
- No air pump included in the package
You see, I am not really a big fan of indoor outdoor basketball. I agree they can do a decent job anywhere, anytime. But then, they are not perfect. If you play both indoors and outdoors on a regular basis, fine. Otherwise, I recommend a ball specifically designed for the right environment.
Anyway, if you want something general and useful on any court, this might be the best outdoor basketball out there. I find it better outdoors than indoors, hence the inclusion on this list. Besides, it is made by Spalding, which has a reputation, after all.
It comes in the official size 7, and it usually ships inflated. Basically, you can start bouncing it out of the box. If you do have a pump, you should double-check the pressure for maximum performance. It should be inflated to 8PSI.
The ball comes with a modern Zi/O composite cover. It is pretty much what you can find in official tournaments. It feels the same, and it gives you the same type of control and grip. The ball sticks when you dribble, but flows out of your hands freely when you shoot.
Just like shoes, this ball must be broken in. If you have used other quality basketballs before, it will feel a little weird at first. Make sure it has the right pressure and smash a few games. It will feel much better then.
Back to the indoor outdoor uses, the ball performs better outdoors than indoors.
- Suitable for both indoor and outdoor courts
- Good control
- Comes inflated
- Composite cover for a great grip
- Good value for money
- Needs a few games to break in
Both Spalding and Wilson are known for their high-quality standards. But if you truly want control, Wilson NCAA might be the best outdoor basketball. Why? Simple! It looks like everything about it revolves around control.
This ball works wonders for those who like to dribble. It has a soft touch composite cover, which makes it feel a bit tacky. Basically, the ball nearly sticks to your hand, but it can also fly away really fast when it has to.
The carcass design will not disappoint, either. If this is your first professional basketball, you will notice the difference straight away. The rebound is superior. You know exactly where the ball is going. You will improve your control without even looking at it.
The overall design adds to the durability as well. The ball is great outdoors, but it is actually designed for indoor outdoor uses. You might as well take it indoors if you have no other options. It will definitely not disappoint.
Moving on to style, design, and recommendations, you can have a classic style, or you can opt for funky colors, such as navy, purple, or even white. The performance will not be affected, though. It comes in a few different styles too, not to mention sizes.
As for inflation, 8PSI will do.
- Flawless control
- Tacky feeling
- More colors and styles
- Good rebounding capabilities
- Durable design
- Might feel a bit slippery at first, so give it a few games for even better control
I know you are not really supposed to care about the appearance if the performance is flawless, and more importantly, you should never get a basketball just because it looks good. The performance comes first, but this ball has both. And the appearance will definitely make it stand out.
All in all, it comes in the official basketball size 7, with 29.5 inches in circumference. Personally, I find it a bit lighter than other similar balls, so the overall control stands out. Plus, you can play for hours without feeling any fatigue.
The basketball is based on top-notch premium composite leather. The material is great for control and grip. Throw in the lightweight profile, and you have the perfect option. It is also durable and can easily pass the test of time.
The control is enhanced by the deep channel design too. The ball is suitable for both indoor and outdoor uses, but I find its performance better on a hard surface. It just feels prompt and straightforward. You know exactly where it is about to go when it rebounds.
Now, the performance is great, so let me get back to the appearance. You can get the classic light brown profile with some golden accents around the make and model. You can also go for pure black and silver or perhaps a splashed green design.
Finally, despite the size, the ball is suitable for young players as well due to its weight.
- Beautiful appearance
- Grip stands out
- Great both indoors and outdoors
- The pump included in the package
- Good bounce
- The top layer wears out pretty fast when used exclusively outdoors
Looking for an official-size outdoor basketball made by a reputable manufacturer that will not cost you a fortune? Search no more! Spalding also targets this consumer market and has brought in a ball that costs almost as little as those nameless basketballs you can find in toy stores.
Available in the official size 7, the basketball also comes in a bunch of different colors. It is mostly available in black, but channels and branding can be blue, green, orange, and so on. It may not be relevant for most people, but the design adds a bit of style to it.
It comes with a top-performance rubber cover, as well as modern soft grip technology. Indeed, as you start playing, it feels soft and comfy. Believe it or not, it will retain this sensation even after months of outdoor use.
The basketball has a sponge rubber design. It is a bit unusual for Spalding balls, and to be honest, I have never used a Spalding ball with this type of feeling. It does feel weird at first, but you will get used to it, and you will actually love it.
Designed for outdoor play only, the ball can be used indoors too, but trust me, it will feel awkward. The bounce is too high, and it will jump all over. Everything changes when used outdoors. It is well-balanced and suitable for both attacking and defending styles.
The basketball comes inflated and ready for a game.
- Great value for money
- Design stands out
- Good balanced overall performance
- Sponge rubber design
- Soft grip technology
- A bit bouncy at first, but it breaks in quickly
Nike just could not miss this chart. While not among the top basketball brands out there, Nike is a solid name in the sports market. I have had the opportunity to try out a few balls, and I must say they provide a top-notch experience. The Baller is probably the best outdoor basketball from Nike.
Available in a few different colors and styles, the ball is less likely to impress straight away. It is one of the most durable basketballs I have ever used. Chances are it will feel the same after a year of intense use. What I mean is this ball will impress you in the long run, rather than straight away.
Even if you invest in more reputable and expensive basketballs, the Baller will be that reliable backup you can always use for a quality game. It has an ultra-solid exterior designed specifically for harsh outdoor games.
Nike has not overlooked other basketball elements either. The Baller comes with relatively deep channels. You will find the alignment to be flawless. Besides, there are no issues with the control and grip, whether you are the offensive or defensive type.
The basketball has the official size and weight. I recommend inflating it to 8PSI, which is quite standard for basketballs. Rebounding and bouncing capabilities are not impressive, but they will not bother you either.
Keep in mind that it does not come with an air pump.
- Durable and solid build
- Good value for money
- Excellent alignment
- Good for both offensive and defensive players
- Official size and weight
- Air pump not included in the package
Molten’s BG3800 Series has been produced for a few years now, and I honestly believe this concept will be around for many more years. The brand proudly advertises its FIBA-approved ball, with a certification that is expanded on a yearly basis.
The ball is available in size 7, which is official for the NBA, as well as college basketball. It has the official 12-panel construction, as well as a two-tone design. At first touch, it feels like any other reputable basketball.
However, after a few uses, you will realize that it never fails you. It has excellent control, and once you get used to it, you will know exactly where it goes when bouncing or rebounding. It is the type of ball that allows full control without even looking at it.
The ball is excellent for both indoor and outdoor uses, and I must say it works fairly well in any environment. I find it better outdoors, though. But assuming you are used to it, you are less likely to have any unexpected surprises on an indoor court.
The synthetic cover has relatively deep channels for easy maneuverability, as well as a butyl bladder that ensures perfect air retention. While this feature does stand out, I still recommend checking the pressure once a month or so.
While not one of the top players on the market, I find Molten a fairly good choice with a great balance.
- Good air retention technology
- FIBA approved
- Great control
- Good rebounding capabilities
- Good value for money
- Ships deflated
Which Is the Best Outdoor Basketball Brand?
Spalding versus Wilson is a comparison that will always spark a debate between players and fans. Spalding is synonymous with the NBA. After all, it has been the official basketball supplier for the NBA for decades. But then, Wilson took over in 2021.
Spalding is a popular brand. It is a classic name and is often preferred by professionals. Wilson has raised the quality standards over the past years, hence its growing popularity. These days, more and more people turn to Wilson too.
As a brief comparison between the two, I would say Spalding provides more quality. Sure, basketballs will also cost a bit more, but some models come with premium leather. Not only are they durable, but they also feel extraordinary.
On the other hand, Wilson offers better value for money. Such balls feel great in terms of control. Wilson also brings in some different material combos, mostly known for their moisture-wicking capabilities. Each option has its pros.
Spalding mostly relies on Horween leather. Premium composite leather is also used for cheaper basketballs. The result? Impressive durability. The balls must be broken in, though. Once there, they will feel incredibly soft.
Wilson uses EVO microfiber composite materials for its basketballs. They feel great out of the box. Most of them do not need breaking in. They are consistent in control and grip.
While these two options run the market, there are other alternatives too.
Nike is associated with the sports industry and provides all sorts of equipment for different sports, not to mention accessories. Nike basketballs tend to provide good quality and durability. However, they cannot compare to Spalding or Wilson.
They are excellent for beginners and intermediate players, but there is a reason wherefore you will not see them in official games or competitions. At least not yet. At the moment, they offer good value for money.
Molten is somewhere in the middle. Quality is impressive, and believe it or not, many Molten basketballs are actually approved for official competitions. In terms of pricing, they are more expensive than other balls but cheaper than official NBA and Spalding alternatives.
I would put AND1 in the same category as Nike. The brand is less likely to become official in NBA competitions too soon, but it is often associated with freestyle basketball all over the world. Such balls offer incredible grip. In fact, it feels better than what you can get from more expensive balls.
The list is longer, and there are definitely other brands out there, but these ones dominate the market, with Spalding and Wilson being the front runners.
My advice? Try out different balls, whether your friends have different brands or you play in school. See what feels better and choose the best outdoor basketball with your skills and needs in mind.
Choosing the Best Outdoor Basketball – Our Buying Guide
The type of basketball you choose will have a great influence on your game and evolution. I have tried everything in the past, and I am sure most players have been through the same process. In fact, I recommend trying different brands and models because you need to find what suits you.
But then, there are a few other things that imply more than just your skills and needs.
Choose the Right Size
Picking the size is a fairly simple process. The size does not depend on the player’s age and size only, but also on the skill and court. Most sizes are given for age groups. For example, the mini size has a circumference of 22 inches only. It is suitable for young kids.
Moving on to more official sizes, size 5 is for children under 10. The circumference goes around 27.5 inches. Small hands can comfortably handle the ball, not to mention the lightweight profile. Kids larger than average can do with the next size up, though.
The so-called transition size is suitable for intermediate players. It is normally aimed at kids younger than 15 and is referred to as size 6. It has 28.5 inches in circumference and has a decent weight of 20 ounces. This size is quite official and is often used in high school and even college competitions.
Believe it or not, you may even find it in professional games, but not in the NBA.
Finally, the official basketball size is suitable for everyone over 15. Size 7 weighs 22 ounces and measures 29.5 inches in circumference. This is what the NBA uses, yet semi-professional competitions may also rely on it.
Decide on the Material
In my opinion, this is the most important consideration when choosing the best outdoor basketball. Let me explain why. Outdoor surfaces are usually rough and harsh, while indoor surfaces are not that abrasive. Using an indoor basketball outside will ruin it in no time, not to mention affecting your skill.
On the same note, an outdoor basketball will have an awkward bounce when used indoors.
There are three general materials to look for.
Leather is known as the most expensive material, but it may not be such a good option for outdoor surfaces. Indoor courts are usually based on wooden floors, which help balls last longer. Leather also provides an excellent grip, even with sweaty hands.
Official competitions are held indoors, so this is why leather is preferred. It is butter soft and will provide a comfortable feel. But just like shoes, leather needs to be broken in. This is why you may see NBA players smashing balls against the ground before games.
As for the price, leather is the most expensive material.
Synthetic basketballs are based on composite leather. Basically, the material feels like real leather, but it is not that fragile. Such balls are excellent for both indoor and outdoor uses. It depends on the manufacturing process and small particularities.
Check the specifications if you are not sure.
Unlike real leather, composite leather does not require breaking in. It provides a good grip and excellent control straight away. The material is consistent and durable, hence its popularity among basketball manufacturers.
Finally, rubber is similar to composite leather. It is suitable for both indoor and outdoor uses. It is great for beginners, but also for those who are on a budget. Rubber is cheaper than both composite leather and genuine leather.
On a different note, rubber is the longest-lasting material. It makes a good choice for those who prefer playing basketball for recreational purposes every now and then, rather than pushing for competitions.
What Is Your Budget?
The price is another important consideration when trying to find the best outdoor basketball. At this point, there are two options. You can go for a reputable brand, or you can go for a nameless basketball or even a replica.
If you want quality, stick to the branded alternative. Indeed, a top brand will be much more expensive, whether you go for Spalding or Wilson. Other brands will also cost more than a nameless ball. But at the end of the day, you will not have to sell a kidney to get a proper ball.
A quality branded basketball will cost anywhere between $20 and $35, which is not really a fortune.
Apart from Spalding and Wilson, you can also go for Molten, which is official in FIBA events, as well as other domestic leagues all over the world. Nike is a good choice too, not to mention less-known brands, like Nivia or Rawlings.
I do not recommend going cheap and saving $5 or $10 because you get what you pay for. Such a basketball will give you nothing in return, but awkward rebounding and bouncing, impossible control, or a poor grip.
Go for a branded basketball, and you will experience quality at its finest. Of course, if you are just starting to play basketball, a cheap option is desired. Get used to the moves and start developing, but you will need to make a switch sooner rather than later.
How About the Color?
To me personally, the color is the last thing I care about. I could go on a court and play with a pink basketball with green flowers drawn all over it if it provides excellent comfort, grip, and control. However, the color does matter to some people, and that is perfectly fine.
The burnt orange color is by far the most popular option. It is common in professional competition, and more importantly, the ball is visible in most environments. It is used in the NBA, FIBA, and other similar competitions.
When it comes to women, the classic design can be enhanced with attractive accents, such as white, red, green, pink, or yellow. Burnt orange still remains the official color for major competitions. Then, you have kids’ colors, which are eye-catching and suitable for youngsters.
Tips and Tricks to Be Successful in Outdoor Basketball
Basketball is an incredible sport, and chances are most people will give it a try at some point or another. Unless you have your own court in the garage or you hire one, you will usually train and play outdoors. How do you become the best at it then? Here are a few tips and tricks from my personal experience.
At this point, it is useless to mention the necessity of a quality basketball. You want something that suits your style and can provide durability and strength while on the court, not to mention control. But what else can make the difference?
Go For Sweat-Wicking Clothes
I know, no one will really bother about clothes when it comes to training or having a fun game with some of your buddies. Just get some shorts, and a T-shirt, and you are ready to go. Things change when you play against others, or you go to a public court and challenge some strangers.
As you play the sport, you generate heat. It is an intense physical activity. Water vapor is pushed out of the body, and this is when sweat kicks in. Sweat is natural and aims to prevent the body from overheating during such activities.
Sweat can still cause a lot of trouble in the long run, especially if it cannot evaporate fast enough. It is uncomfortable and will most likely affect your skills. With these thoughts in mind, you need clothes that can absorb sweat, rather than let it soak.
Such fabrics are usually synthetic and based on nylon or polypropylene. Moisture-wicking capabilities are not to be overlooked either. The fabric takes sweat and pushes it onto the surface, where it dries naturally within minutes only.
Hydration makes perfect sense. At the end of the day, you cannot even go on with your game if you feel too bad. When thirst kicks in, you need water straight away. Your body will regain energy and start functioning properly.
Water helps digestion, but more importantly, it keeps the body temperature under control. It also helps blood push nutrients to organs, boosts flexibility, prevents potential injuries like cramps, and reduces tiredness and fatigue.
I know keeping hydrated makes common sense. But I also know that everyone overlooks it. If you are like me when I started playing basketball, you will wait until the last moment to take a break. You will wait until you are really thirsty until you will get some water. Bad idea.
Do it regularly. Whenever you come close to the bottle, have a few sips.
Keep an Eye on the Weather
No one cares about what is outside when indoors. But when it comes to outdoor basketball, you need to check the weather in advance. Too hot for the day? Grab a few extra bottles of water. You will need them as soon as you start playing.
Windy? Indeed, it can affect the direction of your ball when you shoot, but you can usually adjust without too much hassle. If the wind blows in one direction, aim for the opposite direction to balance it. Keep in mind that most players will have the same difficulty.
Rain? It could be quite tempting to play in light rain. After all, it is refreshing and can keep you cool. But if there are puddles, they will affect the game. Not only do you risk injuring yourself if you slip, but you will also find it more difficult to control the ball.
Basketball is a team game, but there are times when you may need to play alone too. If you are just starting up, keep in mind that there are certain aspects you need to work on personally. This is why you may have to practice alone at times.
Whether you get a hoop at home or you reach a public court by yourself, practice your foot movement. Practice your shots and control. Get used to the ball you use and identify your flaws. Such things are often overlooked by newbies, but they work a very long way.
Even the best players in the world practice alone every now and then.
Best Outdoor Basketball – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What size should a basketball be?
The size depends on the player’s size and age. For example, the 29.5-inch circumference, also known as size 7, is the standard size for adult players. The NBA also relies on this standard. Women may go for a size down, though. At the end of the day, it depends on your skills, preferences, and goals.
Which basketball is best for beginners?
Most brands create basketballs for both beginners and advanced players. A complete beginner should pick the largest possible size, but also go for cheap material, such as rubber. Once they get used to basketball, they can swap to more qualitative balls and materials.
Why did the NBA switch to Wilson basketballs?
Wilson has dramatically increased the manufacturing quality of its basketballs. While Spalding is still considered the ultimate brand in terms of quality, Wilson brings in materials that can replicate leather, without needing any breaking in.
Deciding on the best outdoor basketball is definitely a challenge. There are lots of options out there, but some of them can easily stand out in the crowd.
My best advice is to try out different types and see how they feel, whether you play with friends or hang around some strangers on the court. At the end of the day, different people have different needs.
Spalding Street is one of the most balanced balls out there. It offers everything you need but within some limits. If you are after control and an outstanding grip, Wilson NCAA might be a better choice.