The best outdoor basketball
Nothing beats shooting hoops in the fresh air with the buzz of the park. Next time you head to a game, make sure it's with an outdoor basketball in tow.
Indoor basketballs might cut it on a hardwood court, but they're far too soft for asphalt and concrete. Outdoor basketballs feature superior durable construction and are less susceptible to air loss, punctures, and surface damage. Best of all, outdoor basketballs are specially textured to provide exceptional grip and ball handling.
Ready to choose a new outdoor basketball? Take a look at our comprehensive buying guide, which includes reviews of a few of our favorites at the end. Our top pick, Wilson NCAA Final Four Edition Basketball, has superior durability that lasts through plenty of pick-up games.
Considerations when choosing outdoor basketballs
Quality construction in outdoor basketballs often boils down to air retention. Well-made outdoor basketballs have thick layers and strong reinforced seams. The design aims to eliminate gaps through which air can escape, resulting in deflated balls with poor bounce.
Outdoor basketballs are available in standard ball sizes of one through seven. The majority of them come in size five (youth), six (women's), or seven (men's). It's best to choose a size that accommodates the majority of players in the games you play.
Given the court variation between indoor and outdoor play, bounce consistency is expectedly different with outdoor basketballs. Since they're subjected to heavy handling and rough play, it's no surprise that bounce consistency decreases from the extra wear and tear, especially when it causes air loss.
Outdoor basketballs feature a slightly different texture than indoor ones. Grooves are extra thick to enhance grip, even through dirt and moisture. Some styles even feature additional seams to provide more variety in points of contact.
Color doesn't affect gameplay, but it might play a role in your game experience. Some players gravitate toward brightly colored styles for better visibility. While you can stick to the standard color, outdoor basketballs are available in neon colors and vibrant designs.
Outdoor-only: As their name implies, outdoor-only basketballs are constructed to handle tough court materials like asphalt and concrete. Players may prefer rubber styles which increase rebound, though they still won't be able to replicate the rebound of indoor play.
Indoor/outdoor: These styles are versatile enough for indoor and outdoor use and typically retain their traditional leather game ball look. They're not as durable as outdoor-only balls, so expect to replace these far more often.
Outdoor basketball materials
The inner bladder holds the air in a basketball and is encased by an outer layer of composite/synthetic leather, microfiber composite, or rubber. Each one offers a different grip and gameplay experience.
Composite/synthetic leather: Covers made of composite or synthetic leather have the full-grain feel and responsiveness of indoor court balls. They're often coated and texturized to improve grip and can usually be used for both indoor and outdoor play.
Microfiber composite: Microfiber covers are a bit of an acquired taste, and they were even briefly adopted by the NBA at one point. They're ideal for outdoor basketballs, especially since they have moisture-wicking properties.
Rubber: Rubber covers have impressive durability and offer an exceptional bounce. As expected, they bounce back more than leather, so you may need to tailor your ball handling skills accordingly to maintain control.
Inexpensive rubber outdoor basketballs cost below $20, but for those made of composite leather or microfiber, you can spend closer to $50. For a well-constructed ball designed for heavy use, choose an all-leather ball priced above $50.
Q. Will my outdoor basketball arrive already inflated?
A. Only some outdoor basketballs arrive already inflated, primarily to save on shipping costs. They don't come with their own air pump, so you need to purchase one separately.
Q. How long will an outdoor basketball last?
A. It really depends on how well you maintain your ball, whether it's well constructed, and how often you play. For the most part, if it has good air retention and its grip is intact, your outdoor basketball can last indefinitely.
Outdoor basketballs we recommend
Best of the best: Wilson's NCAA Final Four Edition Basketball
Our take: Solid choice for a kids' or teens' practice ball used to hone ball handling skills.
What we like: Durable construction from premium leather and heavily reinforced stitching.
What we dislike: Will need to be pumped up after repeated use.
Best bang for your buck: Spalding's NBA Super Tack Basketball
Our take: Wallet-friendly option for a practice ball with superior surface texture.
What we like: Available in two sizes. Well-made to handle plenty of indoor and outdoor use.
What we dislike: Outdoor use causes significantly more wear and tear than indoor use.
Our take: Preferred for casual use, especially with its unique color schemes.
What we like: Well-liked for grip feel. Butyl bladder holds in air better than some premium basketballs.
What we dislike: Comes deflated. Better suited for kids.
Sian Babish is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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