Basketball Selection Simplified
Finding the best basketball for playing outside can be difficult. The vast array of basketballs that are available, indoor and outdoor, makes the selection process tedious. You may be inclined to pick up the cheapest option, which almost always is an outdoor basketball.
Yes, outdoor basketballs can be used indoors, however, their thick rubber dimples and extra bouncy nature, make them undesirable for indoor situations. Outdoor basketballs are built to withstand being dribbled on rough concrete or in the elements, making them durable, but not always comfortable or grippy.
The only major advantage that outdoor basketballs have over their indoor counterparts is price. They are an extremely low-cost option that, in a pinch, will allow you and your friends to start playing immediately.
Outdoor basketballs are made almost exclusively with rubber. This material is durable and does not absorb water, making it ideal for playing in rain or snow. However, rubber is also quite soft, making it difficult to control and bounce.
The more expensive outdoor basketballs will be called Indoor/Outdoor basketballs and are generally made with some form of synthetic composite material. These basketballs are much closer to the higher quality indoor basketballs, but they come with more cost.
Indoor basketballs are typically made with a combination of materials including the synthetic composite mentioned above and real leather. These materials are comfortable and grippy to the touch, but would not be durable outdoors. More on that below.
If you’re interested in how basketballs are made, check out this article by MadeHow.
- Leather: The traditional and original basketball material, leather takes a lot of time to break in and could require more care. The NBA uses genuine leather basketballs in games and practice.
- Synthetic Composite: This microfiber composite material is the most common type of material used on indoor basketballs today. If you are playing pick-up games at your local gym, this will be the common type of ball you’ll find.
- Rubber: Outdoor basketballs are constructed entirely out of rubber, which can lead to good durability and weather resistance. While this material will resist the elements, well-worn rubber balls can become extremely slippery when wet.
The Indoor Game Ball
Playing indoors has major advantages over playing outdoors and the basketballs available for each situation are suited for different conditions.
If you play pick-up basketball indoors with strangers or friends, the preference of almost all players will be for an indoor dedicated basketball. Bringing an outdoor basketball indoors will work, and be playable, but most players will scoff at using them if a better option is available.
Are we dissuading you from playing with an outdoor basketball indoors? No, you should buy the ball that fits your budget and gets you playing as soon as possible. An outdoor ball will accomplish that task.
Can an Indoor Basketball Be Used Outdoors?
Typically, indoor basketballs cannot be used outdoors because the surfaces are too rough. The leather and most synthetic composite materials will wear away much faster outdoors on hard courts.
Yes, indoor basketballs can be used on outdoor courts, however, they will be damaged by continual use on concrete. Indoor basketballs are built to be comfortable and grippy, with a soft leather-like texture that will not withstand outdoor use for long.
The extra cost of an indoor-specific basketball is not worth risking the shorter lifespan of using it outdoors. However, if you have money to burn, they will work just as well outdoors as they do in.
Buying a Basketball
Deciding ultimately what ball to buy will come down to preference and how you will use the ball. Manufacturers make dedicated indoor balls, dedicated outdoor balls, and even hybrids that will work indoors or out.
Consider where you are going to use the ball the most then consider your budget. If you are primarily using the ball indoors, make the extra investment and get an indoor ball. If you are primarily an outdoor player, determine if you can live with a basic rubber ball or if the extra expense is necessary for a hybrid indoor/outdoor basketball.
Texture and Feel
You won’t know exactly what basketball you will like until you have a chance to grip them or play with them.
- Indoor balls have a smooth texture and some cushioning and give. Some synthetic composite basketballs even have some moisture-wicking properties to keep the ball grippy even with sweat and moisture present.
- Hybrid indoor/outdoor balls are usually also made with synthetic composite materials, however, they aren’t as soft or give as much as a dedicated indoor ball. This allows them to be more durable in all situations.
- Outdoor basketballs generally have a rougher rubber exterior that allows for good grip when dry and extra long durability outside.
Hopefully, we have given you the tools you need to determine what basketball will work for you. Feel free to use that new basketball wherever you like and more importantly, you will use it often so you improve at the game.
In the end, both types of basketball have their advantages and disadvantages. It really comes down to what you are looking for in a ball and what you are willing to pay for it. If you are just starting out and want an inexpensive option, outdoor basketballs will be perfect for you. However, if you are looking for a ball that will last longer and be more playable indoors, invest in an indoor ball instead.