The 8 Best Basketballs of 2021

And what you should look for to play your best

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Verywell / Chloe Jeong

Basketball is a popular sport among both kids and adults and with good reason. It’s fun to practice on your own or play with others, and it’s also a great form of exercise, as both a cardio and strengthening workout. Choosing the right basketball for your needs and preferences is important to a successful start with the sport or taking your game to the next level.

Here are the best basketballs for all ages and needs.

Our Top Picks
Perfect for basketball lovers who want a durable, versatile ball that can go from blacktop games to indoor courts.
Designed exclusively for indoor use, it has a microfiber cover with high-definition pebbling, providing superior grip and control.
Made with a high-performance rubber cover, it bounces consistently and is rugged enough to handle asphalt and concrete courts.
A versatile option for kids doing shooting drills in a gym or practicing free throws in their driveway.
Kids will love the unique style and excellent performance of this basketball that can be used both outside and indoors.
Designed to withstand sun, chlorine, and heat without fading or deflating.
The soft, composite leather cover is also easy to grip, which is crucial for kids who are just starting out with the sport.
With wide channels on the ball’s surface, you can get good control and grip as you’re dribbling, passing, and shooting.

Best Overall: Spalding NBA Zi/O Indoor-Outdoor 29.5" Basketball

Spalding NBA Zi/O Indoor/Outdoor Basketball - Official Size 7 (29.5")
Pros
  • Durable

  • Good for indoor or outdoor use

  • Soft feel

  • Good value

Cons
  • One size

  • Pricier than some others

Spalding is known for their high-quality, durable basketballs, and their Zi/O model is no exception. It’s perfect for basketball lovers who want a durable, versatile ball that can go from blacktop games to indoor courts. This fan-favorite also has a composite leather cover with pebbling that gives you the right touch and flexibility for indoor or outdoor play.

With deep seams for easy ball handling, the Zi/O also has a foam backing that creates a soft feel and grip. Ballers also love that it requires very little time to break in. Whether you want to practice free throws in your driveway or bring it to a local gym for home-court advantage, it’s an excellent pick that gives you a lot of bang for your buck.

Material: Composite leather | Use: Outdoor/indoor | Size: 29.5-inch diameter

Best for Indoor: Wilson Evolution Game Basketball

Pros
  • Great for indoor play

  • Durable

  • Excellent grip

  • Soft feel

Cons
  • Expensive

  • Not for outdoor use

If you want to take your indoor game to the next level, consider practicing with the Wilson Official Evolution Basketball, the preferred ball of many high school and college players. One of the secrets to this ball’s exceptional performance is its Cushion Core Technology, which allows for a soft feel and outstanding durability.

Designed exclusively for indoor use, it has a microfiber cover with high-definition pebbling, providing superior grip and control. The ball’s composite laid-in channels add to its consistent texture and overall feel. The Evolution costs more than the average ball, but it’s well worth the investment.

Material: Microfiber cover | Use: Indoor | Sizes: 27.5-, 28.5-, 29.5-inch diameters

Best for Outdoor: Spalding NBA Street Basketball

Pros
  • Great for outdoor use

  • Comes inflated

  • Very durable

  • Consistent grip and bounce

Cons
  • Some say it doesn’t hold air

  • Not for indoor use

Another great pick from Spalding, their NBA Street model is ideal for outdoor use. Made with a high-performance rubber cover, it bounces consistently and is rugged enough to handle asphalt and concrete courts.

The wide and deep channels also allow for excellent grip. It performs well right out of the box, with no break-in period required, so you can get right to dribbling and shooting.

The NBA Street comes in three different sizes, so you can pick the one that’s right for your (or your child's) age and skill level. If you’re looking for a reliable, high-quality basketball for outdoor use, this is a great option that won’t break the bank.

Material: Rubber | Use: Outdoor | Sizes: 27.5-, 28.5-, 29.5-inch diameters  

Best for Training: SportimeMax Hands-on Junior Basketball

Pros
  • Great for training young players

  • Good for indoor or outdoor use

  • Durable

  • Works for both righties and lefties

Cons
  • Only one size

  • Comes deflated

Learning how to properly shoot a basketball can be a challenge for anyone, especially young kids. However, this SportimeMax Hands-on Junior Basketball makes it easy to show young players the proper hand positioning.

The ball features color-coded right- and left-hand prints on the surface to indicate the correct one-handed shooting form for both righties and lefties. Plus, the yellow and orange striping provides clear directions for the correct rotation of the ball, so kids can easily see when they put just the right spin on their shots.

The durable rubber cover can withstand both outdoor and indoor play, making it a versatile option for kids doing shooting drills in a gym or practicing free throws in their driveway.

Materials: Rubber | Use: Indoor/Outdoor | Size: 27-inch diameter

Best Design: Chance Premium Rubber Outdoor / Indoor Basketball

Pros
  • Cool designs

  • Great for kids

  • Good for indoor or outdoor use

  • Easy to grip

Cons
  • Comes deflated

  • Doesn’t come with a pump or needle

Kids will love the unique style and excellent performance of this basketball that can be used both outside and indoors. They can choose from a variety of cool, bright colors and patterns, including camo designs, stripes, and animal prints. With an aggressive pebble pattern and deep channels, this basketball is easy for kids to grip and control.

Available in three different sizes, the ball comes deflated, and you’ll need your own air pump and inflation needle. Once it’s inflated, the bladder locks in air for just the right ball pressure and shape retention, so kids will get a consistent bounce as they’re playing.

Material: Rubber | Use: Outdoor/indoor | Sizes: 27.5-, 28.5-, 29.5-inch diameters

Best for Water: Dunnrite 9” Pool/Water Basketball

Pros
  • Perfect for pool use

  • Durable

  • Good size for kids

  • Anti-slip texture

Cons
  • Comes deflated

  • Smaller than regulation-size basketballs

When it’s too hot to play on outdoor courts, the pool is a safe and fun place to work on your shooting or play against your friends. Perfect for pool use, the Dunnrite Pool/Water basketball is designed to withstand sun, chlorine, and heat without fading or deflating, and it even comes with a one-year manufacturer’s warranty.

The 9-inch ball also features an anti-slip texture so you can grip it easily in the water. The smaller size makes it easy for kids to handle, and it works better with pool basketball hoops than a full-sized water ball.

It comes deflated, so you’ll just need to pump it up with air before throwing it in the pool.

Material: Rubber | Use: Water | Size:  9-inch diameter

Best for Young Kids: Spalding Rookie Gear Indoor/Outdoor Composite 27.5 Youth Basketball

Pros
  • Fun design

  • Good for indoor or outdoor use

  • Nice size for young kids

  • Soft, durable cover

Cons
  • Pricier than some other youth balls

  • Some say it’s too lightweight

With so many different skills involved in the game, basketball can be a tough sport for young kids to learn and master. However, the right gear can make a huge difference in maintaining their interest and helping them get over frustrating obstacles.

The brightly-colored Spalding’s Rookie Gear Youth Indoor-Outdoor basketball not only looks cool but also has a smaller circumference that makes it easy for little hands to grab and shoot.

Unlike hard, rubber basketballs that are geared toward younger children, it’s lightweight and easy to bounce. The soft, composite leather cover is also easy to grip, which is crucial for kids who are just starting out with the sport. If you’re looking for a durable, versatile, and easy-to-use basketball for your 4- to 7-year-old, it’s a great option.

Materials:  Composite leather | Use: Indoor/Outdoor | Size: 27.5-inch diameter

Best for Older Kids: Wilson NCAA Killer Crossover Basketball, Intermediate Size 7

Wilson NCAA Killer Crossover Basketball
Pros
  • Durable

  • Good for indoor or outdoor use

  • Easy to grip

  • Cool design

Cons
  • Some may not like the color options

  • One size

When young kids are ready to move up to the next size basketball, the Wilson NCAA Killer Crossover basketball is a solid choice. The ball’s Optima rubber cover offers durability, as well as a more consistent bounce. With wide channels on the ball’s surface, you also get good control and grip as you’re dribbling, passing, and shooting.

Kids like the Killer Crossover’s bright, vibrant colors that stand out. For shooting hoops at a local park or doing drills at basketball practice, this ball works for outdoor or indoor play and is a good option for kids aged 8 to 12.

Materials: Rubber | Use: Indoor/outdoor | Size: 28.5-inch diameter

Final Verdict

Whether you’re a serious player or just getting started, the Spalding NBA Zi/O (view at Amazon) is ideal for its ease of use, durability, and grippy surface. The composite leather cover makes it a good choice for both indoor or outdoor play.

If you’re looking for a sturdy ball for outdoor play, Spalding's Street Outdoor Basketball (view at Amazon) is a nice pick.

What to Look for in a Basketball

Material

The surface of most basketballs is made from either rubber or composite leather. Both materials have their pros and cons. “A rubber ball is lighter and more durable than a leather ball in harsh outdoor conditions and is also usually considerably less expensive,” says Greg Kot, co-owner and coach at Over the Edge travel basketball. “When playing on pavement outdoors, leather balls can wear down and become scuffed. But, in general, leather balls are far preferable to rubber balls as they are the most commonly used in competitive situations indoors.”

Size

The right size for a basketball generally depends on age and skill. If you’re searching for a basketball for a young child who’s just getting started, look for a small ball, such as a size 5. Girls play with a 28.5-inch circumference basketball (size 6) at all age levels. Boys play with a 28.5-inch ball through at least age 11. At age 12 and up, boys should begin using a 29.5-inch circumference basketball (size 7), which is the size ball used in boys high school competition and up. 

“Rules on ball size may vary depending on the league and region, so it's important to know the local and state guidelines before you invest in a basketball,” Kot says.

Durability

If the ball is going to be used mostly outdoors, you’ll need an extremely durable ball that can handle unforgiving surfaces, such as concrete and asphalt, as well as dirt, rocks, and moisture. A rubber ball is more suitable for outdoor play.

Cheap outdoor balls wear and break down quickly, so it’s worth the investment to get one that will hold up.

FAQs

How do you shoot a basketball?

Learning the proper technique for shooting a basketball takes a lot of practice. First, get your body square to the basket with equal weight on each foot. Bend your knees slightly and place your dominant hand underneath the basketball. Put the ball onto the fingertips of your shooting hand and place your weak hand on the side of the ball to guide it.

As you focus on the basket, push the ball straight up towards it until your shooting arm extends completely. The ball should roll off your fingertips. Follow through by snapping your wrist in a downward motion.

How do you clean a basketball?

To clean a basketball, you should first fill a bucket with a mixture of warm water and mild detergent. Dip a soft cloth into the water and scrub the surface of the basketball. Rinse the ball with clean warm water and use a dry cloth to wipe any excess water off it.

What are basketball sizes?

A 29.5-inch circumference is the standard ball size for male players over the age of 12 and is the size of the standard NBA regulation balls. It’s also referred to as the size 7 ball. Women and children ages 10 to 12 play with balls of smaller size, usually a 28.5” circumference, that’s also known as a size 6 ball. An even smaller ball, called a size 5 ball, has a 27.5” circumference and is typically used by kids under age 10.

What ball do NBA players use?

The NBA’s official game ball is made by Spalding. It’s made of leather and has a 29.5-inch circumference.

Why Trust Verywell Fit?

Certified running coach and fitness writer Christine Luff has spent years researching, testing, and recommending fitness and athletic products and knows that the right gear can tremendously improve performance and comfort.

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