Most hoopers hit the park or the portable hoop in their driveway at some point to practice their ball handling or to play pick up games. So today we’re going to look at the best outdoor basketballs that give you a great grip and feel, and superior durability.
Based on customer reviews, popular review sites, and our experience playing, we’ve pulled together a quick guide. We’ll share what you should know and buy when looking for your outdoor basketball. Plus, our top picks including their key features, pros, cons, and reviews.
We’ll share top picks from Wilson, Spalding, Nike, and more. Wilson manufactured the basketballs for the NBA from 1946 until 1983. And they recently replaced Spalding as the official supplier for the NBA at the start of the 2021-22 season. They’re also the supplier for the WNBA.
Wilson Evolution is the gold standard for performance. While it’s not technically an outdoor ball, this is the best ball to hoop with, period. It holds up better than some outdoor balls, and overall is much nicer to play with. Ours have lasted about a year outdoors, but it will depend how much you use it. The Wilson Evolution Game Ball is the preferred basketball in high schools across the country. So these balls are used in most leagues, and the weight and feel will be the same for you in both game and practice. Every part of this ball, from the unparalleled soft-feel composite cover to the laid-in channels provide an exceptional grip and soft feel.
Pros: Feel, grip, weight
Cons: On the more expensive side
If you’re looking for something a bit cheaper, but still with solid outdoor performance, check out the Spalding Zi/O. This is a great all-purpose ball with durability at a great price point. It’s designed for both indoor and outdoor play and features Zi/O Tournament composite cover that grips well (not as well as Wilson, but still nicely). It’s slightly less bounce than a rubber ball which is expected, but it feels far more like a professional ball, and it lasts quite a while. This ball is Amazon’s Choice in the basketballs category.
Pros: Shipped inflated and game ready
Cons: It will last a decent amount of time, but the composite leather picks up more dirt and dust from the courts than other materials.
This is a true outdoor ball and as a result is made of rubber. It has a durable outdoor rubber cover, and deep channel design that’s very grippy for easy handles. Featuring a solid bounce, it’s known to last over a year. For those looking for a lower budget ball, get the Spalding NBA street outdoor ball for something you can use for any practice or pick up game. It can handle the rain as well.
Pros: Low price
Cons: Comes deflated
The Nike Elite All-Court Basketball is great for the blacktop. It’s 84% rubber and 16% synthetic leather non-woven, so it’s designed for outdoors. Reviewers who primarily play outdoors and use it weekly say that while the ball has been degrading a bit, that is expected with any ball, especially when playing on outdoor courts, and they would definitely buy the ball again. It’s distinctly rubberized with a tacky surface for durability, but still has a softness to the touch. Deep channels give you precise hand alignment and control, while a tacky surface helps you keep your grip.
Pros: Durable and has a lot of grip
Cons: The first day or two you use it, it will feel like its picking up a lot of dust and getting slippery and tough to catch, but once it gets a little scuffed up, the grip comes back and stays.
If you’re not playing much hoops or aren’t going to take it very seriously and don’t want to commit to the price of the Wilson Evolution, this ball is best for you. This is a great ball because it has the softness of an indoor ball and the durability of an outdoor ball. It’s not rubbery, and it has pretty deep groves to start, which helps with handling and durability. It also does not attract dust like most other balls, and even when dirty, the deep channels help out a lot. The weight is accurate, the bounce is clean, and overall it’s soft with plenty of grip.
Pros: The composite leather holds up incredibly well
Cons: The grip of the bar-code location is slick during a game, the ball is not as soft of spongy as the Evolution
Amazon Basics basketball: Amazon Basics now has its own basketball available in both men and women’s sizes, as well as in microfiber or PU composite. While overall it’s been reviewed as a 4.6/5, there are no kids’ sizes available and it comes shipped deflated (but a pump is included). So skip this ball if you want a true kids’ ball. However if you want a bargain adult ball, this one is only $28, and is great for hardwood or concrete courts. It features a moisture-absorbing synthetic leather layer for grip. And the PU composite cover provides reliable strength, a correct bounce, precise spinning, and long air retention.
Champion Sports Heavy Duty ball: This ball is fine for a kid to have fun with, but not for someone working on their game. It’s a cheap ball and won’t hold up to much use. One reviewer suggests, “Pay more and let your kid have a real ball. This one is more or less junk.” It’s just $12.
Just a quick primer on basketball sizing in case you’ve forgotten. Be sure to select and order the correct size as you make your purchase.
Check out the best women’s indoor and outdoor basketballs here.
The type of basketball best for outdoors will depend on your goals. Rubber balls are known as outdoor balls because they have more protection against rain and can weather the concrete. So for a beginner, a rubber ball is a good fit for outdoors. But an intermediate to more advanced basketball player will want to buy a composite leather outdoor basketball because the feel and grip are far superior to the experience with rubber. And the consistency it’ll provide from your practice to your game play will be helpful.
Here’s some more information so you can decide whether rubber or leather is better for your outdoor basketball.
Rubber: Rubber is cheaper so is better if you’re on a budget. If you play on blacktop courts, rubber is tougher so is a better fit. Playing somewhere very dusty or dirty? Rubber is better for grip. If you plan to play in rain or on wet surfaces get a rubber ball: they can lose some of their grip and become a bit slippery, but they’re less likely to absorb water and become heavier like composite balls will.
Composite Leather: If it matters to you how your game transitions to indoor play, use composite leather because it’s used in indoor balls too. If you play on smooth outdoor courts or want a realistic game feel, get composite leather.
An outdoor basketball should last six months to a year. Although it will depend on how frequently you use it and in what conditions. For example if you use it every day and frequently in the rain, you might see a ball life of closer to just six months before the bounce and grip get funky.
Absolutely you can use an indoor basketball outside. In fact, we do because we love the feel so much more. But because of the rough nature of outdoor concrete, your ball will probably not last as long as it would indoors, or if you played with an outdoor designated ball.
Now that you know the best outdoor basketballs, pick your favorite and get your order in so you can get to work! If you purchase certain balls from this article, we’ll get a little something back to help fund our website. However, we’ve included all sorts of outdoor balls in order to show you the very best balls – not just ones that will help us out. Up next, check out basketball handling drills you can do at home, and the best footwork drills for guards.