There’s no use spending money on a basketball only for it to fall apart after a few games.
There’s also no use buying an outdoor basketball only for it to be extremely coarse and rough that it just creates blisters on your hands.
We’ve heard the common question – ‘What is the best basketball for street play?’
In this buying guide, we seek to answer this question – going on the hunt to find the best outdoor basketball on the market, alongside some detailed reviews.
In particular, we look at PRICE, PERFORMANCE and DURABILITY to ensure best value for money.
All basketballs that are listed here within the upper tiers of outdoor basketballs – so you won’t be disappointed with any of them.
However, alongside durability, we place a huge emphasis on the price of the basketball. Whilst the phrase usually goes ‘You get what you pay for…’ everyone knows it’s not always the case.
Here are the hidden gems in the market.
We try to keep our analysis of indoor/outdoor basketballs in this list to a minimum. We believe that those basketballs tend to degrade a lot faster than the ones that are made purely for outdoor use.
What are the Best Outdoor Basketballs?
|Spalding NBA Street|
|Spalding NBA Varsity|
For us, finding the Spalding NBA Street Basketball was an absolute blessing.
In our opinion, it’s the most durable outdoor basketball on this list as well.
This basketball is extremely affordable, as well as being really tough and durable being perfect for outdoor play.
In terms of make, it’s created with an ultra durable performance rubber which offers a fantastic balance of both grip and durability. Naturally, the basketball does lose grip over time, but the Spalding NBA Street Basketball will last a lot longer than you’d think.
Like every other outdoor basketball on this list, if used a lot, it will show visual signs of wear and tear – which is usually a good indicator that flaws will start appearing in the ball. In saying that, this is expected across all types of outdoor basketballs.
It also retains air at a surprisingly high rate – definitely one of the better outdoor basketballs that retain air.
Comes in a Youth (Size 5 ), Intermediate (Size 6 ) and Official Size (Size 7 ).
For us, it’s a clear winner – and it won’t break the bank at all. You can hardly go wrong.
If you’re wondering what the difference between the NBA Street and NBA Street Phantom is? It’s pretty much the exact same ball but for aesthetic changes.
- The rubber is extremely tough and durable
- Holds shape and retains air surprisingly well for an outdoor basketball
- The best selling outdoor basketball on Amazon – always in stock!
- Low warranty period (30 days)
- Performance will drop significantly once it begins to visually wear and tear
Another good outdoor basketball by Spalding, the NBA Varsity Basketball absolutely deserves to be on this list – even though, in our opinion, it’s not as good as the NBA Street.
The Varsity basketball is also made with an extremely durable rubber coating that is made for intense streetball or outdoor basketball. Seriously tough.
It also has a great bounce when fully pumped. Again, don’t expect it to stay completely inflated all the time – it does tend to lose air pretty quickly.
Grip isn’t an issue as well – it has all surface pebbling that helps with the overall grip that the ball offers.
Reason why this isn’t our top pick? Well for younger players, or people just starting out with the sport, the basketball might feel extremely abrasive on the hand.
While most streetballers are used to the rough and tumble of outdoor play, using this as a first basketball might create blisters for gentle hands.
Like most Spalding basketballs, the NBA Varsity comes in a Youth (Size 5 ), Intermediate (Size 6 ) and Official Size (Size 7 ).
Also comes in a whole heap of different colours.
- Again, rough and durable rubber
- All surfaced pebbling for maximum grip
- Very affordable
- Low warranty period (30 days)
- Rough feel for soft hands/beginners
- Loses air a fair bit – but make sure you haven’t received a faulty product
An alternative to Spalding, Wilson are another extremely reputable maker of basketballs – either indoor or outdoor.
The Wilson Wave Phenom Basketball, when considering all factors such as price and durability, is Wilson’s best outdoor basketball on the market.
Like most good outdoor basketballs out there, the Wave Phenom is extremely affordable and won’t break the bank to own.
However, what differentiates it is the WAVE® Triple Threat Technology. This is Wilson’s way of providing three extra grooves per panel alongside an all pebbled surface.
Further to this, the entire ball has dual-tone material. This provides great durability outdoors, whilst still allowing for true bounce.
Again, it’s smart to keep a small pump with you. The Wave Phenom tends to lose air quite fast, and as it continues to wear and tear with play, it’s air retention just gets worse.
Can be purchased only in Intermediate (Size 6 ) and Official (Size 7 ) sizes.
- Very grippy and comfortable with the WAVE® Triple Threat Technology
- Dual tone for durability and a true bounce
- Holds shape fantastically
- Slightly pricier than the alternatives
- Air retention drops dramatically as the ball gets older
If you want something that you can use both indoor and outdoor, but made with the highest quality and by a reputable brand – then the Wilson NCAA Replica Game Basketball might be perfect for you.
As we all know, Wilson is the official ball maker for NCAA competitions, including March Madness – and this ball seeks to replicate the same quality as the ones used in those competitions.
In terms of price, it’s still relatively cheap for what it offers. Made with a composite material, it seems to be one of the better basketballs for durability when used both outdoors and indoors.
The NCAA Replica is also really soft to the touch. It’s made with Wilson’s Cushion Core Technology which gives it a really authentic feel and bounce.
If you want versatility, this is our best choice for you.
Comes in both Intermediate and Official Sizes.
- Feels fantastic when played with
- A really authentic bounce
- Highly versatile ball that works well both indoors and outdoors
- On the more abrasive surfaces (such as road tarmac), it won’t hold up as well
- Needs a small pump when playing streetball
A versatile ball, with impressive performance for outdoor play, the Baden Contender is a brilliant alternative to Spalding and Wilson when it comes to making basketballs.
In terms of durability, Baden has created the ball with a composite material which allows it to be played on both hardwood and asphalt surfaces.
It’s marketed by way of saying that the ball is made with Baden’s Performance Composite Cover. In other words, it’s reasonably durable for what it is.
The feel and balance of the ball is also great. It has a much softer feel to it than other basketballs on this list, but doesn’t compromise on performance.
It also has the great strength of having a decent level of air retention. We do still recommend that it is a good idea to keep a small pump on you at all times when using it outdoors.
If you want a ball that’s versatile at a decent price, Baden will provide – and available in all three sizes; Youth (Size 5 ), Intermediate (Size 6 ) and Official (Size 7 ).
- Tough composite material
- Versatile that will work well on any type of surface
- Feels softer than dedicated outdoor basketballs
- Shows visible signs of wear and tear pretty quickly
- There have been a few complaints about air retention
In case you need more information as to what to look out for when buying an outdoor basketball, or where you’ve skipped our introduction, we’ll break down individual factors that you need to be aware of.
Just remember, this is just a general guide. Different players may have different opinions – and as a result, need different basketballs.
You’ve probably worked it out by now, but outdoor basketballs typically come in 3 standard sizes. Youth, Intermediate and Official sizes.
Whilst there’s not a whole lot of difference in terms of actual size, they make a huge difference during play. The main thing that determines size is the age of the player.
Here’s a nifty little picture which pretty much outlines the standard guide for basketball sizes from My-youth-basketball-player.com
Size 5 is otherwise known as youth, Size 6 is your intermediate size, and Size 7 is a replica of the Official Size.
This is just a rough guide. If you feel like you want to start playing with a Size 7 at 11-12 years of age, it won’t hurt.
In saying that, it’s never good to start right out at Size 7 as a youth player. It’s ideal to get a basketball that most suits your hand size as you learn the fundamentals of the game.
Another factor that might play a role when deciding what basketball you want to buy for outdoor play or street ball is the outside material of the ball.
This is probably the most important factor when it comes to durability, and also has a big role in the bounce and grip of the ball. The most common ones are as follows:
Not as common, and nearly impossible to find now (Spalding are the only company mass producing genuine leather basketballs as of now).
Leather basketballs are arguably the best in terms of durability, but need to be broken in. They have the potential to last for years.
Our recommendation is that a genuine leather ball is not worth the investment unless you’re really serious about balling.
Synthetic leather was introduced as an alternative to genuine leather used in indoor basketballs.
Although it doesn’t feel as nice as authentic leather, they are stated to last longer and can withstand moderate amounts of abrasion outside.
A popular option, it’s not our top recommendation for outdoor basketballs. You can find better durability for cheaper.
In our opinion, rubber is the best possible material for an outdoor basketball. Used in the Spalding NBA Street and Wilson Wave Phenom, it has the perfect balance of price, durability and feel.
It’s made to last, and creates the great ‘ping’ sound when bounce.
However, all rubber basketballs start out pretty slippery. To solve this, go out and play with it. After a bit of wear and tear, the basketball will start to feel more natural to the hand.
Finally, composite material should only be bought for a basketball to be used outdoors only when you want versatility.
As you may have noticed in our list, dedicated outdoor basketballs are made with rubber. Basketballs to be used in both indoor and outdoor surfaces are made for versatility.
Not the most durable option, so it’s important to know where you want to use the basketball before purchasing a ball of composite material.
Like all things sport, there are a whole heap of different brands out there – and subsequently, a whole heap of factors you need to take into consideration.
It really is important in terms of longevity of the basketball that you select the right brand, and in our opinion, a highly reputable brand.
Reputable brands which produce some of the top-rated outdoor basketballs include Spalding, Wilson, Molten, Under Armor and Nike.
In particular, the first three in that list are synonymous with the sport of basketball. In our opinion, we recommend and rank Spalding and Wilson as the best manufacturers of quality outdoor basketballs.
There’s not a whole lot of big things you need to do in order to maintain an outdoor basketball. You don’t need to polish it, nor do you need to buy a special bag to put it in.
In terms of storage, we do recommend leaving it indoors at all times when not in use. This stops the elements and sunlight from slowly degrading the ball.
Another great tip that will ensure the longevity of your basketball is to make sure it’s always fully inflated when played with. This is why we continuously say, and continually recommend, that you should always have a small ball pump with you during outdoor play.
It is the abrasive surface that typically sees outdoor basketballs from losing air quickly.
Our final maintenance tip is merely just informing you that it’s a good idea to wipe down your basketball before putting it away after a practice session/game.
Wiping off any excess moisture and dirt will ensure that the material remains in it’s best possible condition – which directly translates to the lifespan of the ball.
Final Words and Recommendation
Every player needs the right equipment to train with.
Accordingly, that means that every player needs to spend some time finding the right equipment. In this case, finding the best outdoor basketball.
As you have read, we have found what we consider to be the best outdoor basketballs on the market – and at an extremely affordable price. In our opinion, don’t purchase no-name brands at a dollar store.
Who knows their quality, or durability.
For us, there’s no doubt about which ball wins. The Spalding NBA Street meets everything you could possibly want.
And at a reasonable price.
Yet we will remind, not every basketball suits every situation. Base your decision on what suits you the best.
If you have any questions, queries or comments, please let us know via our contact us page, through our social media channels, or below.
We’re here to help.