During my high school years, we used to have these horrible $10 rubber basketballs at school. You couldn't make a simple layup with them because they were too tacky and bounced off the backboard like a flubber ball. What I learned back then: the quality of the basketball really matters. A lot!
A great composite leather ball with good control and a sharp bounce can make the beautiful game of basketball even more fun. In this article, I want to show you some great indoor basketballs ranging from very affordable indoor/outdoor combinations to the most expensive genuine leather basketballs used in the NBA.
List of the best indoor basketballs reviewed in this article:
If you want to find the best basketball for you, there are a lot of different areas you want to look consider. In the following paragraphs, I will go deeper into these categories and tell you everything you need to know about indoor basketballs:
Basketballs are made of several different materials. Outdoor balls are often made of cheap rubber, which is very durable, but doesn't provide a lot of grip and ball control. Most indoor basketballs use composite leather, which is softer than rubber, offers more grip and makes dribbling and shooting much more enjoyable in general. The only thing that annoys me with the composite balls is they tend to feel a bit slippery in the beginning, especially when playing with sweaty hands.
Genuine leather is the material used by the pros in the NBA. It is more expensive compared to composite, but real leather is ideal for comfort while playing. These balls often need a break-in period, but after a while, the ball control and feeling are unrivaled. However, they are also significantly more expensive and, therefore, rarely seen at the local gym.
The NBA standard for air pressure in a basketball is between 7.5 and 8.5 pounds per square inch. There's no problem if the pressure fluctuates a little bit, but there is nothing more annoying than a ball constantly losing air! Fortunately, this is very rarely a problem with decent indoor balls. You may need to inflate the ball a little bit in the winter when the temperature drops, but other than that, good basketballs these days make ball pumps almost unnecessary.
Moisture and sweat on your hands can cause you to lose your grip on the ball. Some basketballs have a moisture reducing surface designed to absorb your sweat as you play, giving you a lot more control.
Also, the width of the channels and the depth of the grooves can make a difference when trying to palm the ball or when shooting free throws. These grooves can give your fingertips additional grip and help you line up one "swish" after another.
The bounce of the ball is important in basketball, so you want to have a ball that provides a consistent, reliable bounce. The smoother the surface of your ball, the better the bounce. While deeper grooves often help with shooting, they can become an obstacle when dribbling because they can make the bounce unreliable.
If you are playing in high school, the NCAA or other organized leagues, it makes sense to check the specifications for official game balls. It doesn't help to perfect your dribbling with one ball if you have to use a completely different ball when it counts.
Make sure to buy the right size. Basketballs for kids and girls are smaller and lighter, which makes gripping and shooting much easier.
Size 7 / 29.5"
Men and boys 15 years or older
Size 6 / 28.5"
Standard women ball, boys ages 12-14
Size 5 / 27.5"
Standard youth ball for ages 9-11
Let's take a closer look at some great basketballs:
The Wilson NCAA Replica Game Basketball is the final selection on this list, and it is also the most budget friendly choice. It is made from composite leather, but feels a bit harder than the Wilson Evolution and tends to get a little slick after regular use.
This is designed as an indoor/outdoor ball, so you can also use it outdoors without too much wear and tear. As such, it doesn't offer the same soft feeling most indoor basketballs do, but offers a perfect blend of durability and ball control.
Overall, the Wilson NCAA Replica represents great bang for the buck and is the perfect basketball for occasional players who don't want to spend a fortune on an expensive indoor-only ball.
The TF-1000 is a true classic when it comes to indoor basketballs. It has been around as long as I can remember and used to be one of the best basketballs available. But, in recent years, Spalding has released new versions of the TF-1000 and today it feels much more like a cheap rubber indoor/outdoor ball than the high quality-composite leather ball it used to be. There is even a Facebook group demanding the re-release of the original TF-1000.
This ball arrives with a glossy finish, which makes it quite tacky in the beginning. Unfortunately, the grip wears off pretty quickly and the ball becomes a bit slippery.
Rumor has it Spalding changed the material of the ball because it wore off too quickly. And, while it might be true the original TF-1000 used to get pretty soft with time, I still preferred it ball over the new Spalding TF-1000 Classic or Legacy.
Molten introduced the X-series in 2016 and aimed at improving the handling from the predecessor (which I liked a lot). The overall design of the ball has stayed the same, but the pebble placement on the surface of the ball has been overhauled in an effort to provide more consistency.
In my opinion, the failed pretty miserably. When you first grab the ball, it feels really tacky, almost sticky but the composite leather feels very hard compared to previous models. The real problems begin as soon as you start to sweat as the ball becomes extremely slippery and almost uncontrollable.
And I am not the only one having this problem! The captains of all teams at the European Championships in 2017 signed a letter asking FIBA to remove the "consistent touch" feature from the balls immediately as it negatively affects their performances on the court.
Overall, the Molten BGGX is a big disappointment compared to the excellent previous BGG series.
The next basketball on the list is the Baden Elite - an extremely durable, synthetic leather ball designed to last for years. Even though the brand Baden is not as much of a household name as Spalding or Wilson, they have been producing excellent basketballs for decades.
The Balden Elite is their top-of-the-line ball. It is perfectly symmetrical with a consistently sharp bounce, pretty good moisture absorption, and a good feel when shooting.
This ball really excels when it comes to grip. The Baden Elite has the perfect amount of tack from the beginning and stays this way for a long time. It offers perfect ball control for slick ankle breakers and fast crossovers.
This basketball comes fully inflated, so you can take the ball out of the box and go meet your friends on the court. It is an indoor basketball made with a microfiber composite cover perfect for creating great feel. It is one of the most purchased balls for high school play and is approved for use by the NCAA and the NFHS.
The ball is designed with thousands of micro-touch points for the best possible grip. I found the deep channel design improved my grip on the court, especially if the ball is broken in properly. It also has moisture wicking channels that take the sweat on your hands and absorbs it as you play.
One of the reasons this ball is very popular with high schools is its durability. If you want to buy a ball that will last you many seasons, the Wilson Evolution is a great choice.
The Spalding NBA Official Game Basketball is by far the most expensive basketball on this list. It is made from genuine, Horween leather and there might be a bit of an adjustment period as the ball needs some time to break in. But, with time, the surface will begin to feel better, and your game will only improve. Like good wine, this ball gets better with age!
One great advantage of genuine leather balls is they are much less problematic when playing with sweaty hands (compared to composite balls). They absorb sweat easily and maintain the perfect grip even in intense games in hot gyms.
In 2006, the NBA tried to move away from this ball and introduced a composite ball. But, after many complaints by star players like Steve Nash and Jason Kidd, the NBA had to reintroduce the leather ball in January 2017. Professional basketball players really value this ball.
If you love the game and you have some money to spare, you should take the official Spalding NBA Game Ball into consideration. It is a real treat to play with the same ball as your idols in the NBA.
There are a lot of great basketball to choose from. If you want a durable ball for beginners then the Wilson NCAA replica is a great choice.
For more advanced basketball players who are looking for a great ball at an affordable price, I would suggest the very popular Wilson Evolution.
If you have more money to spare and want the best basketball there is, then the official Spalding NBA ball is the way to go. It is the only authentic leather ball on this list and after a break-in period, the handling of the ball is in a league of its own.
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