The weather is warming up, and that means more time outdoors. The season for pickup games with friends is here, and that means you need an excellent outdoor ball to hoop with. You need something durable, grippy, and overall quality since outdoor basketballs typically burn out quicker than indoor balls. Thankfully, outdoor sports have advanced technologically over the years. You should no longer find yourself buying a new streetball every other month. These things last a while these days; that is if you buy a decent-quality one, of course.
We will go over all the differences between an outdoor and indoor basketball in a separate post, but here is a quick rundown for those interested. The material is the main thing between the two. Indoor basketballs are typically made of a leather composite for a better grip and feel. Outdoor hoops, on the other hand, are composed of a rubber compound since rubber develops much better on-street courts than leather does. Think of the rubber on outdoor courts “breaking in” much like your basketball shoes do. Leather basketballs do not develop well on concrete due to the friction levels. They get hard and become unusable. Rubber, however, expands very nicely with concrete friction and thus is the preferred option when playing outside.
The other main difference is in price. Basketballs for outdoor use are much cheaper than indoor use basketballs. This is again because of the materials used. Rubber is a cheaper material to produce than leather is, and thus you get cheap outdoor sports. Rubber burns out faster than leather does, but at least street basketballs are more affordable. Note: these are all official 29.5 sizes. We may have a separate post for women- or youth-sized hoops.
Best outdoor basketballs
On this post, we will analyze the top-rated outdoor basketballs and find you the best one. We bought all of these online, waited for them to arrive, and tested each individually for performance, durability, and grip. We analyzed 13 total, but only present 5 of the best outside basketballs for you.
Spalding NBA Street Outdoor Basketball
The Street takes our top spot for best outside basketball. It features an excellent and unique Street leather compound that manages not to get slippery after several uses. Most leather basketballs just do not work outdoors, but the Street material breaks in well with concrete. The pebbling on this ball is fantastic as well, providing satisfying grip even after plenty of runs in. The bounce on Spalding’s Street is terrific as well. It doesn’t go flat as quick and maintains its air. Out of all of their products, the Street is the best Spalding outdoor basketball by far. It performs extraordinarily well on concrete basketball courts.
This one is probably the most expensive depending on sales, but it is undoubtedly worth getting if you are looking for the absolute best basketball for outdoor use. The Street costs the most but handily beats the competition in durability and performance.
Under Armour 495
In an industry dominated primarily by Spalding, Under Armour quietly manufactures one of the top-rated outdoor basketballs right now. It features UA’s unique GRIP SKIN technology for the outside cover, and it performs well with consistent grip and satisfying feel. The pebbling on the 495 balls is also fantastic and one of the better parts of this ball. A partner that alongside deeper channels and you have a ball that gives you better hand grip when dribbling and squaring up for a shot.
The air lasts a long time, and the material has only gotten better with frequent use. Overall one of the better compounds available right now while remaining relatively affordable.
— If you’re playing outdoors, chances are you want a rebounding system for shooting around by yourself. Luckily these are relatively affordable. Check out our buying guide here.
Spalding Street Phantom Outdoor Basketball
The Street Phantom may not be the best outdoor ball, but it deserves to be on this list for its value and affordability. At a retail price of USD $15 in almost every store, it is quite easily the cheapest outdoor basketball in the market. There are others at this price range as well, but none have the same brand recognition, and material quality as this does at MSRP $15.
Spalding’s budget outdoor ball has a premium cover composed entirely of rubber. If you are looking specifically for an outdoor rubber basketball, this is probably your best bet. It is cheap, has a fantastic rubber grip, and lasts quite a while despite its affordability. We ran it through our exhaustive tests to see how it held up and surprisingly it kept up even with the leather basketballs on this list. There were eight total basketballs examined, 4 of which were budget-oriented and wholly composed of rubber. The Street Phantom was the best outdoor rubber basketball of those 4.
Spalding NBA Street Basketball
Spalding’s NBA Street basketball is also a rubber-based outdoor ball. It has been Spalding’s go-to budget outdoor basketball for years up until the Street Phantom (above) released. Overall, this ball features a considerably durable rubber cover with full channels that make it comfortable to shoot with.
The only differences between Spalding’s Street Phantom and NBA Street basketballs are their on-court feel as well as their colours. The Street Phantom has a softer and more rubber-based touch to it, so you can feel the traction when gripping the ball. The NBA Street, however, has more of a leather/rubber combination texture to it, so choose this if you don’t want an overly rubber-feeling ball. Perhaps another small difference is in bounce; the NBA Street is noticeably more bouncy than the Street Phantom. That can be either positive or negative, depending on your own preferences.
Other than that, they are ultimately very similar, especially in price. The Spalding NBA Streetball only retails at about USD $18-$19 so you are getting a lot of value from a cheap ball.
Molten X-Series BGMX
Molten perhaps doesn’t have the same brand recognition Spalding does, but it is a FIBA-approved company, and most of their basketballs are high quality. The Molten X-Series has been my favourite for years with their first indoor premium composite balls. Now, the BGMX of the Molten X-Series has come out with similar composite but for outdoor courts. The company advertises this as an indoor/outdoor basketball, but like most of those, it is better for outside play.
The composite isn’t entirely rubber nor leather. It definitely has a rubbery feel, but our detailed review of this ball proves that it has other compounds infused in it for higher durability. The bounce stays on this quite long, and after tens of hours of straight use, no bumps appear to develop anytime soon. The pebble grip pattern is very similar to Molten’s stellar indoor basketballs, which I enjoy very much. Other sports simply do too much with pebbles while Molten has consistently got it right in between their X-Series balls.
Other good outdoor basketballs: honorable mentions
There are a few that did not make the final cut but are still worth mentioning for select reasons. Some ballplayers may prefer certain things more than the average player, and so these outside basketballs may specialize more toward you.
The NeverFlat is extremely popular for executing its sole purpose right: keep your ball inflated through hundreds of hours of play. Spalding does an excellent job infusing its unique technology on a historically ongoing problem in basketball. Most cheap basketballs for outdoor courts simply break down too quickly. I never had an issue with any of the balls on this list (which is half of the reason they are on this list, to begin with), but if you ever walked into Walmart or other store and picked up an ordinary basketball off the shelf there, you know about the bad quality I am talking about. Most of those products fall flat within a few days, so the NeverFlat aims to solve that issue. It does a fantastic job, as I have had mine for just a little over an entire year without having to pump it once.
It is an honourable mention because of its sheer durability when playing on outdoor courts.
Wilson Killer Crossover
Preliminary warning: if you are looking for a truly high quality basketball, this isn’t what you should be considering. However, it made the honourable mention list simply because of how dirt cheap it is, along with its overall utility. At the time we bought all these basketballs, the Killer Crossover was on sale for under $10 (retail is USD $15). That is with free shipping included too.
The rubber compound is pretty decent and the ball does not lump up after use, nor does air release as fast as the other budget outdoor ball options we tested. The grip is decent and the shooting grooves are actually really lovely. This made the honorable mention list because of its utility: buy it as a casual shootaround or quick pickup game ball. It probably won’t last you too long nor will it be the best outdoor basketball ever, but it certainly is dirt cheap that it almost seems disposable as a backup basketball.
What’s the best street basketball?
We tried and tested 13 total basketballs for this guide. Only 5 were kind enough to make the final list and 2 for honorable mention. There is a good amount of junk out in the market, but at least we went through the trouble to find you the good ones. There are basketballs for everyone, but perhaps the best choice if you purely want performance and durability, the Spalding Zi/O takes the cake. Consider getting a cheap outside basketball for backup as well; something like the Wilson Killer Crossover or the Spalding NBA Street are both solid budget options that won’t break down too easily.