Which Basketball Should You Buy and Use?

Choosing the right basketball can be a tough decision. There are LOTS of factors that go into deciding which is right for you.  All basketballs are not the same and they don’t necessarily feel the same for players.  

So which one should you be working out with???

Let me try and walk you through a simple process for picking the right basketball for YOU.

There are 3 key categories I focus on when recommending a basketball for players:

  1. Size of the basketball
  2. Indoor or outdoor use
  3. Official brand your conference/league uses

1. Basketball Size

We are starting here because this far and away is the most important consideration when choosing the right basketball. There are lots of different sizes of basketballs, so let’s take a quick look at these.

The chart below shows some of the most common sizes of  basketballs and who they are intended for..

Size CircumferenceWeightRecommended For
Size 729.5″22 ozMen and boys ages 15 and up. This is the official size basketball for high schools, colleges, and the pros. This is one of the more common basketball sizes out there. Too often young players gravitate to using this ball because it is handy OR boys use this ball because they figure someday they will be using it, might as well get used to it. Be careful and don’t fall into this trap. Be sure to use the size that is appropriate for you NOW.
Size 628.5″20 ozBoys ages 12-14. Girls and women ages 12 and up. This is the official size for women’s high school, college, and pro basketball.
At these ages, boys and girls’ physical development can vary greatly. Some boys and girls would benefit from playing with a size 5 ball as they work on their mechanics and until they become bigger and stronger.
Size 527.5″17 ozBoys and girls ages 9-11 years old. This is the standard youth basketball you find in most stores. It is usually a very good size for kids this age. Often kids 9-11 will play with a size 6 ball, because they are more common. A size 5 basketball is what they need to help develop correct form and technique.
Size 425.5″14 ozBoys and girls ages 5-8 years old. This is probably the largest size basketball I’d recommend for anyone in this age range who is practicing basketball. 
Again, depending on the size of the child, it may be appropriate to go down one more size to make sure the ball isn’t too big for the child.

The chart should help you find the appropriate size basketball. 

But remember at any age, when you are working on form and technique, make sure you’re not using TOO LARGE of a basketball.  

Not only is that the most important piece, it is also the number one mistake players make when choosing a basketball….using one that is not the appropriate size.

Why is getting the size right so crucial???

The most important aspect in becoming a great shooter is having the proper form. 

If players use the wrong size basketball, it is almost impossible for them to develop the proper form. If the ball is too large, it will change the way you shoot the ball. You will be focused on just getting the ball to the hoop instead of shooting with good, repeatable form.

But won’t I become a better player if they consistently practice with a high school size ball (size 7 for boys, size 6 for girls)???

No!  This is a common mistake.  You should practice proper technique with an appropriate size ball.  

When it is time to advance to a larger ball, it may take a little getting used to, but your form and technique will already be developed, and you are now big/strong enough to use the larger basketball. Be patient!

What if I don’t have the correct size basketball available?

There are still lots of drills you can do. Drills such as ball handling or pivoting, even working on proper footwork on finishing moves plus many more skills you can work on. These are all things you can do that will help you improve. 

Granted, it is not ideal that you don’t have the proper size basketball, but you are not likely to ruin your ball handling skill with the wrong size basketball.

Just avoid working on SHOOTING!  Wait until you get the appropriate size basketball to work on shooting form and technique.

2. Indoor or Outdoor Use

The next factor in your buying decision is where you’ll use the ball…

Indoors

The type of basketball you get depends on the surface you will be using it on.

If you will be doing your workouts and using your ball on indoor courts, then the best basketball you can use would be an all-leather basketball. 

These leather balls will be the same type of ball you play with during a middle school, high school, or college season. 

Outdoors

If you are going to be doing the workouts and playing outside DON’T use a natural leather basketball, you will ruin it quickly.

Use a synthetic or composite leather basketball that is specifically made for outdoor/cement courts.  It will hold up much better and last a lot longer. It will also have a very realistic feel to it and will be very similar to the feel of a natural leather basketball.

Rubber works well for outdoors. A rubber basketball will not feel the same as leather or synthetic — but will be much less expensive.

What if I play BOTH indoors and outdoors?

If you use the ball indoors AND outdoors, your best bet is to go with synthetic/composite leather basketball. This will give you a very realistic feel as you shoot and this material will also last you the longest time if you are playing outdoors too.

Or buy two basketballs…  one for indoor use and a cheaper rubber ball for outdoor use.  

3.  Official Basketball Brand 

Ok- so the final piece that I want to talk about is choosing a brand of basketball.

Molten….Spalding……Wilson……Baden…….Rawlings……..Under Armour

These are all great brands and there are dozens of other great brands. So how do you choose?

For most players deciding on the brand of basketball is pretty simple… 

Find out what the basketball brand your high school athletic association uses for games. Or what basketball your college conference will use for games. 

Find the brand you will be using in these games and look to choose that brand.

Will this give you a shooting edge? Probably. You will feel more comfortable with the ball and this could give you an edge come game time. 

Double Edged Sword

So yes, if you practice with the same brand as you will play with in games, you may feel as though you have an advantage in the familiarity. Because even though each leather basketball is very similar, each one also has its own feel to it.

Be careful though….I’ve seen players that get too “attached” to one brand of basketball.  I’ve seen them play in a game where there is a different brand of basketball being used, and they became rattled. They convinced themselves that they were going to struggle because it wasn’t “their brand” and of course in this game, they did struggle because they didn’t have confidence.

Variety

For this reason, it is OK to practice with a variety of basketball brands. 

It doesn’t mean you need to BUY several different basketballs. It means when you are with friends in the gym or with a coach working you out, don’t be afraid to shoot with different brand basketballs. It may take awhile to get used to, but you will….and you’ll figure out that your form and technique is more important than the brand of basketball you are shooting with!

Key Takeaways

When you are choosing a basketball, the two most important things to consider would be:

  1. Make sure the basketball is the correct size – if not it could be VERY detrimental to your shooting form and technique.
  1. USE IT!  It doesn’t matter what basketball you choose if you are going to let it sit in your room and collect dust.

Once you have the correct size basketball, the next biggest key is practice! Find great basketball workouts to use. Focus on doing drills correct and doing drills hard. Focus on using the basketball SO MUCH that you WEAR IT OUT and need to get a new one. 

Now let’s get to work!

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Nathaniel
Nathaniel
7 months ago

Great article. Straightforward and easy takeaways. I think sometimes parents get carried away and push for the larger ball way to early and it can be a set back to a youth player.

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