The Difference Between Indoor and Outdoor Basketballs

Anyone who has played the sport of basketball for a considerable amount of time has been in the situation where they are forced to use an indoor basketball outside, or an outdoor basketball inside. Either way this is not a pleasant experience. The outdoor surface can ruin a very expensive indoor ball and using the outdoor ball inside can feel too hard and sometimes even cause finger injuries. So what is the actual difference between an outdoor and indoor basketball?

Material Used

The main difference between indoor and outdoor basketballs is the material used for each ball. Indoor basketballs are typically made out of full-grain leather. This means that they are going to be slick when first used and generally need to be “broken in” by being practiced with before actual use. You rarely want to use a brand new indoor ball for something important like a real game. Doing this will make for a slippery and frustrating experience. The leather can also be damaged by asphalt or concrete so they are not recommended for any type of outdoor use.

Outdoor balls need to be able to survive in rougher environments. They must withstand the pounding of both asphalt and concrete. Due to this they are typically made of rubber or some type of composite material. They do not need to be broken in at all and are ready for immediate use right out of the box. The rubber or composite material is not slick or slippery, but can feel heavier and harder than an indoor ball.


Both balls can be used for many years when only used in their proper environments. When an indoor ball is used outdoors it can quickly gather wear and tear. This does not just relate to playing. When you are transporting the ball you do not want to bounce it along any type of pavement. It is important that the ball does not touch any type of outdoor surface. An outdoor ball used inside will not suffer that same fate, but will not be as fun to play with. Both balls will increase their durability if they remain properly inflated and cared for.


This is where there is a major difference between the two types of balls. Although pricing can vary dramatically for many reasons, it is not uncommon for an indoor ball to sell within the price range of $60 – $100. In contrast, you can find a decent outdoor ball for as little as $15. The outdoor ball will also provide you with more flexibility because it will not be damaged when used indoors.

Pros and Cons

As you can see there are many positive and negatives about both types of balls. The indoor ball does not have the flexibility of being used on multiple playing surfaces like the outdoor ball does. However, the indoor ball provides a significantly better playing experience when used indoors (there is a reason professional, collegiate, and high school teams all use indoor balls). The indoor ball is also much more expensive than the outdoor ball making it a significant investment. Both balls need to be cared for properly if you would like them to last for several years.


Choosing the ball that is right for you depends on your needs. If you never plan on playing indoors then purchasing an indoor ball would be a waste of money. If you plan to play on both surfaces you might consider buying an outdoor ball first, and then saving up to buy an indoor ball as well. The good news is that you have the flexibility to make the choice that is right for you.

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