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.

Longevity

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.

Cost

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.

Right basketball size

Several variables come into play when choosing the right basketball size, but age and gender are the most critical. Here are the different indoor and outdoor basketball sizes and age considerations;

  • Nerf basketballs – these are toy basketballs meant for toddlers 0-4 years old. They have a circumference range of 9-20” and weigh 1-5 oz.
  • Size 1 – basketballs in this size have a circumference of 16” and weigh 8 oz. These balls are great for boys and girls 2-4 years old.
  • Size 3 – these balls offer the best basketball experience to boys and girls 4-8 years old. They are 22” in circumference and weigh around 10 oz.
  • Size 4 – balls in this size measure 25.5” in circumference and 14 oz in weight. These are recommended for boys and girls between 5 and 8 years.
  • Size 5 – this is the standard size for youth basketball, and it’s indicated for use by boys and girls ages 9-11 years. A size 5 basketball weighs 17 oz and has a circumference of 27.5”.
  • Size 6 – This is the official basketball size that’s used in high school and college competitions. It measures 28.5” and weighs 20 oz. Size 6 basketball should be used by boys 12-14 years old and girls and women who are at least 12 years old.
  • Size 7 – this is the official size for use in high school, college, and pro game level. However, it’s recommended for boys and men 15 years old and up.

How to choose the best indoor and outdoor basketball

Size is the first thing that you need to think about when selecting an indoor and outdoor basketball. Exercising with the right basketball size for your age helps in honing and perfecting your shooting techniques besides increasing your enjoyment. 

After size, you want to consider the material used for construction. If you play basketball outside often, you’ll want to consider rubber basketballs as they offer a higher bounce in outdoor and street courts. Rubber basketballs are the most affordable, too, and, therefore, perfect for beginners. 

Synthetic leather offers the best option for indoor outdoor basketball. This material feels like leather and offers comparable control and grip. Besides being more affordable than leather, synthetic leather basketball requires a much shorter break-in period. On the downside, a synthetic leather basketball may not last as long as genuine leather, especially if you expose it to rough and harsh conditions. 

100% genuine leather basketballs are the most expensive. Their rough and hard texture also means that they require a prolonged break in period compared to synthetic leather balls. But once you’re through with the break in process, the level of control that a leather basketball offers is hard to beat. Note that leather basketballs should be used indoors only.

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.

Conclusion

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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