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Best basketball 2023: Shoot for three with these top balls

Whether you’re a beginner or expert, we’ve found the best basketballs just for you

If you’re looking to take up basketball or you’re a seasoned fanatic, you’ll want to find the best basketball to suit your needs. Although it’s easy enough to buy the first ball you see, it’s important to know the different styles and specifications that categorise basketballs before purchasing.

What you want from the ball will play a key factor in helping to decide the right fit for you. Taking elements into account such as location of use, the level you play at and how much you want to spend will help narrow your search to match you with the right ball for your intended use. Below, our buying guide and mini reviews talk you through the different materials, sizes and recommendations to suit your basketball needs and ensure you spend wisely.

If you’ve already got an idea of what you’re looking for, then check out our quick at a glance list below, which takes you straight through to buy some of our top picks.

Best basketballs: At a glance

How to choose the best basketball for you

Which material is best?

The three most common types of basketball material are leather, synthetic (also known as composite) and rubber. Different materials will vary in price but are specifically better suited to certain environments.

Leather: Leather balls are the preferred choice of professionals in the NBA, WNBA and NCAA. They offer fantastic feel and grip but also require a break-in period to reach optimum feel. Don’t stress, though, as you can break in a leather ball simply by playing with it and, over time, the ball will come into its own. It’s worth noting that leather balls shouldn’t be used outside; they’re designed for inside play, as they have a tendency to snag and tear on the concrete courts. What’s more, genuine leather balls are increasingly expensive and are seldom used outside of the NBA.

Synthetic: Also known as composite, these basketballs are the best choice for outdoor courts. Suitable for intermediate and advanced players, the synthetic ball is the preferred choice for training and recreational playing. Unlike a leather ball, it doesn’t have a break-in period, so it’s good to go right out of the box. The synthetic option is a good all-rounder, offering versatility for both indoor and outdoor play.

Rubber: Used widely across the world, rubber balls are extremely durable and can be used on all surfaces in practically any weather conditions. The rubber ball has a tough exterior that keeps its shape well, even after being used extensively on concrete or wood. However, it isn’t necessarily the best fit for advanced players looking for a softer, hands-on feel. The cheapest of the three, it’s designed for all-round use for all ages. It’s ideal for using at the park, playing with friends or if you’re just starting out.

What ball size do I need?

There are three standard basketball sizes, and choosing the correct one is an important factor for your game.

  • 29.5in (size 7)
  • 28.5in (size 6)
  • 27.5in (size 5)

Most competitive men’s leagues use size 7, women’s and youth leagues use the intermediate size 6, and size 5 is typically used for children under the age of 10. These sizes and groupings are only a guide: if you know a certain size ball would better suit your hands or playing style, you can compare measurements and purchase accordingly.

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Does surface material matter?

As briefly touched upon above, the surface you’re playing on will determine the ball you need. If you’re predominately playing outdoors, then a synthetic or rubber ball is the route to take. However, if you’re at an advanced level or are playing solely indoors, the excellent feel of the leather or composite leather ball would benefit you more. Ensuring you buy the right ball for the right surface will help you to purchase a long-lasting product that matches your needs.

How much do I need to spend?

If you want to buy a good-quality basketball, you’ll be looking in the region of £40 to £90. This doesn’t mean you need to spend a load of money to get the ideal ball, however. Knowing what you want with regard to material, size and playing surface will help you to spend wisely. Our recommended basketballs range from £15 to £80, but depending on what you’re looking for, you can find budget balls from as little as £10.

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The best basketballs you can buy in 2023

1. Wilson Evolution: Best basketball for indoor use

Price: £78 | Buy now from Pro Direct Sport

The Wilson Evolution Game Ball is a modern classic. Equipped with laid-in channels, it should provide excellent control and performance on the court, ensuring a reliable feel when making quick passes or shooting. If you’re playing for a good few hours, the chances are you’re going to break a sweat. The soft-feel composite cover is designed to wick away moisture, meaning whether you’ve just started or it’s last play, you’ll hold a solid grip on the ball.

It also benefits from a cushion core, which is softer than the standard stiff core. This sponge-like centre should make the ball easier to control and offers an optimum feel, delivering all-round consistent performance. There’s a good reason the Wilson Evolution remains the official provider for the US National Federation of State High School Associations.

Key details Surface: Indoor; Outer material: Micro-fibre composite leather; Bladder: Game ball; Channel construction: Composite pebbled channels; Internal construction: Cushion core 

2. Wilson NCAA Replica: Best basketball for outdoor use

Price: £35 | Buy now from Pro Direct Sport

The NCAA Replica is one of Wilson’s top-selling models. It offers the quality of an indoor basketball with the long-lasting durability required for all-surface playing. With a high-performance composite leather cover, it has a soft, natural feel compared to its rubber counterparts. The inclusion of a cushion core interior, the combination of low-density sponge rubber and ultra-durable butyl rubber for a softer hands-on feel, also aid reliable performance and produce a softer bounce off the rim, helping to increase shot percentage.

In addition, the wide textured composite channels offer excellent grip, being advantageous for dribbling, consistent passing and better spin control for shooting. If you’re looking for a high-quality outdoor ball without going down the rubber route, the NCAA Replica is the way to go.

Key details Surface: Indoor/outdoor; Outer material: High-performance composite leather; Bladder: Pressure lock; Channel construction: Textured composite channels; Internal construction: Cushion core 

3. Tarmak Wizzy: Best basketball for kids

Price: £15 | Buy now from Decathlon

Equipped with a 2mm foam outer, the Tarmak Wizzy offers a soft feel and easy grip to help any young up-and-coming ballers learn the game. The Wizzy is also 18% lighter than other basketballs the same size, helping beginners to efficiently hone in on their passing and shooting techniques while building their confidence.

The Wizzy is a long-lasting, well-designed basketball that aids development in the sport and, with a two-year warranty, it’s certainly excellent value, too.

Key details Surface: Outdoor; Outer material: Rubber; Bladder: Rubber; Channel construction: Not specified; Internal construction: Not specified

Buy now from Decathlon

4. Molten BG2010: Best budget basketball for all-round use

Price: £22 | Buy now from Amazon

Replicating the form of the composite leather, the Molten BG2010 utilises natural resin rubber to offer superior grip over other rubber competitors. The pebble surface texture is also hugely beneficial in maintaining a good grip when in contact with sweat or moisture. What makes this model stand out from other budget balls, however, is the deep channels. This fantastic addition, along with the 12-panel Giugiaro design, delivers excellent fingertip control for quick passing and shooting.

The BG2010 also features a nylon-wound butyl bladder for strong and durable shape retention when playing. For a consistent, reliable performance on all surfaces, the Molten is the best budget basketball for all levels.

Key details Surface: Outdoor/indoor; Outer material: Natural resin rubber; Bladder: Nylon wound butyl bladder; Channel construction: Deep channels; Internal construction: Not specified 

5. Spalding Zi/O Excel: Best basketball for versatility

Price: £48 | Buy now from Amazon

The Zi/O Excel is a fantastic all-round basketball. One of the stand-out features is the foam-backed cover, which delivers a soft, spongy but solid grip. In addition, the tight and deep pebbling is beneficial for moisture wicking, which can help you to maintain a consistent hold at all times. Although the channelling is narrow, it’s not shallow. This allows for good fingertip and spin control when shooting and passing, something that pairs nicely with the foam-backed cover. The soft composite outer and foam-backed cover should offer a consistent bounce and grip, providing a reliable performance that you can trust during game play.

This ball has been one of the top-selling indoor/outdoor composite leather basketballs for some time, and for good reason. It’s a versatile, long-lasting model at a reasonable price.

Key details Surface: Outdoor/indoor; Outer material: Composite leather; Bladder: Not specified; Channel construction: Narrow but not shallow; Internal construction: Not specified 

6. SportimeMax Hands-On: Best training basketball

Price: £69 | Buy now from Amazon

Although it’s a little pricey, the SportimeMax Hands-On is the ideal training basketball for youngsters starting out in the sport. Specifically designed for developing the correct skills and techniques, it should continuously aid progression with hand positions for passing, dribbling and shooting.

The SportimeMax pays excellent attention to detail, providing high-optic, alternating orange and yellow stripes to demonstrate clear direction for proper rearward rotation when the ball is released correctly. The inclusion of colour coding is a nice touch too – blue for left handers and red for right handers. If you’re committed to buying a basketball that teaches while you play, this is a fantastic investment.

Key detailsSurface: Outdoor/Indoor; Outer material: Rubber; Bladder: Not specified; Channel Construction: Not specified; Internal Construction: Not specified

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