DunkOrThree > Your Basketball Blog > How Much Air Pressure Should a Basketball Have to Bounce Properly?

How Much Air Pressure Should a Basketball Have to Bounce Properly?

Publish Date: 22.12.2019
Fact checked by: Mike Goodpaster

Are you a regular basketball player that’s puzzled about why some basketballs bounce better than some others? Yeah right! So, you’re quick to conclude that the bouncing ability of the ball depends on the brand that produces it.

Thus, you think a Spalding is better than a Nike, Franklin, Champion Sports, MacGregor or Fanmats? And some other basketball players think otherwise—choosing the brand they love above others.

It’s typical for you to be biased and support your favorite brand as the best basketball manufacturer in the market. On that note, it will interest you to know that the brand has nothing to do with the bouncing deficiency of your basketball.

But here’s what we found out.

The amount of air pressure in your basketball contributes majorly to the bounce rate of your basketball.

We‘ll be talking extensively, in this article, about how much air pressure your basketball should have—for it to bounce correctly. Also, we would discuss other vital factors that contribute to the air pressure and bounce rate of a basketball.

What Happens When a Basketball Isn’t Bouncing Properly?

The obvious answer, right? If your basketball isn’t bouncing correctly, the first issue it creates is to hinder your game performance. But, beyond that, we need to go deep into the foundation of this problem and find out why your basketball isn’t bouncing correctly.

If you’re like us that recently found out that the amount of air pressure in a basketball determines its bounce level, then, we’re on the same page. But, if you haven’t, it is not too late to join the bandwagon.

Dealing with Air Pressure

The force that pushes air against every solid surface it comes in contact with is the air pressure. In simpler terms, the more air in an enclosed area, the higher the air pressure. If this theory is correct, that means you need an optimum amount of air in your basketball to get the best bouncing result on the court.

Before we move on:

Did you know that air is mattered? You heard, right! The air we breathe? Of course! But, you’re surprised because you have always thought that matter in quote had to be solid. At least, that’s what your science teacher taught you in mid-school—she told you, “Matter is anything that has got mass and occupies space.”

But here’s the cracker.

Air has weight, mass, and volume (You can ask your science teacher). What that means is air takes up space. So, you can see it fits into the definition. We know, it sounds weird to think of air as matter, when you can’t touch or run into it.

Think of it this way. Your basketball, bike tire, bouncing castle or air mattress get their mass and form because of the air and air pressure in them. In this case, it’s the air pressure in your basketball that gives your ball the round shape and bouncy feel.

The typical basketball requires at least a reading of 8 lbs(pounds by square inch) to get appropriately inflated. If you’re lucky enough, you can buy a basketball that has the inflation instructions printed by the manufacturer to help you get the default air pressure of the ball.

If your ball is not far from you now, you can quickly go check it out and come back to the article. For instance, you may see something like “Inflate 7 to 9 psi.” You saw that, right? Don’t bother if you didn’t see it on your ball—not every manufacturer prints it on their basketballs.

NBA recommends that the air pressure in a basketball must be between 7.5 and 8.5psi. You can use this standard measurement as a guide to get the required air pressure for your basketball.

A quick way to check if your ball has the proper air pressure is by taking this simple test. Drop your basketball from the height of your shoulder and leave it to bounce. If it bounces up back to the height of your hips, then your ball probably has the appropriate air pressure required to deliver on the court.

Three Factors That Can Affect the Internal Air Pressure of a Basketball

Here are three primary factors that affect the bounce level of your ball.

1. Ball Pressure

When you properly inflate your basketball, you enhance its elastic bladder—making it capable of rebounding when it hits a hard surface like the rim. In essence, the higher the air pressure in your basketball, the higher its bounce and otherwise. But, you have to be wary not to over-inflate your basketball to avoid the bladder breaking, which will negatively impact the consistency of the ball’s bounce or even cause leakage.

2. Environmental Pressure

Most times, the surrounding air pressure around a basketball is equally constant, but you should always consider environmental air pressure as it always comes in play—affecting the bounce level of the basketball.

The air is usually less dense or thinner at higher altitudes. And when the air is less dense, objects aren’t affected as much by the air resistance going against them—whether they fly or bounce through the air.

What this means is that air pressure from the surroundings will hardly affect your basketball enough to mar your game outdoors. However, it contributes significantly to the height of your ball’s bounce. That takes us to the next factor.

3. Temperature

A decrease in temperature will result in a decline in air pressure inside your basketball. And, the bounce level of a basketball primarily depends on the air pressure inside a basketball—as we discussed earlier.

Thus, when a basketball hits and bounces on the floor of a gym with average room temperature, the force of the bounce impact pushes the bottom surface of the ball while compressing the gas inside it.

But here’s a kicker.

According to Boyle’s law, the pressure of the gas inside the basketball increases, when a ball bounces on a hard surface, especially when you’re playing at the park during summer.

But, it’s a different ball game in winter. The internal air pressure of a basketball decreases when it bounces on a hard surface.

Since the internal air pressure of the basketball decreases at a lower temperature, the impact of the ball with the ground will also have less effect when it hits the ground. By that, the basketball does not bounce as high at a cold temperature as it does at a higher temperature.

Do as the NBA say and pump to 7.5 – 8.5psi

It’s wise to use a small pump and pressure gauge when inflating your basketball. A report showed that you need about 12 strokes to get something close to the perfect air pressure, which is around 7.5 – 8.5psi.

Thus, you should avoid using high-pressure pumps designed for cars and bike tires. They can easily over-inflate and destroy your basketball.

Of the three factors mentioned earlier in this article, which one struck you as the most important? Has that factor affected your game before? Have you damaged your ball previously because of over-inflation? Tell us your story; we’re eager to see your comments, suggestions, and feedback.

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