This article will break down a series of basketballs that have the toughness and build needed to be used outside in any condition.
I have spent twenty years playing basketball at various levels. That first-hand experience, combined with personal reviews and ample research, enabled me to analyze the different balls listed below.
When it comes to outdoor basketballs, the NBA Zi/O gets my top pick because of its inherent durability, toughness, comfort, and versatile nature.
The ball does a good job in a gym, but has quality construction that makes it well suited for all outdoor situations. The composite cover is good in both dry and wet environments, while the foam-backed design perfectly complements the pebbled exterior to create a comfortable feel.
As great as that ball is, however, it’s far from the only reliable outdoor option. I’ll take a look at some other excellent choices below.
- Best Overall: NBA Zi/O
- Best Rubber: Macgregor Multicolor
- Most Durable: Chaos Rubber
- Most Versatile: NCAA Wave
- Most Comfortable: NBA Tack-Soft
Who Should Get This?
Obviously, outdoor basketballs are perfect for players who hoop outside. Anyone who utilizes an outdoor court, especially those that play in rough or tough conditions, need a ball that can withstand harsh climates, moisture, as well as long hours in the sun.
Anyone who plays basketball on hard outdoor surfaces, including their driveway, the street, or a park, will love the balls in this article. Those who spend their time on asphalt or concrete will love them as well.
Top Outdoor Basketballs
This section breaks down each top outdoor basketball and explains the traits that put it above similar models.
1. NBA Zi/O
- Best for: Overall
- Key Features: Zi/O Tournament composite cover. Foam backed design. Indoor and outdoor compatible. Pebbled exterior for increased grip.
- Material: Composite
- Weight: 2.5 pounds
- Brand: Spalding
The NBA Zi/O is a fantastic basketball that has the durability and functionality to be used both inside and outdoors. The strong composite cover works well in the gym, but it also has the durability and strength to withstand heavy use on harder surfaces. It resists moisture as well.
This ball also comes with Spalding’s unique foam backed design. That works with the pebbled exterior to create a solid grip and excellent feel no matter how much you use it. It ships inflated and will give you months of great quality without slowing down.
The only downside to this ball is that it can struggle if you play with it in extremely tough conditions. It will have no problem staying intact during play on hard surfaces, but if you like to ball in extremely wet environments or during rainstorms, you might see some issues.
- Best for: Rubber
- Key Features: Strong rubber construction. Deep channels offer better control. Enhanced external pebbling. Various color options.
- Material: Rubber
- Colors: Blue, Green, Purple, Red, Orange, Yellow
- Brand: Macgregor
As the name suggests, the Macgregor Multicolor is a fun, brightly colored ball that you can use both inside and out. That’s largely thanks to the powerful rubber construction that has what it takes to stand up to all elements, including rain, snow, and hot summer days.
Beyond that, the ball has deep channels and excellent pebbling. That combination gives you ample control and provides a strong grip that will last a long while. The ball also comes in a wide range of fun colors, enabling you to pick one that matches your personal style.
The only big downside to this option is that it ships deflated. That means you’re going to need an extra pump to get it going. Pumping it up to full capacity is also not easy. If you’re prepared, however, you’ll get a solid ball that you can use in all weather conditions.
3. Chaos Rubber
- Best for: Durability
- Key Features: Tough material. Unique, attractive design. Comfortable grip and deep channel construction. Included pump.
- Material: Synthetic
- Brand: AND1
- Color: Meteorite Space, Graffiti, Jungle
If you want a tough outdoor ball that brings a different look to the table, the Chaos Rubber from AND1 is a good bet. This model, coming from a reliable athletic wear brand, has a wide range of available patterns. The jungle, meteorite space, and graffiti all absolutely pop.
On top of that, the ball is made of strong, weather-resistant materials. That gives it the longevity needed to be used outside regardless of where you live or how much you use it. The deep channels are also great when it comes to control, comfort, and general grip.
It even comes with a pump so you don’t have to worry about filling it with air. Just know that this doesn’t quite have the bounce you’ll find in similar outdoor options. That doesn’t mean it’s dead, but you might have to work a bit harder when playing for extended periods of time.
4. NCAA Wave
- Best for: Versatility
- Key Features: Recessed ridges allow for excellent control. Low-density sponge rubber/butyl rubber construction. Pebbled exterior. Triple Threat technology.
- Material: Synthetic
- Color: Orange
- Brand: Wilson
While most outdoor balls can be used both in and outdoors, the Wilson Wave takes that to the next level through the unique Triple Threat technology. This ball shines inside a gym, but also has the inherent toughness and longevity needed to be used on any outdoor surface.
It also comes with 24 T3 Grooves built into the normal flat panels. That creates a level of feel and control similar models simply cannot match. It even cuts down on both grime and dirt build-up, making it an excellent choice if you like to play in the street or on a driveway.
The biggest drawback to this versatile model is that it can be a bit hard at times. Overinflation is an issue. In addition, the ball deflates quite easily if you use it a lot. That’s not a gigantic deal if you’re prepared. Always have a pump handy and you’ll be fine.
- Best for: Comfort
- Key Features: Soft feel. Strong construction. Premium composite cover. Sleek official look and design. Can be used for indoor and outdoor play.
- Material: Composite
- Color: Brown
- Brand: Spalding
Most balls, in order to stand up to the rigors of outdoor use, are made of hard or rough materials. That’s not the case with the NBA Tack-Soft from Spalding. This ball is incredibly comfortable thanks to the composite cover that feels great on your hands as you play.
As with the other models on this list, it also comes with a surprising amount of durability. Despite the excellent feel and solid grip, the ball can freely bounce through puddles, over cracks, or on hot, hard surfaces without any issues. This is in it for the long haul.
As this is a softer model, the biggest knock against it is durability. The ball can easily last for months without issue, but you will start to see some lumps or imperfections after that. Considering the lower price point, that won’t be a huge issue for most people
Best Outdoor Basketballs: What to Look For
These traits are critical to keeping in mind because they separate the good outdoor balls from the mediocre ones.
Anytime you look at an outdoor basketball you need to pay attention to the grip. That includes both how well it lasts over time as well as how quickly it breaks down. Constant rubbing will wear on a ball’s grip and cause it to be smooth. Tough construction cuts down on that issue.
In addition, you want a grip you can feel and make use of while you play. Pay attention to specific patterns or materials that enable you to better handle the ball during a game. Pebbling and channel designs both go a long way towards that end.
Every outdoor basketball has to be durable. That is what separates them from indoor options. When choosing yours, make sure it has a powerful construction as well as a sturdy exterior. Such steps ensure you’ll be able to get a lot of use out of the ball over the years.
When considering this, it’s also important to look for balls that are made to handle specific elements. Water-resistant options and ones that can take a lot of heat or sun are extremely important. Look for models made for hard, uneven surfaces too.
When getting an outdoor ball, material matters. Though traditional leather feels and looks great, it doesn’t have what it takes to stand up to the elements. Rather, you want to get either a composite or standard rubber option.
Both come with their pros and cons. Regular rubber tends to be much more durable than composite. However, it doesn’t feel as great and lacks the standard basketball look. When going with composite, you lose some durability. Get the one that best fits your personal needs.
You may still have some questions about the best outdoor basketballs. I’ll answer some popular ones in this section.
How Long Does an Outdoor Basketball Last?
Most outdoor basketballs will keep their grip or general durability for between three and six months. However, tougher models can stick around for up to a year or more.
Are Wilson or Spalding Basketballs Better?
Both Wilson and Spalding are premium basketball brands that make good products. Their balls each have their pros and cons, making them not any better or worse than the other.
Which Basketball is Better for Outdoor, Leather or Rubber?
Rubber basketballs tend to be a bit more durable and better at withstanding moisture, while leather options have a better feel and give you more control. The material you use comes down to personal preference.
Is It Bad to Kick a Basketball?
Yes. Basketballs are not made for that type of hard impact. Kicking them can damage the ball, harm the exterior, or cause imperfections.
Useful Tips and Resources
While outdoor basketballs are durable, they still need to be kept up just like an indoor basketball. If you’re careless with them or leave them outside in the rain or hot sun, they won’t stick around for that long. This guide breaks down care steps and shows you how to get the most out of it.
No matter how careful you are, your ball will eventually reach its end. When that time comes and your ball does eventually wear down, you can consult this video on how to instill some much-needed life back into it.
Out of every ball in this guide, the NBA Zi/O from Spalding is my pick for the best overall option. It has a strong grip, a tough exterior perfect for all outdoor environments, as well as a foam backed design. Those traits make it the ultimate choice for the driveway, street, or asphalt.
Each model in this guide works well, but few can match the Zi/O when it comes to power or versatility. It even has the classic NBA look that so many people love. It comes in at a slightly higher price point than similar balls, but that’s definitely worth it for such a premium model.