Basketball Buying Guide - Which Basketball is Better for My Program? - S&S Blog (2024)



Basketball Buying Guide - Which Basketball is Better for My Program? - S&S Blog (1)

At S&S Worldwide we sell over 200 Basketball products, so if you’re unsure which ball is best for the needs of your program, event or activity – this guide will help you. There are many things to consider like where you will be using it, how old and the size the participants will be using the basketball and ofcourse – your budget. We are here to break down the differences of our basketballs for you based on size, material, definition and brand.


SizeBasketballs come in a variety of sizes and different terms are used somewhat interchangeably to describe them.
TermSize/NumberCircumference / InchesDescription / Uses / Ages
Official729-3/4”Used for most men’s professional, recreational and high school leagues. Also used by women in some international competitions like the Olympics.
Intermediate628.5”This size ball is used for most women’s professional, recreational, high school and middle school leagues. It is also often used for boys middle school leagues and games.
Junior527.5”Used for elementary school aged kids.
Mini322”Mainly used as a toy, not suitable for playing basketball.

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Basketball Materials Basketballs are classified by the type of material that is used on the outermost layer of the ball. The material used on the outer layer of a basketball is sometimes referred to as the cover material.
LeatherMost basketballs used to use natural leather on the outside. Leather covers are durable when used indoors and after broken in provide a good feel. Starting in the mid 1980’s, the quality of synthetic and composite covers started improving to the point where they equaled or exceeding the performance of leather covers at lower cost. Today, leather balls are almost non-existent with the notable exception of the NBA game ball that is still leather.
CompositeComposite is a term used to describe a high performance non-leather cover. There really is no single aspect of a cover material that distinguishes between a composite material and a synthetic material. In general, the manufacturer’s will describe their higher end balls as having a composite cover and their lower end balls as having synthetic covers. The term “composite” was introduced by Spalding around 1985 to describe the first synthetic cover material that equaled the performance of leather balls and was used on their TF-1000 balls. Most composite covers materials consist of a layer of soft polyurethane (PU) material that is coated onto a non-woven fabric material. Most composite materials can be used indoors or outdoors, though some
materials are designated for indoor use only.
SyntheticSee “Composite” for differences between composite and synthetic. Most balls described as having synthetic covers are designated for both indoor and outdoor use. Synthetic cover materials often consist of a PVC or combination of PU/PVC material coated onto a woven or non-woven fabric.
RubberThe pebbles and covers on rubber balls are integrally molded on the ball. Rubber materials have a very good tack and grip when player’s hands are dry, but can get slippery when player’s hand get moist from perspiration. Rubber balls have good abrasion resistance and make great outdoor recreation balls. Some rubber balls have an outer layer of rubber that is foamed, which provides an improved grip and softer feel to the ball.

Basketball Buying Guide - Which Basketball is Better for My Program? - S&S Blog (4)


Basketball DefinitionCommonly used terms to describe basketball and basketball construction.
BladderThe innermost layer of a basketball. Primary use is for air retention.
ButylA type of rubber that is very good at preventing air pressure loss. The higher percentage of butyl rubber used in the bladder, the better the ball will be at retaining it’s pressure. Butyl is more expensive than other types of rubber.
WindingsWindings are pieces of thread that are wrapped or wound around a bladder to help maintain the size and shape of a ball when it is pressurized and over the life of the ball. Windings function like the plies or belts used in a tire. Windings are made from polyester and or nylon threads. The longer or more windings used the better the ball.
CarcassA sub assembly of a basketball in which the leather or synthetic layer of cover material is glued. The carcass consist of a bladder, windings and an outer layer of rubber.
Laminated BallAre basketballs in which the cover material is glued or laminated to a carcass.
PanelsThe pieces of leather, composite or synthetic that are laminated to the outside of a ball.
Seams / ChannelsThe black areas on a ball between the panels that are generally recessed below the rest of the ball are called seams or channels. Players generally prefer balls with deeper seams or channels than ones with shallow seams. Similarly, players prefer wider seams versus narrow seams.

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BrandTheir selling points and cost comparisons
SpaldingTop quality balls. World’s #1 supplier of basketballs. Official supplier of NBA basketballs. TF-1000 is most popular high school ball.
WilsonConsistent quality balls. Official supplier of NCAA basketballs. Solid #2 name in basketballs.
Mikasa, Rawlings, TachikaraGood quality balls, but these brands are not as well known a brand for basketballs.
SpectrumS&S Worldwide’s own brand of basketballs offered in a range of prices and performance levels. Includes rubber and laminated balls designed to match the performance of the big brand balls at a more affordable price.

We’ve included a link to our favorite basketball activities here.

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Basketball Buying Guide - Which Basketball is Better for My Program? - S&S Blog (2024)
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