What are the Different Types of Basketballs?

Basketball had come a long way since its invention in 1891. Since then, the sport has become an instant global athletic phenomenon. Both young and adult fans go crazy about their favorite teams, especially during the playoffs. 

If you are a geeky basketball fan or, let’s say, an NBA star in the making, you probably already knew why basketballs come in different types. When a basketball sounds differently as it bounces, you could quickly tell. But for most kids who are just starting to get the hang of the sports, let alone know trivia about it, looking at many basketball variations can be a wonder. So, for those who are wondering what the different types of basketball are, read on below.


A basketball is an ovoid, spherical ball used in the game basketball. Basketballs come in different colors, sizes, and materials used. Players dribble, pass, shoots, and dunks this ball to the opponent’s hoop to gain an advantage of point and determine the game’s victor. In its earlier years, players used soccer balls to play the game until the first basketball in 1894, made of laced leather.


an orange basketball sitting on the floor of a basketball court

Did you know that the first basketball is dark-brown in color? Soccer balls may be the first balls used in the game, and the first ‘basketballs’ were those made of heavy leather, hence the color. It was not until 1957 when Spalding, the first company to manufacture basketballs as we know it today, produced the first orange color. In the modern-day, burnt-orange colored ones are the most commonly used basketballs. However, significant leagues and teams have the standard orange ball with black linings or partitions as a requirement due to the color’s attractiveness, which improves visuals. Other basketball colors are available as well. Like in the American Basketball Association (ABA), basketballs come in red, blue, and white combinations, which create a pinwheel illusion when in motion.


Leather, synthetic (composite), and rubber – are the most common standard materials in manufacturing basketballs. The early manufacturing materials o basketballs were heavy leather, but the material proved to be hard to grip, and they easily slipped the hands when handled. Plus, players in the past complain that the dark-brown color of the leather is sometimes hard to see. So, through the decades, several changes happened as to how the balls were manufactured.

Leather. Modern leather is now softer and suppler to touch compared to that in the past. Hence, most pros use this material during the game. Leather may be expensive, but it’s a top choice for indoor basketball since the material offers a boost in control over the ball. Leather improves the grip even if the palms are sweaty, maintaining an excellent level of handling.

Synthetic. Basketballs made of synthetic material are a pretty decent option. The material offers a so-so performance in the court as it is versatile and durable at the same time. Since it is more durable than leather, balls manufactured from composite materials are available for use in indoor and outdoor basketball.

Rubber. Rubber basketballs are perfect for beginning players and for those who intend to play for recreational purposes. The material offers a boost on bounce and durability, making it an excellent pick for outdoor basketball. The rubber doesn’t easily tear, unlike leather, and it is extra durable too. You can mostly find this on street basketball courts.

The process of manufacturing the balls and the materials used to produce them affect the gameplay. For instance, leather basketballs create a particular leather drum sound as they bounce, while rubber ones make a ‘thwak’ sound when dribbled. Also, the material affects the control and grip over the ball and its feel when held.


Spalding basketball with the word NBA on it

Basketball is an inclusive sport that attracts all people regardless of age and gender. Hence, it comes in many sizes to cater to the differences between groups.

Men’s Basketball. Basketballs in the National Basketball Association (NBA), manufactured by Spalding, have a 29.5-inch circumference and weight of 22 oz. The balls’ inflation measures from 7.5 to 8.5 oz per square inch and are excellent for boys aging 12 and above.

Women’s Basketball. In the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), balls are slightly smaller than men’s. WBNA basketballs measure 28.5 inches in circumference. The difference is because men’s hands are generally larger than women’s.

Other sizes. Youth size balls measure 27 inches in circumference and are excellent practicing balls for kids aging 4 to 8 years old. For beginners who are training their hand and eye coordination, a basketball that measures 22 inches in circumference is your best pick.