What To Look For In A Basketball


Basketballs are generally designated by their cover material -- leather, synthetic leather, and rubber. Each of the cover materials has advantages and disadvantages to its use. A basketball with premium full grain leather means it is a top quality game ball for indoor play only. Rubber and synthetic leather basketballs are suitable for both indoor and outdoor play. Another concern when selecting a basketball is the type of windings. A basketball with a nylon wound last-built carcass means it is top quality.


Cover Materials


Leather is the preferred material for use in games for the Olympics, NBA and WNBA (professional), NCAA (college), and NAIA (high school) because of the superior feel that it provides. Produced domestically, the leather is a full grain vegetable tanned cowhide with a tanned-in tack and a rounded pebble surface pressed in. Split leather is a lower quality material that may not have the feel of the full grain leather. Generally, only the first grade leather from the back of the cow is used for basketballs. For the NBA, the leather's finish is a orange-tan dye with a polyurethane top coat. For all other game use, the leather has a two-tone painted finish where the pebble's tip is a red orange and the pebble's valley is a yellow orange. The dyed leather used by the NBA shows the grain of the leather similar to the grain of a piece of wood that has been stained. The painted leather has an opaque finish that hides the grain along with any other imperfections.

Synthetic Leather

Synthetic leather is the cover material preferred for outdoor play. Because of its durability, a synthetic leather basketball may be used on concrete or asphalt without wearing away as leather would. Also, in wet conditions the synthetic leather basketball will not pick up water as a leather basketball would. The majority of synthetic leather made today is produced from polyurethane. The polyurethane is an extremely durable material that is produced in a way to duplicate the fibers of leather. Top quality synthetic leather basketballs often duplicate the look and feel of a game quality leather basketball.


Rubber basketballs are used for both indoor and outdoor play. Generally, natural rubber is used in this type of basketball. This cover material is extremely durable and is suitable for use on concrete or asphalt.