What's The Difference Between Indoor and Outdoor Basketball

What’s The Difference Between Indoor and Outdoor Basketball

Many are times that I have come across this phrase: “Every time I’m playing basketball, I notice that some balls are labeled indoor and others outdoors. What is this supposed to mean?”

The question is on basketball fans forums, on Q&A sites, on basketball sites- everywhere. I paused to think why everyone asks this question. Then it dawned on me that most people don’t understand the difference between indoor and outdoor balls…

As a big basketball fan and with the aim to meet our quest for this knowledge, I did some research. And I can say the process as pretty cool as I learned new differences between these types of basketballs apart from the new ones I knew before.

Today, I’m excited to share with all the differences between these two balls and thus help solve the underlying mystery.

But we’ll start our post with the basic definitions of the two balls to give you a light idea what each ball is about…

Indoor Basketball:

This is a ball specially designed to be played in indoors basketball courts.

Outdoor Basketball:

By now you have got an idea what this ball is. Can you guess? Yes, your guess is right. This ball is meant to be played at outdoor basketball courts.

That being said, we can embark on analyzing the variations that exist between these two balls.​

How Does Indoor Basketball Differ from outdoor Basketball?

Cover Material:

The most notable difference between indoor and outdoor basketball is the materials used to make them. To cut straight to the point, indoor basketballs are made of full-grain leather whiles outdoor basketballs are made of synthetic/composite leather or rubber.

Since indoor basketballs are made of 100% genuine leather, they might feel hard when new. But as you continue using it, it will feel soft with a much more appealing break-in feel.

Because they’re made of leather, these balls should NEVER be played on outdoor basketball courts simply because the leather feeling might roughen up when used on concrete surfaces.

The artificial or synthetic rubber used to make outdoor basketballs gives them a uniform feel from day one onwards. This is why they’re highly suited for playing outdoors


Pricing is another factor that forms a huge gap between the two types of balls. As you might have noted, indoor basketballs are expensive compared to the outdoor basketballs. This fact can be supported by the standard charges for the two balls as of the year 2010. That is, the standard cost for the indoor ball is $89.99 while that of an outdoor ball is $17.62.

Quite a big gap… So, what brings in this big difference? It’s simply the quality and cost of materials used to make these balls. For example, you’ve already seen earlier that an indoor basketball is made of full-grain leather which is extremely expensive compared to the synthetic leather used in outdoor balls.

Readiness for Use:

Between the two balls, which one is ready for use right out of the box? This is what we’ll be discussing next…

An Outdoor basketball is always ready for use from the first day it’s shipped to you. As for the indoor basketball, it’s not the case.

And the cause of this difference?
Again, it’s because of the material used to make the balls. Indoor basketballs, made of full-grain leather, feel heavy and slick right out of the box. As such, it requires some significant amount of breaking-in before it’s actually ready for any indoor game. This can be done through dribbling and shooting.

Outdoors basketballs, on the other hand, are made of rubber which means that they’re ready for use immediately.

Still grasping the interesting differences between indoor and outdoor basketballs? Great!

Let’s move on to the fourth variation

Consistent Bounce Characteristics:

Ask any basketball player who has ever gotten the opportunity to use both indoor and outdoor basketball and you’ll get it from them. Indoor basketballs have a consistency bouncing characteristic, unlike the outdoor basketballs.

In other words, the balls designed for indoor use will perfectly bounce off of the ground while for the many years you’ll be using it. But for the outdoor balls, the consistency seems to fade with years of use. That’s sad but true.​

Smoothness and Grip Characteristics (or the ball handling features:

Generally saying, all basketball players dream of a ball with great handling capabilities. One with a smooth and firm grip that gives you full control of the ball along the court. Let’s see how each of these balls fairs in terms of handling capabilities.

Most high-quality indoor basketballs have up to 122 pebbles, square inch. That’s equal to 35,000plus pebbles on the entire surface of this ball and this makes them feel smooth and has a superior grip. Rubber basketballs (for outdoor use) have fewer pebbles per square inch, however, and feels rougher when touched and a weaker grip.

As you can see from the above descriptions, using an indoor basketball will pen you to a word of great gaming experiences compared to the outdoor ones.

Note this: in addition to the smoothness and superior grip, indoor basketballs also bears the best moisture management capabilities of all the basketballs. They excellently absorb sweat from your hands, giving you optimal control of the ball. And thus a memorable time, all-game long


Both indoor and outdoor basketballs are durable. But the durability of indoor basketball is far much higher than that of outdoor basketball. This is simply because synthetic leather can NEVER beat full-grain leather when it comes to durability.

But for you to enjoy the durability of the two balls, you have to use each ball on its correct surface. Using an indoor basketball outdoors will cause it to wear and lower its lifespan faster than anything else.


That’s all you need to know about the main differences that exist between indoor and outdoor basketballs. The main difference is seen through their pricing, readiness for use, durability, smoothness and grip characteristics, consistent bounce characteristics, and the materials used to manufacture them.

If you use the correct ball on the correct court surfaces, you’ll enjoy many years of their generous services to you. Also, remember to always keep your balls clean and fully inflated.

About the Author Michael Jordan

This is Michael Jordan, a 26 years old guy. Besides my study and part time job, I'm passionate about playing basketball, cycling and exercising. BasketBallNinja.com is the place where I'm sharing my thoughts on the internet and I love the way here!Follow Our Guide and Be a NINJA Basketball Player with US!Keep following my blog Post and enjoy playing basketball like a pro!

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