Just as in life, not all men, or women, are created equal, so it’s also true that not all basketballs are – or, indeed, are meant to be – the same weight.
Just as in many ball sports – soccer being a prime example – the size and weight of a ball can vary according to the age and physical capabilities of the players, so is the case in basketball.
A standard basketball weight in the NBA is 21 to 22 ounces – equivalent to 1.3-1.4lbs, or 588 to 616 grams. The amount of air in the ball, or the pressure to which the ball is inflated make little difference to this, and the variation will only be around half an ounce, or 14 to 15 grams.
What Sizes Are Basketballs Available In?
A basketball’s circumference can vary by as much as 80 per cent, and depending on the ages of the players, can still be acceptable for playing the game.
Junior players may start with a ball weighing as little as 8oz, or roughly 225 grams, while the standard ball used in the NBA is known as a Size 7.
Here is a chart showing the sizes and weights of the various balls which can be used:
|Size 1||16 inches||8 ounces|
|Size 3||22 inches||10 ounces|
|Size 4||25.5 inches||14 ounces|
|Size 5||27.5 inches||17 ounces|
|Size 6||28.5 inches||20 oz|
|Size 7||29.5 inches||22 oz|
Of course, if you aren’t playing the game at elite level, where the regulations are less tightly enforced, you can use a ball of any of the above sizes, but there are rules governing basketball weight in all major leagues, including the NBA, WNBA (women’s equivalent of the NBA), NCAA (college-level basketball), and the International Basketball Federation (FIBA).
These are as follows:
Maximum circumference 29 inches: weight 18-20 oz
College basketball (NCAA):
For boys, the basketball weight guidelines are the same as in the NBA; however, a girls’ ball must strictly weigh 20 oz (about 560 grams) – so you have the slightly odd situation that some junior female players may regularly use a ball which is heavier than once played with by the pros in the WNBA.
International basketball (FIBA):
In men’s games, the basketball must weigh between 20 and 23 ounces (567-650 grams), while the basketball weight for women’s games is a minimum of 18 oz (510 grams) and a maximum of 20 oz (567 grams).
Youth leagues around the world allow a greater variation between their permitted basketball weight. In North America, the standard ball weighs 14 oz, or 400 grams, and in international youth matches, played under FIBA rules, these stipulate a ball weight of 16 to 17 ounces, or 454 to 482 grams.
What Other Rules Govern The Properties of a Basketball?
The most obvious one is the pressure of the air inside the ball – which is what allows it to bounce so high, but also evenly, when it is properly inflated.
Just as with a car tire, you can use a gauge to measure the pressure of the air inside a basketball. The accepted air pressure inside a basketball in the NBA – and all other senior leagues – is 8 PSI (pounds per square inch).
The rules of physics (and our own experience of playing with various kinds of inflatable ball) tell us that, the greater the pressure inside the ball, the harder its external surfaces will be, and so the more it will be able to bounce.
And a basketball is intended to be quite hard, because that is what allows it to be bounced so well, and thrown with a high level of accuracy.
Many basketball players will also attest to the fact that catching and dribbling a basketball which is under-inflated can be very difficult, as the ball will move more slowly, while an over-inflated ball can cause nasty injuries through trapping of your fingers.
What Other Interesting Facts Are There About Basketballs?
- The pattern and grain of a basketball are intended to closely resemble those on a baseball.
- A basketball is made of fine, full-grain leather.
- Spalding is the official manufacturer of the basketballs approved for use in the NBA and WNBA, as well as in the premier league in Europe, the Euroleague.
- The founder of the Spalding company, Albert Goodwill Spalding, was a professional baseball player, a pitcher with the Boston Red Stockings (later amalgamated into the Atlanta Braves), and while still playing professionally, he opened a sports goods store in Chicago. The company later expanded into manufacturing and distribution, and is still in business almost 120 years later.
- An official full-grain leather basketball costs around $170 (2021 price, just over £123 Sterling).