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Whether you’re a pro or just a fan of the game, you’ve no doubt heard the name Spalding among the best of the best basketballs.
Trusted by everyone from Paul George to Lebron, Spalding basketballs have revolutionized the game by providing balls with superior air retention, grip, control, and material durability.
You, too, can have a quality indoor outdoor ball that’s of the highest caliber, all at an affordable price, from the prosumer baller down to the kids trying to take home a state championship. The top Spalding basketball will deliver exceptional quality that can match your needs on any budget.
Our extensive research proved that the best Spalding basketball is “Spalding Excel TF-500“. But before we learn more, let’s review how I arrived at that decision and how I weighed these Spalding basketballs against each other.
Best Spalding Basketball – A Comparison Table
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Best Budget Choice
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Best for Indoor
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Best For Outdoors
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Great for streetball
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I put a lot of sweat and time in the post, in the paint, and beyond the arch to test the top picks from every angle and every possible position of play. As a professional point guard, I know the feel and the high performance needed from our basketballs, so we can play at our best and rise to any challenge.
From the 1 down to the 5, these Spalding basketballs are the best of the best for any position on the court and will give you unparalleled performance from your game that you can rely on.
Weighing grip, material, ball control, and size (among other factors), our expert team approached our case study as follows to ensure you get the most accurate and detailed analyses you deserve.
- Invested over 50 hours of research into the best products, which included reading buyer feedback and reviews
- Our expert team and I considered Over 35 products based on grip, material, ball control, bounce, relevant court types, air retention, and size
- I personally tested our top 6 picks, looking for durable court performance and feel
- Consulted my professional teammates in Messina, Italy, our Head Athletic Trainer, as well as the General Equipment Manager from the Italian Lega Basket Serie A (LBA).
Now let’s take a closer look and talk about all things Spalding basketballs, beginning with our editor’s pick: the Spalding Excel TF-500.
Best Spalding Basketballs — In-Depth Product Reviews
#1 Spalding Excel TF-500 - Best Spalding Basketball 2022-2023
- Size: Official NBA 7, 29.5” or 6” for youth
- Material: Composite Leather
- Sponge backing with pebbling gives this basketball the ultimate grip for control you can count on
The Spalding Excel TF-500 is our editor’s choice and the best overall pick in Spalding basketballs. This impressive feat of design is made to be a durable ball you can depend on, with features highlighted to improve your in-game performance.
- Sponge backing with pebbling for excellent grip and better handles
- High-performance composite leather material
- Durable design will last game after game on indoor outdoor courts
- Wide channel design for improved release control and shot accuracy
- Available in NBA regulation size of 7, 29.5” or 6” for youth ballers
- Could have better air retention and will require a more frequent inflation schedule
The Spalding TF-500 comes in an NBA official 7, 29.5” size, with the other option being 6” for youth hoopers. Paired with the faux-leather material, this ball has all the feel the pros count on; you can now get a slice of the NBA standard however and wherever you play.
And yes, I do mean you can take this ball anywhere. From the parquet at your local gym, to street ball, the TF-500 is designed with durability in mind. This is an indoor basketball as much as it is an outdoor basketball.
I played six games with this basketball indoors and three outdoors. Now I’m convinced that this is a top-notch indoor outdoor basketball.
For most versatile basketballs, the palm feel will be a bit harsher and take some getting used to. This is not the case for the Spalding TF-500, and I was surprised with just how soft it feels while still giving you a ball with the security and control you need when playing outdoor ball. This is due to Excel’s soft grip technology.
The fibers of the composite leather coating are intact, meaning there is less moisture retention and breathing characteristic of grain-less, rubber, or plastic balls. Your basketball can now hold up under pressure—whether it’s in the rain or high-intensity play—just like you do.
The TF-500 has an unparalleled attention to detail when it comes to creating a basketball that will up the user’s game. Specifically, you can expect better handles and improved shot accuracy.
The sponge-backing with pebbling surrounding the diameter of the ball allows for optimized grip. These pebbles conduct friction at a higher rate and increase the surface area of the basketball, eliminating any fears of it slipping out of your hand as you drive up the court.
Once you have possession of the Spalding TF-500, the only reason it will leave your hand will be to make a pass or a shot.
And when you do pull-up for a bucket, the laid-in wide channel design offers greater release control than other indoor outdoor basketballs.
This is perfect for players in the paint who need to get accurate shots off fast or for shooters beyond the arch who want a more reliable 3-point shot.
The only drawback to the Spalding TF-500 that I found was that it will require more maintenance than other Spalding’s, primarily in refilling your ball’s bladder with air. That said, more frequent trips to the air pump are worth it for an otherwise flawless basketball.
#2 Spalding Never Flat Elite
- Size: Intermediate size of 6, 28.5”
- Material: Composite leather cover
- Excellent air retention due in part to Spalding’s ‘never flat’ technology
With the never flat technology paired with a valve cap that eliminates dirt and air leaks that could compromise your ball’s bladder, the Never Flat Elite will hold up for game after game of intense play. You’ll only have to worry about making your shots, not if your basektball will survive past a game of 21.
- Never-flat technology ensures your ball stays inflated and performs at the highest level
- Consistent bounce height
- Valve cap that eliminates dirt and air leakage
- Composite, faux leather material fits with indoor or outdoor courts.
- If you deflate your basketball for diagnostics/cleaning, you lose the manufacturer’s warranty
The Premium pick in our Spalding best basketballs goes to the Never Flat Elite. Just like the name suggests, this is a basketball that will stay inflated for its lifetime.
The injection of Nitroflate molecules with deep, symmetrical channels around the ball’s circumference gives the Never Flat a consistent bounce that you can control.
No matter the playing surface, temperature, or strength of the bounce, you’ll be able to dribble with a consistency you can get a grip on. This is especially true with the battle-tested, composite leather cover surrounding the ball. Based on our tests, the grip is nothing but amazing.
It’s important to note that if at any point you decide to deflate the ball, whether it’s to do deep cleaning or run some diagnostics, you will lose the manufacturer’s warranty.
Best to trust this basketball and the advanced technology that will keep the Never Flat in play for many games to come.
#3 Spalding React TF-250
- Size: Official NBA 7, 29.5”
- Material: Composite Leather
- Spalding shooter’s seam allows for instant ball recognition and greater accuracy
The React TF-250 is an excellent choice of basketball for the budget hooper that still gives you all the performance and control you’ve come to expect from Spalding basketballs. If you want a quality, yet affordable ball, that's the one!
- Shooter’s seam gives the ball instant recognition to the touch and greater shot accuracy
- All-purpose, all-surface play with high-quality, composite faux leather design
- Shipped inflated and game-ready
- 1-year manufacturer’s warranty
- Can become “chalky” when playing on cement courts outdoors
- Will take more effort to bounce and find consistency
With the shooter’s seam woven into the surface of the TF-250, you’ll have improved recognition to the touch and greater shot accuracy. Perfect for shooting guards and shots from beyond the arch.
Gripping the ball by the seams is the tried-and-true method to consistently score baskets while giving the shooter greater control over their release.
The shooter’s seam makes finding these seam pockets that much easier, improving your release and ultimately, your reliability on the court.
This is a quality basketball designed for hard play both indoor and outdoor courts, with a composite cover leather design.
I also loved how the ball is shipped inflated, and game-ready. As soon as you open the package, it’s like the Spalding TF-250 is inviting you to organize that pick-up game.
The drawbacks to this ball are to be expected for most inexpensive, budget options for hoopers. When playing outside, there can, at times, be a chalky feel to the TF-250, especially on concrete courts.
It will also take some getting used to and a bit of trial and error to find your desired ball height, as the bounce to the Spalding TF-250 requires more labor to find your sweet spot and pull off with consistency.
Overall it’s a great basketball that’s also included on our list of the top leather basketballs.
#4 Spalding Precision TF-1000
- Size: Official NBA 7, 29.5”
- Material: Composite Leather
- Excellent structural integrity, with butyl bladder and nylon windings
The Spalding Precision TF-1000 is, you guessed it, precise and clean with its design for the all-around, versatile hooper. It's a fantastic indoor basketball that will last you many years to come. See it!
- Peak structural integrity with butyl bladder and nylon windings
- Excellent grip with eco-grip composite covering and deep channels; get a better handle on your handles
- Responsive, air-cushioned carcass
- Shipped inflated and ready to shoot
- Designed for indoor play only
Precision, for us, starts with a design that pays attention to detail; an indoor basketball made to endure hard play, all while giving you the edge you need to rise above the competition.
The TF-1000 delivers here, in part, to its peak structural integrity. The ball is engineered with a butyl bladder core and nylon windings for excellent air retention. Air leaks are a thing of the past with the Precision.
With the added eco-grip, composite frame, and deep channels, you’ll be able to make those crossovers and step-back shots without losing your handle on the ball. This is a dependable and trusted grip among players both professional and casual.
And with the air-cushioned carcass, the bounce-back to the Spalding TF-1000 is responsive to the player making real-time adjustments on the floor.
This is an indoor basketball for the parquet floor and indoor play as it is not designed for outdoor play and will not hold up against the elements, uneven playing surfaces, or varying temperatures.
#5 Spalding Rubber
- Size: Official NBA 7, 29.5”
- Material: Synthetic Rubber
- Durable rubber cover designed to withstand play on hard, uneven playing surfaces
The Spalding Rubber ball pushes the envelope here and exceeds all our expectations for what a rubber basketball can be. With a durable, synthetic rubber cover, it makes playing on rough surfaces worry-free and can withstand the toughest outdoor ball court conditions.
- Durable rubber cover withstands tough play and harsh outdoor use
- Rubber basketballs don’t require any breaking in, simply inflate and hit the court
- Wide symmetrical channels for accurate shots you can rely on
- Strikes a nice balance between durability and great grip without comprising one for the other
- Has an unpredictable bounce
Generally, rubber basketballs negate either durability for grip or vice versa. It can be tough to strike a balance between both to ensure you have an outdoor basketball that you can depend on for high performance.
Plus, with rubber balls, you don’t need to break in the grooves for gameplay as you would leather basketballs. Rubber basketballs are already designed with the wear tracked into their channels for game-ready performance.
And with the channels being symmetrically aligned in the Spalding Rubber, you can count on improved accuracy from any point on the floor.
This quality outdoor basketball is ready for play with durable engineering and improved grip; this is a ball with an unpredictable bounce. It will take some getting used to and some time alone making your shots to get used to its give.
#6 Spalding Street
- Size: Official NBA 7, 29.5” or intermediate size of 6, 28.5”
- Material: Durable rubber
- Made for streetball — high-intensity play meets secure handling with pebbled design and deep channel tracks
The Spalding official Street ball is geared towards players who love to play outdoors and bang around in the paint. This ball holds up under intense, physical play with durability and security in mind.
- Super durable performance rubber outdoor basketball
- Wide, deep channel design for great grip performance
- Designed for high-intensity outdoor use
- Dense pebbling design protects the ball’s rubber cover from moisture build-up
- When the ball gets dirty, it loses most of its grip
With an ultra-durable rubber outdoor cover, the Spalding Street is made to withstand the extreme wear and tear that your ball is susceptible to when playing on the rough and tumble outdoor basketball courts.
Added durability is found in the dense pebbling surrounding the ball, which protects the Spalding Street from moisture that can compromise your ball’s grip and impair your performance.
Added grip control is found in the wide, deep channels woven in the diameter. The grip is incredibly important on outdoor courts to not only be able to play your best but also to avoid injury.
That said, I found that while testing the Spalding Street basketball, as it got dirty and it continued to lose most of its grip security.
Although it’s protected from the elements with its rubber cover and concentrated pebbling, it’s best to play this outdoor basketball in the sun and away from dirt and debris.
Why Spalding Basketballs?
Before we dive into the specs of our buyer’s guide, let’s take a step back and look at the broader history of Spalding basketballs and why they make the best basketballs for hoopers.
Established by Boston Red Stockings pitcher A.G. Spalding in 1876, Spalding remains an innovator in quality sporting goods. A.G Spalding, a future hall of famer, entered the sports equipment and management sector with a bang by making the first licensed major league baseball.
This baseball would go on to become the official ball of the National League for the next 100 years and the American League for 84 years.
After publishing an official baseball rules guide and becoming GM and President of the Chicago White Stockings, Spalding began expanding his horizons.
Moving into American football with foot leather and rawhide lacing in 1887, by 1894 the company reinvented itself again by designing and producing the first-ever basketball.
Before Spalding, basketball players and enthusiasts were using soccer balls, with the first recorded exhibition game played at a local YMCA in Springfield Mass., and with peach baskets as the buckets.
Spalding revolutionized the game of basketball with the creation of synthetic leather basketballs in 1973. Almost 100 years after their initial design of the basketball, Spalding became the NBA official game ball in 1983.
When you’re the official ball designer and supplier of the most prestigious basketball league in the world, your accolades and qualifications are no longer in question. Spalding talks the talk and walks the walk.
Yet, what really sets Spalding apart is their dedication to the game and making indoor outdoor basketballs for not just the pros but the amateurs. Spalding pays close attention to semi-pros, amateurs, or even the players who just want to shoot a round at the YMCA.
With Spalding, you get a quality ball with the performance and feel trusted by pro athletes, at a fraction of what the price should be.
Spalding designs and sources their materials based on the basketballs’ intended use. Factors like gender, age, level of competition, and/or surface all come into play here.
Spalding tends to use genuine leather for indoor courts or a blend of microfiber composite cover casings and/or rubber for the best outdoor play.
Their genuine leather balls are engineered by grain type based on competition level, where they are then colored, stamped, embossed, dried, graded, trimmed, and sewn.
Spalding leather is single-sourced exclusively from the Horween Leather Company in Chicago, the oldest leather company in the U.S.
The craftsmanship in such an extensive process meeting the storied partnership between Spalding and Horween gives their genuine leather basketballs a sense of wonderment; you can be a small part in the larger tradition of Spalding, steeped in a love of the game.
The microfiber composite cover leather balls — or faux leather — engineered by Spalding are crafted through mid-tier models of synthetic leather that still give you the pro touch like an NBA official game ball.
These models, similar to their rubber basketballs, are built to be tough and withstand hard, daily outdoor play.
Choosing The Right Spalding Basketball For You
For grip, we’re looking for a game basketball with deep and/or wide channels to set the palm into with security for both ball handling and shotmaking. All of the Spalding official balls we have listed in our top picks have these wide, symmetrical channels woven into the coverings.
These channels woven into the seams typically define 8-12 cover regions of the basketball, which is imperative for every basketball player to be able to characterize which region of the ball they’re in control of.
This allows them to be able to perform with accuracy, no matter the shot selection or handle. For added grip dependability, look for balls with dense, concentrated pebbling throughout the carcass or cover.
Our editor’s choice, the Spalding Excel TF-500 is a great example of pebbling that adds an extra point of contact to your palm on the cover while protecting the playing surface from sweat and other sources of moisture.
High-quality pebbling, like the Spalding Excel TF-500, can contain almost 35,000 micro-pebbles over the entire surface of this quality ball.
Composite Leather (i.e. Faux Leather) — Encompassing both leather and plastic synthetic components, composite leather or faux leather basketballs have a longer life expectancy than rubber balls, have superior grip and ball handling features, and are closer to NBA official game ball certifications.
The trade-off is a ball that is not for outdoor use and is strictly an indoor basketball because it’s not made to hold up under unpredictable, tough playing surfaces. Leather balls, however, last for longer.
Composite leather will also require a little breaking-in as new composite leather balls are often slick and slippery to the touch.
Rubber — Rubber basketballs are made to withstand intense play on uneven, harsh court types, with improved grip and handling over time as the ball continues to get dirty.
A rubber ball will interact with parquet courts differently as the bounce and ball control will deteriorate over indoor basketballs.
Outdoor and indoor basketball court types are important considerations for you to consider when choosing a ball. Think about where you’ll be playing, and you’ll be able to find a Spalding ball with the material that will match your needs.
A scientific study reported that developing ball control is crucial for improving your game play. And a basketball that’s already designed with good ball control certainly helps with that.
Grip and ball control go hand-in-hand, literally, and you deserve the best basketball you can get for precise dribbling, deking, passing and shooting. If you want handles like Kyrie, you need a ball like Kyrie.
That doesn’t necessarily mean you need a genuine leather, official NBA game ball. Look amongst our top picks for balls with deep channels and clearly distinguished seams to lock your fingers into place.
An added bonus is a feature like the shooter’s seam in the Spalding React TF-250 basketball, helping you find your pocket for the best possible form to get your shot off.
Accurate bounce control is crucial for a dependable stroke from anywhere on the court, both indoor and outdoor. The harder the playing surface, the more energy a dropped ball retains and the higher and/or more powerful the bounce.
Allow yourself a little alone time practicing drills to find your desired ball height that will give you the most control over your play. This is especially true for the Spalding Rubber Basketball and the Spalding React TF-250 basketball.
This is another great example for using basketballs designed for their intended court. Keep rubber outdoor balls outside and composite, faux leather balls for indoor basketball.
The integrity of your ball’s bladder is of the utmost importance for durable play game after game. No one likes constantly having to refill their ball between games.
The Spalding Precision Basketball is robust in its air retention with a butyl bladder construction. Butyl rubber is characterized by low permeability to air and high resistance to natural chemicals that deteriorate your ball’s bladder over time.
Equal air pressure across the court ensures equal opportunities at both ends and on both teams in play. The averagebasketball should contain anywhere from 7.5 to 8.5 PSI.
The Never Flat Elite’s model promise for a forever inflated basketball delivers, and with its sturdy valve cap design, you can ensure your ball retains its air and is protected from dirt build-up or potential air leaks and valve tears.
Plus, you can easily deflate it if you need to transport it. And if the ball gets damaged one way or another, here’s a nifty guide explaining how to patch your basketball.
Consider your level of play: do you want to ball like the pros? Or play a casual scrimmage in the park. Or you want your basketballs to be so small that you can fit two in a single hoop just for fun?
Any basketball, like our Editor’s choice Spalding Excel TF-500 for instance, that comes in 7, 29.5” is the official size of the NBA and will give you the feel and ball performance the pros rely on.
For something more at the intermediate level, consider a 6, 28.5” size like the Never Flat Elite. Inversely, the Spalding Precision TF-1000 is the official NHS-approved High School basketball for the state of Maryland and Idaho.
Sure enough ball size matters based on the player’s age. Here’s a neat table showcasing the recommended indoor outdoor basketball size based on your age.
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Which is the best Spalding basketball?
The best Spalding basketball is the Spalding Excel TF-500, with its sponge-backed pebbling, durable, high-performance composite leather design, indoor outdoor versatility, and wide channels for improved release and ball control.
Is Spalding the best basketball brand?
Spalding is the best basketball brand and is regarded as such around the world based on its time-honored, impeccably designed basketballs at an affordable price. Being used in professional leagues around the world is proof of this.
Is Spalding or Wilson a better basketball?
Spalding is the better basketball as it is preferred by NBA players for its soft grip technology while maintaining its ball control.
Paul George said in a 2019 press conference after the switch from Spalding to Wilson that:
“It doesn’t have the same touch and softness that the Spalding ball had. You’ll see this year. A lot of bad misses..you’ve seen a lot of airballs.”
In 2019, the league averaged just 44% on FGs, the lowest conversion rate in 15 years; since 2004. On a side note, Molten makes great balls too.
Why did the NBA stop using Spalding?
The NBA stopped using Spalding basketballs because they couldn’t agree on terms moving forward for contract renewal in 2019. Thus, Wilson became the official basketball of the NBA beginning in 2020. As with most things in the corporate world, it all comes down to money.
What’s better, Molten or Spalding?
Spalding is the better brand and maker of quality basketballs. There was a time when every hooper on the court praised the GF7 basketball from Molten. But, without the ability to adapt and innovate their engineering to the ever-changing and evolving game of basketball, Molten products became inferior to the creative and high-quality designs from the Spalding basketball department.
What is the best outdoor basketball by Spalding?
The best outdoor basketball by Spalding is the Spalding Rubber, with its durable rubber cover withstanding the elements and harsh, uneven playing surfaces. There are more outdoor basketball players as these courts are more accessible. Spalding knows this and produces excellent outdoor basketballs.
What is the best indoor basketball by Spalding?
The best indoor basketball by Spalding is the Spalding Excel TF-500, with its sponge-backed pebbling, high-performance composite leather cover, and durable design to help you achieve peak performance when playing indoor ball. Take good care of your indoor basketball and it will return the favor.