Are Basketball Balls Leather? What The NBA and Other Levels Use

Basketball In the Woods Eco Friendly
Basketball is one of the most popular sports in the world. Many of us grew up playing with a good old leather basketball and it remains the traditional material used today. But with advances in materials and sustainability, there are more options available than ever before. So, what exactly are basketballs made out of? Does the NBA still play with leather basketballs? And what are the alternatives out there? In this article, we’ll explore all the different materials used to make basketballs and how they stack up to the traditional leather.

Yes, The NBA Still Uses Leather Basketballs 

Let’s start with the basics, the NBA. While basketballs in the NBA have largely migrated from traditional leather to synthetic materials, they do still use genuine leather for their outer layer of the ball. Don't let the name genuine leather fool you. Genuinely leather is the scraps or left over leather pieces of the leather. Also known as the lowest grade of leather. While this may not be a traditional leather ball, it still maintains that leather feel that players love. For the inner bladder of the ball, the NBA requires that it be made of natural rubber and retain certain air pressure standards.

What Does The NCAA & High School Basketball Leagues Use For Their Basketball

While the NBA still has some attachment to leather, many high school and NCAA programs have already made the switch to a synthetic basketballs. In the NCAA, both men’s and women’s basketballs are now required to be made of a composite leather material. The NCAA March Madness Basketball Tournament used the EVO NXT basketball which is made from a microfiber plastic leather. Composite leather is more generally more affordable than genuine leather but still replicates the texture and feel of leather. It also helps address the sustainability issues of using animal hides for basketballs. Most high schools will also use these types of composite leather basketballs, while others may opt for other synthetic materials like rubber. While synthetic leather is still a win for the environment, PU or Microfibers balls used in NCAA will still sit in landfills for 100+ years and break down into microplastics.

What about eco-friendly basketballs?

With the rise in environmental awareness, many sports manufacturers have started offering basketballs made of alternative materials that are more sustainable, like rubber, recycled rubber, or biodegradable materials. Eco Sports is one company leading the charge in this area. The Eco Sports basketball is made of TPU Leather which will break down in 3-5 years and do not include any microplastic. In fact they are BPA and Phthalates Free. They claim that their product is not just good for the environment, but also provides superior grip and performance compared to traditional leather or synthetic materials.

If you are just starting out basketball, or even a very good player... finding a sustainable basketball may be your best option. These basketballs are just as high quality, play, pass, and shoot just like any other leather basketball. Yet you are able to say that you are doing better for the environment. That is what sports such as basketball is all about right? It's about community, it's about team work, it's about hard work and dedication, and it's about getting better. All things we can do to create a better planet for our next generation!

Overall, basketballs can be made out of a variety of materials, from leather to synthetic composites to eco-friendly and sustainable materials. The NBA continues to use leather balls with natural rubber bladders, while many high schools and NCAA programs have moved to full synthetic microfiber options. More and more companies are now offering eco-friendly basketballs as well. Ultimately, the choice of what basketball you use will depend on your personal preferences and needs. Whether you prefer the traditional feel of leather, the durability of composite leather, or the eco-friendliness of other materials, there is a ball for you out there.