Netball balls and basketballs may look quite similar at first glance, but there are some key differences between these two types of sports balls that are designed for very different games. Here are the major ways that netball balls and basketballs differ:
- Weight – Netball balls are lighter
- Size – Basketball is larger
- Bounce – Netball balls have lower bounce
- Materials – Basketball uses leather, netball uses rubber/synthetic
- Speed of play – Netballs travel faster during gameplay
- Serving speed – Basketball serves are faster
- World record speeds – Basketball has a higher record throw speed
- Other sports comparisons – Netball is most similar to European handball
- Storage – Netballs maintain bounce longer
- Age impacts – Old basketballs lose bounce, netballs last longer
- Manufacturing – More consistency in netball ball quality
In this article, we’ll explore these differences in more detail, looking at stats on dimensions, weights, materials used, and more. We’ll also discuss the history of both balls, how they compare in terms of speed and world records, and recommendations for the best balls to use and how to care for them.
Difference in Weight
The first major difference between netball and basketball is the weight. Basketball uses a much heavier ball than netball.
The official weight of a basketball is 22 oz (620 g). That’s more than double the weight of a standard netball, which weighs just 14-16 oz (396-453g).
The heavier basketball requires more strength to shoot, pass, and dribble, compared to the lighter netball. This factors into gameplay strategies, with basketball players relying more on speed and power. The lighter netball allows for quicker movement and redirection during passes.
Difference in Size
In addition to the difference in weight, basketballs are also larger in size than netballs.
The standard basketball has a circumference of 29.5-30 inches (75-76 cm) and a diameter of 9.4 inches (24 cm).
Netballs are smaller, with a circumference of 27-28 inches (68-70 cm) and diameter around 8.5 inches (22 cm).
The larger basketball, combined with the extra weight, makes it easier to palm and shoot, compared to the smaller netball. The netball’s compact size gives players advantages in ball control and rapid passing movements.
Difference in Bounce
The materials used in each ball’s construction also affects the bounce profile. Basketballs tend to have a much bouncier, higher bounce than netballs when dribbling or passing.
On average, a men’s professional basketball bounces 49-54 inches (125-137 cm) when dropped from 6 feet high. Netballs have a lower bounce around 41-43 inches (105-110 cm) from the same height.
The higher bounce of a basketball relates to the materials and amount of air pressure used. This “springy” effect allows for more dynamic dribbling, but can also get away from players more easily. The netball’s lower bounce makes ball control easier during play.
The outer materials used to make basketballs and netballs differ significantly:
- Basketball – Uses leather, composite leather, or rubber covers. The inner bladder is butyl or natural rubber.
- Netball – Traditionally uses rubber or vinyl for the cover. Inner bladder also rubber. Some newer balls use synthetic leather.
The leather of a basketball provides a softer feel and more grip than the slick rubber and vinyl of netballs. But the synthetic netball materials hold air pressure longer and resist water absorption.
History of Both Balls
While netball developed from early versions of basketball, the balls evolved separately to adapt to each sport’s unique needs.
- 1891 – The first basketballs were soccer balls or leather panels sewn together. They were thick and bulky.
- Late 1800s – Rubber inner tubes or bladders started being used inside basketballs for better bounce.
- 1950s – Synthetic materials advanced basketball construction.
- 1890s – Clara Baer introduces rubber balls for women’s netball teams, better than soccer balls.
- 1960s – Netball balls adopted fully rubber/synthetic construction for affordability and water resistance.
As the sports matured, balls became specialized for optimizing dribbling, shooting, passing, grip, and air retention for their game.
Speed They Travel
During competitive play, netball balls generally travel at faster speeds than basketballs.
Netball balls have been clocked moving at up to 75 miles per hour (120 km/hr) during hard passes between players. Basketball passes are estimated around 55 miles per hour (90 km/hr) at elite levels.
Shooting speeds are also faster for netball – approaching 60 mph (95 km/hr) on long shots, vs around 50 mph (80 km/hr) for basketball. This relates to the lighter ball weight.
How Fast is a Serve?
Serving speed is an area where basketball rates faster than netball due to the underhand throw:
- Basketball serve – Up to 55 mph (90 km/hr)
- Netball pass after pause – Typically 30-40 mph (50-65 km/hr)
Basketball’s heavier ball and throwing technique allows players to impart much more speed from a standstill. Netball rules forbid a run-up, resulting in slower service passes.
World Record Speeds
The highest recorded ball speeds also favor basketball over netball:
- Fastest basketball throw – 71 mph (114 km/hr), set by Damon Bailey
- Fastest netball pass – 53 mph (85 km/hr), set by Vanessa Wilson
Again, the lighter rubber netball limits record speeds somewhat compared to a leather basketball which compresses then springs off the hand for extra propulsion.
How Both Compare to Other Sports Balls
Netballs share some traits with other sports balls, while basketballs stand more alone:
- Netball is most similar to a handball – Rubber cover, smaller/lighter. Not as fast or bouncy as basketball.
- Basketball is comparable only to its smaller cousin the volleyball in materials and bounce.
- Soccer balls and footballs are much too large and use more rigid covers unlike netball or basketball.
So in summary, netball fills a middle ground between lively basketballs and more grounded balls used in soccer or handball in terms of weight and speed.
The Best Makes of Ball For Each Sport
For basketball, many professionals rely on premium leather balls made by:
- Wilson – The NBA’s official ball sponsor since 1946. Known for superior grip and soft feel.
- Spalding – The official backboard manufacturer, also makes quality indoor/outdoor balls.
Top netball brands include:
- Gilbert – The official ball of Netball Australia and the International Netball Federation. Tough durability.
- Molten – Known for excellent grip and air retention even in rough play.
While you can’t go wrong with the major sporting brands like Nike or Adidas, smaller specialty companies excel in ball manufacture.
Best Ways to Store and Maintain the Balls
To keep basketballs and netballs performing their best:
- Inflate properly – Netballs require 12-14 psi of air pressure. Basketballs need 7-9 psi. Use a pressure gauge.
- Avoid excessive heat – Store out of direct sunlight, in climate controlled rooms where possible.
- Rotate frequently – For outdoor balls, swap in new ones every few games to evenly wear.
- Clean routinely – Wipe down with a damp cloth to prevent dirt buildup.
Proper inflation is key – a ball can lose up to 20% of its liveliness when underfilled by just 2 psi!
How a New Ball Compares to an Old One
With heavy use, basketballs deteriorate much faster than netballs.
After just 2-3 months of frequent play, a new basketball may lose up to 30% of its bounce. The synthetic surfaces of netballs better retain air pressure and rebound.
So while nothing beats the feel of a new leather basketball, netball balls maintain a more consistent performance over their lifespan. Rotating in new netballs less frequently can save on costs.
In summary, while netball balls and basketballs fill similar roles in play, their differing weights, sizes, materials and air pressures make them optimized for their separate sports. When selecting and caring for a ball, be sure to consider these important contrasts. With the right techniques, both types can provide many hours of bouncing, passing and shooting fun.