If you’re a basketball player, your summers are likely spent on local courts playing 3-on-3 or even 5-on-5 pick-up games whenever the weather allows it. If so, chances are that at some point in time, you have played either with or against THAT guy.
The guy who comes to the court dressed like he was just going for a casual walk. The guy dressed like he has absolutely no business being anywhere near a basketball, yet that same guy somehow ends up dominating absolutely everyone on the court.
I’m willing to bet these lines have brought up a few memories for most of you reading. As that guy has clearly shown, basketball is, and always will be, a game of skill.
While having the best gear is no guarantee of success, it can make all the difference on your journey to become a better player.
Whether it’s helping you avoid injury that could keep you sidelined for weeks or even months, helping you create the most realistic practice environment, or giving you that split second advantage needed to make a play, having the right equipment can be the difference between success and failure.
Even with the understanding of why proper equipment is needed, it is still difficult to choose the right pieces for you. What is it that makes a piece of equipment good, and even more importantly, what makes a piece of equipment a good fit for your specific needs?
The huge number of choices on the market might easily overwhelm someone who doesn’t know exactly what they’re looking for. We’re here to help you navigate that jungle of choices and help you select the equipment that will help you become the best player you can be.
We’re going to cover pretty much every single piece of equipment you could need as a basketball player, explain the key concepts or features you can base your decisions on, and provide our product recommendation based on both personal experience and research.
Let’s get started.
How To Choose The Best Basketball Hoop
You can technically play basketball in pajamas and slippers, but you’re still going to need a ball and a hoop. Choosing a ball is relatively simple because can feel the weight and the texture of the ball when you hold it in your hands at the store.
Choosing a hoop, on the other hand, can be a daunting task given that it’s highly unlikely you can start launching three-pointers or do a few practice layups in the store. Portable basketball hoops come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and materials, all of which can and will influence your experience and practice.
What are these differences? What are the main benefits of the different types of hoops? How do I select the one that is right for what I want to practice? There are some of the questions we will try to answer in the next segment.
What To Look For
The most obvious differences between hoops are in the base, the size of the backboard, and the type of the rim. The less obvious differences are in the materials used (especially the materials the backboard is made of), and the ability to adjust rim height.
Your exact needs and the amount of space you have should be the driving factor behind your choice of hoop base. If you have the space for a dedicated basketball court and value rim stability, then the dug in base is probably best for you. Otherwise, go for a hoop with either a mounted or portable base.
Portable bases are meant to be filled with other materials that can be easily emptied such as sand or water to ensure stability. As the name suggests, their mobility is their biggest asset. Mounted hoops are designed to be attached to an existing structure like a house wall or a garage door.
Backboard sizes range from 44’’ (112 cm) to the regulation 72’’ (183 cm). If you want to practice bank shots or difficult layups on your hoop, then the 60’’ (152 cm) backboard is probably the best choice for you. If regular shooting is your main priority, a smaller backboard will probably suffice.
You may encounter different shapes of backboards too, mainly rectangular and fan-shaped ones. If layups and bank shots are important to you, go for a rectangular one. Otherwise, a fan-shaped backboard will probably be enough for you.
Rims come in two main types, fixed and breakaway. In my experience, fixed rims are often very sturdy and will influence your shot in weird ways. A breakaway rim is probably the better choice if you want to have more realistic shooting/layup practices and/or practice dunks.
Backboard material impacts how the ball bounces off of the backboard and there are three main options. Starting from the most expensive and “gym-like”, they are tempered glass, acrylic, and polycarbonate. Acrylic provides a nice middle ground and might be the best choice for the average user.
Other considerations include the type of net and the ability to adjust rim height. Many hoops with portable or dug-in bases will give you the option to adjust rim height which is great if you have some younger family members that want to use the hoop. This option is rarely present on mounted hoops.
Nets come in either nylon or chain variants. Official games are played with nylon nets and they are the ones that produce that satisfying swish sound when a shot is hit just right. Chain nets keep the ball from going far when you hit a basket, but they can corrode and even damage your ball is some cases.
Deciding which hoop you’re going to buy becomes much easier once list your needs and know the specific ways different options on the market can fulfill them. My final advice before moving on is to keep in mind that tomorrow you may want to practice something you weren’t considering before.
The specific hoop I have chosen to recommend has won me over with its versatility. It is the Spalding NBA Hybrid with a 60’’ backboard (it comes in 54’’ and 60’’ backboard versions). If you’re looking for a portable hoop that will let you practice a wide variety of moves, this may be a good choice for you.
It offers a good balance between mobility and stability thanks to its wide base. A relatively big backboard lets you practice bank shots and about 16’’ of space behind the backboard will allow you to drive in for layups without the fear you’ll hit the base of the hoop or the pole as you land.
If you have the option and space for a dedicated basketball court, then you are probably better off getting a hoop that can be dug in for added stability. If versatility and the ability to move the hoop when needed are important to you, then the Spalding NBA Hybrid is probably the right choice.
Spalding NBA Hybrid with a 60’’ backboard
How To Choose The Best Basketball
“Which ball are we playing with?” A timeless question that gets asked before the first 3-on-3 or 5-on-5 game of the day if there is more than one ball present on the court. It’s usually followed with a comparison of the available options and maybe a short debate if there isn’t an obvious consensus pick.
You’ve probably been in a situation where you simply had to play or practice with a ball that just didn’t feel right or was straight-up bad. Not something you want to repeat if you can avoid it, right? But what is it exactly that separates a good basketball from a bad one and why does ball quality matter?
A good basketball will not only make your game experience more enjoyable, but it will also help your practice sessions be more effective. I consider that the basketball is one of the two most important pieces of equipment to choose correctly, together with the shoes you’re going to be playing in.
What To Look For
Finding the right basketball requires first understanding what size is right for you, and then deciding where do you want to play with the ball you buy. The process is relatively simple once you have a bit of experience with the sport, but it is still easy to overthink given how many choices are available.
Let’s start with the size. Official rules of basketball dictate different size balls should be used by men and women. Men play their official games with a size 7 ball (29,5’’ or 75 cm circumference), whereas women play their official games with a size 6 ball (28,5’’ or 72,5 cm circumference).
Basketballforcoaches.com has a useful guide on this specific topic if you’d like to learn more. If you choose the wrong sized basketball, you run the risk of seriously breaking your shooting and dribbling mechanics due to the difference between your practice ball and the official game ball.
Your primary playing location will determine the basketball material that is the best for you out of the three main options: leather, composite, and rubber. The materials differ in the type of surface they are meant for, grip quality, the way they bounce off of the court/backboard/rim, and of course price.
Leather basketballs are the ones you’ll see in official games. They offer the best grip quality out of all the materials, even when your hands get sweaty. If you’re looking for a ball that will help you have realistic practices, leather is probably right for you.
Leather balls are pricier than the alternatives, and they have to be “broken in” before they start feeling and performing as a proper game ball should. They don’t handle outdoor courts well due to dirt and potential damage to the finish but are the best option by far if you’re looking for an indoor ball.
Rubber basketballs feel very different from game balls, and their grip control is often very poor. Another problem is that their weight is often significantly different than what it should be, meaning they can negatively impact your mechanics. I recommend you avoid them if at all possible.
Composite balls are jacks of all trades with a good mix of performance and price. They are usually suited for both indoor and outdoor play and they replicate the feel and weight of leather balls well. This might just make them the best option if you’re looking for a quality ball without breaking the bank.
There are also some more advanced options out there if you are a more advanced user, and Dick’s Sporting Goods have created a short guide to different types of both basic and advanced basketballs. Give it a look if you’d like to learn a bit more.
Recommendation For You – Molten GG7X
My hands tend to get very sweaty when playing which sometimes leads to problems maintaining control of the ball. This is why grip quality is one of the most important things I look for in a basketball.
Some rubber balls I’ve played with had amazing grip quality, and I still have one such ball laying around somewhere. However, that grip quality came at a great cost of poor performance in many other areas, as well as a weight which was much different than the rules of basketball call for.
The ball that solved the problem for me is the one that I’ll be recommending for this category, the Molten GG7X. It’s a composite leather ball which the producer labeled as an indoor and outdoor ball.
It has everything I want in a basketball – good grip control, great performance, and it feels very natural in your hand. It is an absolute joy to play with on hardwood. The only problem I have with it is that it isn’t a good ball to use on outdoor courts, despite the manufacturer’s indoor/outdoor label.
Outdoor surfaces will quickly degrade the finish, decreasing performance and grip quality. Dirt sticks to the ball quickly, making it slippery when used outdoors. If you’re looking for an indoor ball, this is probably a great option for you. But if you want an outdoor ball, there are better options out there.
How To Choose The Best Basketball Shoes
Basketball shoes have two main functions – preventing slipping on the court and injury prevention. Since the ankle is one of the most commonly injured body parts in basketball players, choosing the right shoe for you is likely the most important choice you can make in terms of basketball equipment.
Even the best basketball shoe can’t guarantee that you’ll never roll your ankle, but they play a crucial role in decreasing the likelihood of such an injury according to the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine. If you do roll your ankle, a good basketball shoe can lessen the severity of the injury.
The word of the day is fit. Unlike your walking shoe which probably tolerates small size deviations, your basketball shoe needs to be a perfect fit for your foot. Basketball shoes that are too large or too small won’t do their job properly and can actually lead to further problems down the line.
YouTube video for this topic (a bit outdated regarding the models but the principles have remained current):
What To Look For
Basketball shoes differ in materials, cushioning type, and style. You are probably familiar with the two main styles of basketball shoes out there, high-top and low-top. Many people have a style preference one way or the other, but there are important performance differences to consider between the two.
Low-top shoes are usually lighter and are probably the choice for you if you’re looking for a shoe that emphasizes speed and agility. You’re usually going to see these worn by guards and some small forwards due to their style of play and height/weight.
High-tops are usually heavier than low-top shoes but offer superior stability as a result. You’ll often see power forwards and centers wearing this type of shoe because they are much taller and heavier than guards, and their style of play almost always demands the added stability offered by high-tops.
Many people mistakenly believe that high-tops are better than low-tops in preventing ankle injuries. A large study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine is just one of several studies that have found no difference in ankle injury rates between players wearing high-top and low-top shoes.
Similar results were found in a study published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine. The shoe style is completely up to you. I know many guards who don’t enjoy playing in low-tops, and vice versa for power forwards. The most important thing is that the shoe fits and you feel comfortable wearing it.
Cushioning is also very important in a shoe, and it is found in the midsole. Different brands use different materials, but the cushioning will most likely consist of some sort of foam or a combination of foams. Some brands also offer “air” cushioning, where gas pockets replace the foam.
I recommend avoiding this type of cushioning, as the gas pockets can get ruptured, leading to a loss of cushioning in your shoe. Foam cushioning is a much safer alternative in this regard. One more thing you need to consider is the outsole, a.k.a. the bottom of your shoe.
This is the part of the shoe responsible for “sticking” to the surface you’re playing on and preventing slipping. They are usually made from rubber or synthetic materials, and the bottom of the outsole will have a pattern. The best traction is usually provided by herringbone or hexagonal patterns.
One final thing you need to keep in mind is that any shoe you pick will quickly wear away if you use it on hard outdoor surfaces like concrete or asphalt. Not only will these surfaces destroy the outsole pattern, but over time they will destroy the entire bottom of the shoe, rendering it unwearable.
If you plan to use your shoes on outdoor surfaces, it is probably a good idea to get shoes with a foam midsole and a thicker outsole, simply because they will last longer than shoes with thinner outsoles. Just keep in mind that shoes worn out by concrete/asphalt will have decreased indoor performance.
Due to the size I wear, finding shoes has always been a problem, even when looking for basketball shoes. I always liked Nike basketball shoes, but on one occasion the only shoe I could find in my size was an Adidas shoe, a TS Commander model shoe in Celtics colors.
Given how I had no other choice, I bought it and the result has been one of the most pleasant surprises in all the years I’ve been playing basketball. The shoe was comfortable, very stable and durable. It was the reason why I started looking at Adidas shoes more closely in the future.
Despite not having as much hype surrounding the company as Nike, Jordan, or more recently UnderArmour, Adidas has been quietly improving and developing shoes with great performance at reasonable prices. One of their better models in recent years is the shoe I’ve chosen to recommend.
Adidas Title Run is versatile enough to fit nearly any position or style of play as it offers enough stability for heavier players while being lightweight and responsive enough for guards. Unless you have very specialized needs or prefer low top shoes instead, this shoe will probably be a good choice for you.
It uses the signature adiPRENE+ cushioning which has been praised for its comfort and quality. The outsole features a modified herringbone pattern with reinforcements on certain parts such as the inner balls of the foot for pivoting.
The outsole is made from thick rubber which improves the shoe’s durability for outdoor play. However, the outsoles seem to attract dirt easily which can make the shoes slippery if you don’t wipe the outsoles thoroughly after outdoor use. You can encounter the same problem with dirty indoor courts.
As with any shoe, it’s best to buy it in a store where you can check the fit and avoid nasty surprises that potentially come with online ordering. While many users have found the shoe to be true to size, some have complained about it being narrow, so you should definitely try before you buy.
These drawbacks can easily be avoided, but I still wanted to mention them just to give you a more complete idea of what you’re getting and not getting with these shoes. Overall, if you’re looking for a versatile and quality shoes at a reasonable price, Adidas Title Runs are probably a great choice for you.
Adidas Title Run
How To Choose The Best Basketball Jersey
The jersey is probably the most iconic piece of basketball equipment in existence. They’re often used to show team pride, or simply fandom for a specific player current or retired. You may see players with custom jerseys in pick-up games, or even players wearing generic jerseys or t-shirts.
Most people who wear a jersey while they play outside of official games do so because they are fans of the team or the specific player whose jersey they have. Since the NBA is the most popular basketball league in the world, we’re going to give you an overview of the options for your new NBA jersey.
Of course, if you’re a fan of a team or a player that aren’t in the NBA, by all means, feel free to look for the specific jersey you want, the principles we’re going to go over can be applied to virtually any jersey, regardless if it’s an NBA jersey or not.
What To Look For
Basketball jerseys have evolved a lot over the years, primarily in the materials they’re built from. A modern basketball jersey is supposed to wick away the sweat from a player’s skin without absorbing too much of it to allow for easier evaporation, all this while allowing the skin to breathe.
This means that quality jerseys are made from some advanced variant of polyester that is both durable and able to fulfill the functions described above. Keep in mind that not all polyester is made equal and different technologies are integrated into the jersey’s production process to improve performance.
Now that we’ve covered that, we can move on to the three main variants in which you’ll find genuine NBA jerseys on the market – authentic, swingman, and replica. There are many fakes out there as well, and this great guide from The Daily Universe will teach you how to spot them and avoid them.
Authentic jerseys are the same as the ones NBA players are wearing on the court. In terms of pure quality and performance, they are the best that money can buy. Accordingly, they’re also the most expensive aside from game-worn jerseys, but you get what you pay for.
If you’re a collector or a die-hard fan, an authentic jersey is probably for you. If you’re looking for a jersey you want to play in on a daily basis, one of the other two variants will probably suit your needs better at a significantly lower price.
Swingman jerseys don’t look that much different from authentic ones but you will notice the differences upon closer inspection. The material won’t be top tier polyester like the one found in authentic jerseys, but it still offers decent performance and durability.
The numbers and the lettering are heat pressed unlike in authentic jerseys where they are stitched on. In general, swingman is a step below authentic in quality but if you’re looking for a jersey to play in for a reasonable price, swingman is probably right for you.
There’s a great video guide made by zvExotics that takes you through all the differences between authentic and swingman jerseys in great details, give it a look if you’d like to learn more.
At the bottom of the totem pole are the replica jerseys which are a step or two below swingman jerseys. They’re usually made from low-tier polyester or even nylon in some cases and the fabric is thinner than swingman jerseys leading to decreased performance and durability.
Replica jerseys might be a good option for you if you’re on a tight budget or need a cheap jersey that you won’t miss too much if it gets ripped or otherwise damaged. In addition to the sleeveless jerseys that are associated with basketball, sleeved jerseys were introduced in the NBA a couple of years ago.
The materials are the same as in regular jerseys and it’s a matter of personal preference but many players have found them uncomfortable and restrictive, so they were quickly phased out of NBA games. Try playing in a tight t-shirt to get a better idea if this kind of jersey is right for you.
As far as fit goes, you don’t want the jersey to be tight and pressed against your body, nor should it be too loose and flying around. If you’re used to playing in t-shirts, a jersey will probably feel a bit long at first, but as long as it fits around the shoulders, you will get used to the extra length in no time.
There’s a high probability that your favorite teams and players are different than mine. This is why I don’t feel comfortable recommending you to get a specific team or player jersey (although the image below will feature a Luka Dončić jersey for the sake of demonstration).
Instead, I will recommend a jersey variant, and my recommendation is the NBA swingman jersey line. They are probably your best bet if you’re looking for a durable jersey with good performance at a decent price. You can use this jersey in both casual settings as well as game attire.
I picked up one of these myself a few years ago, initially for collection purposes, but I soon started wearing it when playing indoors. That jersey ended up being much better to play in than I honestly expected. I usually played unofficial indoor games in my old college jersey which had some major flaws.
The biggest one was that the material stuck to the skin when it got wet which got distracting and uncomfortable after a while. If you’re familiar with this feeling, I’m guessing you’re not a fan of it either. Wouldn’t it be nice if it could be avoided? As it turned out, the answer is “yes”.
The swingman jersey solved that issue better than I could have hoped for and the difference in jersey performance was very noticeable. It also turned out to be surprisingly durable, withstanding more than its fair share of pulls and falls.
Overall, if you’re in the market for a durable jersey that looks good enough to be worn in casual settings and will offer great game performance, a jersey from the swingman line is probably the best option on the market for you.
Nike Icon Swingman Jersey
How To Choose the Best Baseketball Shorts
Basketball shorts are not often used to display team or player fandoms, which is why you’ll see team shorts much less often than team jerseys. If you have both, it’s a bit of an unwritten rule not to wear them together when playing, pick either the jersey or the shorts.
While a jersey can be substituted for a t-shirt (or a t-shirt with cut off sleeves) if that’s your personal preference, shorts don’t have such a good substitute as sweatpants are often too restrictive and either don’t wick sweat away or absorb too much of it without letting it evaporate.
Performance-wise, shorts fill a role very similar to jerseys wicking away sweat to let it evaporate faster. I’d argue that shorts are more important than a jersey since a bad pair of shorts can hinder leg movement, and you don’t want your legs to be slow on the court.
What To Look For
If you’re looking for a pair of shorts that represent your favorite NBA team or player, the variants available to you are the same as for jerseys (authentic, swingman, replica) with the same properties and differences.
Herb Brooks, hockey coach, and Olympic gold medal winner, often told his players that the legs feed the wolf. The same can be said in basketball. You want to be as fast as possible on offense, defense, and in transition, so it’s incredibly important to pick a pair of shorts that won’t restrict your movement.
We’ve already talked about the importance of materials when it comes to wicking sweat away and allowing the skin to breathe, the same principles can be applied to shorts. The best basketball-specific shorts will be made from some sort of high-tier polyester, so be sure to take a look at the composition.
As far as length and fit go, the shorts should come up to just above your knees, if they are going over your knees they may somewhat restrict your movements which we want to avoid. They should also be loose (like this), to allow for a large range of motion, but not so loose as to fly all over the place.
I’ve been really impressed with a pair of shorts I came across recently, impressed enough to list them as my recommendation for this category. The model in question is Under Armour’s Baseline 10’’ shorts 18.
They are extremely comfortable and do their job so well that I managed to notice a big difference in performance compared to other pairs of shorts I used to play in. The shorts are great at wicking sweat away while absorbing very little of it, allowing you to move around the court without any restrictions.
They are also much cheaper than any official NBA shorts while offering similar, or even superior performance in many aspects. Unless you’re a collector or a die-hard fan of a certain team/player, I wholeheartedly recommend you give these Under Armour shorts a try.
Under Armour’s Baseline Shorts
How To Choose The Best Basketball Socks
When thinking of athletic equipment, few people are going to mention socks as something that can affect performance, but medical professionals such as Dr. Stephen M. Pribut state that socks are an important part of an athlete’s kit.
Socks perform a dual role in performance and injury prevention. They help performance by preventing the foot from sliding inside the shoe. Injury prevention is done in two ways – providing extra cushioning for the foot and preventing blisters and similar foot-related issues.
Shoes and socks go hand in hand when it comes to basketball. Even if you have the best shoes money can buy, you still risk injury if you don’t equip yourself with the proper socks. Here’s an overview of the main things to consider when buying your next pair of basketball socks.
What To Look For
Socks come in a variety of materials and you likely have a pair of cotton socks somewhere in your house for example. If you intend to play basketball, stay away from those socks as cotton is one of the most absorbent materials out there. To quote Dr. Pribut, “A soggy foot may end up being a healthy foot”.
Any socks you intend to wear during physical activity should be made from hydrophobic materials. Cotton is an example of a hydrophilic material as it “loves” and absorbs moisture very well. Hydrophobic materials are the exact opposite, they “fear” moisture and don’t absorb it well.
Hydrophobic materials are most often synthetic (or specially treated natural materials like smartwool). These materials are going to wick away the moisture from your feet and help you avoid blisters or other foot problems. Dr. Pribut’s article goes into more depth about this so give it a look to learn more.
If you’ve ever had a blister on your foot then you know how uncomfortable or even painful they can be, and you’ll easily understand why I’m talking about materials so much. If you’ve never had a blister on your foot then consider yourself lucky and just trust me on this, it beats learning the hard way.
Fit is another important thing to consider for your basketball socks. You don’t want any loose fabric when you put the socks on, you want them to be pressed against your foot or ankle, but they can’t be tight enough to affect circulation. Still, expect them to be tighter than your everyday walking socks.
It may take a bit of time to get used to the feel, but it won’t be long before it starts feeling completely natural. You should also consider how your socks will interact with your shoes. Some basketball socks are thicker than others, depending on the material and the amount of extra cushioning.
Thicker socks may add as much as half a size (US) or one whole number (European) to your shoe size, so always try the socks with your basketball shoes to see if they will make your shoe too tight. This extra cushioning may be important.
Unlike regular socks, basketball socks are reinforced in certain parts and may come with additional cushioning to lessen the impact of your movements on your joints. If you are heavier or if your game relies on quick changes of direction, then it’s probably a good idea to go for the extra cushioning.
I spent way too much time playing basketball in generic sports socks… As a heavier player who jumps a lot, cushioning was always something I could never get enough of, but cushioning is also something that generic sports sock could never provide nearly enough of.
A friend recommended I pick up a part of the Nike Elite basketball socks. He had several pairs of them and swore by them, so I decided to give them a try. I knew of these socks by reputation, as they are some of the best basketball socks ever made. They lived up to every bit of that reputation for me.
When they first came out, these socks were in such demand that people were selling them through eBay at a marked up price. They remain some of the best basketball socks on the market to this very day despite having been designed quite a few years ago.
If you’re looking for a sock that offers great comfort and superb protection with additional cushioning at every possible impact point on your foot and ankle, then you’d be hard-pressed to find a better and more affordable option than this one.
Nike Elite Basketball Socks
How To Choose The Best Basketball Knee Pads
Have you ever bumped knees with someone else or seen two people bump knees in a basketball game? It probably hurt just seeing it happen and there was likely a stoppage of play for both parties to recover from the pain.
Hopefully, there weren’t consequences more serious than some pain and a bruise or two but in reality, such bumps can lead to a variety of injuries to the knee. According to an extensive study by Dracos et al., knee injuries are some of the most common and serious injuries among basketball players.
Knee pads are meant to offer a degree of protection against hits to the knee or falls that can occur in the heat of a game. They can also give a confidence boost to players who like to make aggressive moves to the basket and like the feeling of knowing they have some extra protection.
What To Look For
First of all, I must point out that knee pads are NOT a substitute for knee braces or other medical devices. Make sure to consult a doctor if you are suffering (or recovering) from a knee issue as a simple knee pad may not be sufficient protection and a brace may be required.
Knee pads can come on their own or as a part of a larger compression sleeve that can cover your entire leg. Compression sleeves supposedly improve performance by improving circulation and reducing soreness but these benefits have not been conclusively proven by science.
Still, some players swear by their compression gear, so if you want to get a knee pad, feel free to try both the stand-alone and compression sleeve versions before making a purchase. Also, make sure to pay attention to the material the pad is made from as the same rules apply as with jerseys or socks.
The pads themselves will be filled with some sort of cushioning material, usually foam, but the specifics depend on the manufacturer. This cushion may vary in thickness and size, but you generally want it to cover as much of the front of your knee as possible, and a bit above/below it.
The thickness of the cushioning is a matter of your personal preference and needs. Try it on and make sure that it isn’t too thick to restrict your movement. Most manufacturers have their own sizing charts that you should consult to determine the appropriate size for you based on your leg.
Full disclosure, despite having suffered a few knee injuries while playing I am still not a fan of knee pads because I feel they impair my movement. Never the less, plenty of people I’ve played with wear knee pads for various reasons. Some do it out of necessity and some simply as fashion statements.
I’ve never cared much for fashion statements on the court, and I spent a fair amount of time talking with the people who wore knee pads either for protection or because a doctor recommended them to do so. Their personal preferences differed, but some things were a common theme for most of them.
A specific brand of knee pads kept coming up, McDavid. The few people I knew that owned their knee pads talked very highly of them, and more than a few of those who had knee pads of other brands wanted to switch.
I knew the brand by reputation, and hearing my friends talk about their knee pads and a few other products prompted me to find out more about them for myself. I liked what I saw, and if I ever find myself in need of some protective athletic gear, I’ll most likely be getting it from McDavid.
If that product turns out to be a knee pad, it’s highly likely that I’ll go for McDavid’s 6440 hex knee pad. I like this knee pad because it covers a large surface area and has great quality cushioning. The icing on the cake for me is that the pad doesn’t take any more space on your leg than it absolutely needs to.
For someone who hates being restricted by compression gear, this is important. If you’re looking for a pad that comes with a larger compression sleeve, there is also a sleeved variant of this knee pad.
If you ever find yourself looking for a knee pad, I highly recommend that you give this model a look. It is both protective and durable enough if you to get plenty of mileage out of it without a drop in performance. If I’m ever in need of a knee pad, this is the one I’ll be looking for.
McDavid’s 6440 Hex Knee Pad
How To Choose the Best Basketball Ankle Braces
I was forced to wear one of these for a few weeks after a particularly nasty ankle injury and I really wish I had one before I actually needed it. Ankle braces are a common piece of equipment as ankle injuries are the most common type of injury in basketball players according to research by Roos et. al.
According to a research paper by McGuine et. al., ankle braces are a useful tool for reducing (but not completely eliminating) the risk of acute ankle injuries. The forces that the ankle is subjected to during events that cause an injury can be so severe that no brace in the world can prevent them.
Still, if a brace can make an injury less severe (which it certainly can), it’s well worth the cost to be able to get back on the court sooner and avoid any permanent damage to your ankles. If your ankle is recovering from an injury, a brace can help stabilize it so that it doesn’t suffer further damage.
Stephen Curry is notorious for having issues with his ankles and he wears an ankle brace in every game he plays to stabilize them. Of course, you should always consult with your doctor if you’re suffering from any ankle issues to see if further medical intervention beyond wearing a brace is required.
An ankle brace is an item that you objectively won’t need 99% of the time, but you’ll be glad you’re wearing one during that 1% of the time. As much as one wrong step can lead to a severe ankle injury and a brace could be the difference between a mild sprain and a few weeks on the sidelines.
What To Look For
Ankle braces offer varying levels of protection and different types of closure methods. We’re going to break down the most common ones so you can get a better idea of what is right for you.
At the bottom of the totem pole are the plain “sock-like” braces. These resemble a sock with the front part cut off. They’re made from some sort of stretchy fabric and offer next to no protection beyond keeping your ankle somewhat warm so you probably shouldn’t even consider them an option.
The more serious braces are closed either with laces, Velcro straps, or a combination of the two. Laces are probably better for you if you want to be able to customize how tightly each part of the brace fits around your ankle.
The fit should be tight enough to firmly grip your ankle without cutting off blood flow. Braces that are closed only with straps aren’t that common and they usually leave something to be desired when it comes to the level of protection, as the straps can make certain parts of the brace feel loose.
A loose brace is useless, and one that is too tight is straight-up dangerous, so pay careful attention to the manufacturer’s sizing guide to avoid any fit issues. If you’re looking for the most secure closing method, then a brace with a combination of laces and straps is probably your best bet.
We’ve already mentioned that laces offer great security on their own, and straps act as a failsafe in case the laces become loose for any reason. Of course, this option will be the costliest one, other things equal, but the added security might just be worth it.
A majority of braces will use some sort of synthetic material. Make sure to research the models you’re considering because in some cases repeat washes can cause the material to become loose. Your brace will likely have a bit of natural elasticity but you don’t want too much of it.
If you’re having severe ankle issues and need extra security, you may want to consider braces with extra plastic or steel reinforcements on the sides. These will likely severely limit ankle mobility but the unparalleled level of protection they offer might be worth it.
Ideally, the protection provided by your ankle brace shouldn’t come at the expense of a large mobility loss unless you need the most rigid steel or plastic reinforced brace. Getting the right mix of protection and mobility is one of the key criteria I look for in protective gear like ankle braces.
This is probably the main factor that drew me to the McDavid 195 brace. It’s very lightweight yet very supportive and secure with a closing mechanism consisting of laces plus straps, which makes this brace a great pick-up if you’re a fan of the added security.
The low weight is a result of the brace consisting of one layer of polyester fabric which is more than enough for injury risk reduction in an average user. The only situation in which I’d recommend you to go for a thicker brace is if you have a condition that requires it.
As with most of McDavid’s products, this brace is quite durable and you’ll be able to get plenty of mileage out of it as long as you maintain it in line with the manufacturer’s instructions and don’t put it through extreme abuse.
As great of a brace as this is, it has some flaws. Despite being a single layer brace, it can be very rigid at the beginning which can make putting it on a bit hard and it will require a break-in period before you start feeling comfortable in it. Once this is done, however, it becomes very comfortable to wear.
While there are rarely any fit problems with this brace, the top strap may be too thick for some users with very high top shoes. You may not be a fan of how this feels with your shoes on, so make sure to try before you buy if at all possible.
Despite these minor setbacks, it is still an amazing piece of equipment. Unless you have an injury that requires that you wear a reinforced brace, the McDavid 195 will probably be more than sufficient for keeping your ankles safe and ease some of the worries you might have about injuring yourself.
McDavid 195 Brace
How To Choose The Best Basketball Insoles
After reading this title, you might be asking yourself “Aren’t my basketball shoes supposed to come with appropriate insoles?”. To be fair, the question is a legit one but the answer to it is a complex one.
Every foot is different, and the default insoles that come with the shoes might not be not perfectly appropriate for your feet. Can this be a problem? It doesn’t have to be but it certainly can lead to problems down the road, so it’s probably a good idea to change them if you feel it is needed.
Insoles are supposed to help you avoid injuries or chronic foot conditions by appropriately distributing the weight of your step, as well as provide additional cushioning. Most default insoles only do the latter at most. If you are suffering from a foot or lower leg injury, specific insoles can help with recovery.
What To Look For
When choosing an insole, you need to pay attention to both your foot size and your shoe size. If your foot is narrow, then it will be easy to find an insole. However, if your foot is wide then it might be a bit more difficult as you will have to find an insole wide enough to cover the entire surface of your foot.
You also don’t want your insoles to move around in your shoes, which is why you should find a pair that will fit your shoes perfectly. Don’t assume that insoles will fit your shoe if their stated size is the same as your shoe because different manufacturers may have different sizing principles.
This can be circumvented by getting a pair of “adjustable” insoles, which basically means that a pair of insoles can be trimmed down to the exact size you need. If you’re having trouble finding an appropriate size for your shoes, adjustable insoles may be a good solution for you.
Different insoles can be made from different materials depending on the purpose they are designed for. Insoles designed to help people recover from conditions such as plantar fasciitis will usually use firmer materials like nylon, while those designed for cushioning will usually go for softer ones like gel.
There isn’t a material that is objectively the best because they serve different purposes. If you have a foot or a lower leg injury, ask your doctor what would be the best insole for you. Beyond that, here’s a quick overview of which material suits which purpose.
Nylon is usually the firmest material used for insoles. It offers great support and is probably the best option for you if you’re suffering from an injury. Even cushioning-oriented insoles can be partially made of nylon in some areas like the foot arch to provide extra support where it is needed.
Gel or foam are primarily used for cushioning-oriented insoles. I have used more than a few of these and in my personal experience, gel insoles have very low durability and will need to be changed pretty often. If you’re looking for durable cushioning, foam is probably the better option.
Silicone can be used in both support and cushioning roles depending on its density which makes it the most versatile insole material. It is also very durable which probably makes it the best option for you if you’re using the insoles frequently.
As I’ve already mentioned, specific foot conditions will require a specialized insole, so for the purposes of this recommendation I will go for an all-round insole that should be suitable for the needs of a majority of players.
The model in question is the Spenco GRF Basketball Maximum Performance. I chose to recommend this model because unlike many insoles, these are specifically tailored to the needs of basketball players and strike a great balance between arch support and shock absorption.
They’re also very light and probably won’t make your shoes feel tight as they’re not too thick. All of this makes them a great pick-up if you’re looking for a good, jack of all trades, all-round insole.
The flip side of being a jack of all trades is also being a master of none, so there may be better options for you out there if you’re looking for a specialized support-oriented or cushioning-oriented insole.
The all-round nature of this model will serve as a great indicator of whether or not you require more specialized insoles if you’re not yet sure. As with any other insole, I suggest you only buy one pair to first see if they’re right for you and then go for something else if you feel it is needed.
Spenco GRF Basketball Maximum Performance
How To Choose The Best Basketball Bag
If you’ve ever tried packing all of your basketball gear into an everyday backpack, you probably know how annoying it can be to try and cram everything into very limited space that most everyday backpacks provide.
This is why some people, especially the old-school ballers, usually pack their gear into gym bags that are worn over the shoulder. Not only are those not the most comfortable to carry for a long period of time, but they also won’t allow you to safely pack any non-basketball related items.
This is why basketball bags have become popular in recent years. Most models give you not only enough room to pack all of your gear, but also allow you to safely pack other items such as a laptop or books if you’re heading to practice before or after classes.
What To Look For
Your basketball bag isn’t going to look that different from a regular backpack except for being bigger, but it will have some important features that even the roomiest regular backpacks aren’t likely to have.
The first thing is the material. Many regular backpacks are made from some sort of canvas, which is not good if you’re packing any wet clothes (like a jersey for example) inside as the liquid can easily go through the canvas and get onto the clothes you are wearing or other items in the backpack.
Basketball backpacks will usually be made out of water-resistant materials such as nylon or polyester. On top of that, most of them should also have multiple compartments inside that allow you to safely store your wet clothes inside without having to fear that anything else inside will also get wet.
Since your basketball backpack can get heavy, especially if you have other items like books inside as well, it is very important that you pay attention to the straps which will ideally be padded for added comfort. Cheaper backpacks may have unpadded straps which can get very uncomfortable over time.
Another feature that may increase comfort is the third strap which connects the two straps that go over the shoulder. This strap is sometimes called the sternum strap and it usually looks like this. As a rule of thumb, the wider the straps the more comfortable they will be, other things equal.
One drawback that basketball backpacks may have compared to regular backpack is that items at the bottom may be harder to access due to the backpack being bigger and more items being stored inside, but some models have overcome this with cleaver placement of zippers and/or compartments.
The product I have chosen to recommend in this category is one that I feel most closely resembles the features that an ideal basketball backpack should have. The backpack in question is the Nike Hoops Elite Max Air Team 2.0 Basketball Backpack. I like this model for several reasons.
It is made of pure high-quality polyester which makes the backpack both water-resistant and highly durable and it features extra-wide straps for comfortable carrying. It also features separate compartments for wet/dirty clothes which allows you to store them without endangering any other items inside.
If you’re in need of extra room to safely pack other items such as a laptop or some books, this model will likely suit your needs as a majority of the people who bought this backpack say they’re left with quite a bit of room after packing their basketball equipment.
One final feature that drew me to this backpack is a closing system that Nike has implemented on several of their backpacks that allows for easy access to anything stored inside regardless of the location.
If you’re on a tight budget, then this backpack may be too pricey as it is on the more expensive end of the spectrum, but you get what you pay for. Overall, if you’re looking for a high-quality basketball backpack, you’re probably going to have a hard time finding a better backpack than this one.
Nike Hoops Elite Max Air Team 2.0
How To Choose The Best Basketball Books
Basketball-related books have been written on a variety of subjects, from highly specialized training manuals to biographies of some of the greatest players to ever lace them up, and everything in between.
Some will require specialized knowledge to be properly understood and utilized, while others can easily be read during your daily commute to and from work/class.
What To Look For
Training manuals are sometimes not suited for regular basketball players who lack the understanding of the underlying sports science principles utilized by the methods or programs outlined in the book. Even when this is not the case, I feel like videos are often the superior training material.
The main reason for this is the ability of the video to clearly demonstrate how a certain drill is properly executed. This is an area in which a book will simply fall short because it is an inferior visual learning source compared to a video. E-books can bridge this gap by including links to video resources.
Granted, some authors do a great job of explaining the outlying principles for their methods and/or programs in terms that an average person will understand. This can be a great sign that you’re looking at the work of a competent author.
On the less professional end of the spectrum are the books about the lives and careers of great players, coaches, or executives. These can take the shape of biographies or they can focus on one or more of the characteristics that made them great at what they did.
These can be excellent sources of knowledge about their specific training methods (which may or may not be suitable for you) or the things that allowed them to reach the level of success they had beyond pure basketball skills.
It all depends on what do you want to get out of a book, but it’s probably safe to say that there is a basketball book for you regardless of what you’re looking for.
One subject that always piqued my interest was the layer that separated the great players from “merely” good ones – the mental aspect of the game. A few years ago I came across an amazing book about this particular subject.
Stories of Michael Jordan’s competitiveness are a thing of legends, and one of the people who had the best insight into his state of mind as a basketball player was Tim Grover, his long-time personal trainer who also worked with other all-time greats like Dwayne Wade, Kobe Bryant, and Charles Barkley.
Grover puts great emphasis on one’s attitude and mindset as a driver of success. Over the course of his own life and his years of work with some of the NBA’s biggest stars, he got a great insight into what separates a great player from one that is just good.
He compiled his observations into a book titled “Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable”, in which he not only outlines the mindset of some of the greatest players to ever grace the hardwood but also gives advice on how the reader can start adopting and building the same mindset.
If you’re interested to learn more about what allowed these greats, including the G.O.A.T. himself, to rise to the very top of their profession, this is probably the right book for you.
The advice contained inside the book is applicable to many things in life beyond basketball which makes the book a great pick-up even if you’re not interested in becoming a world-class player. As long as you want to become great at something, this book will probably help you on your way.
Relentless by Tim S. Grover
How To Choose The Best Basketball Movies
If you’re a true hoops junkie who is looking for some training videos or maybe a good basketball movie to watch while relaxing after a game or a practice session, you may have been hoping to see them mentioned here. No worries, I got your back even if the segment might not be what you expect exactly.
What To Look For
I strongly believe that the best idea when it comes to training videos is to keep your money in your wallet as there is a wide variety of amazing free basketball training videos available on YouTube. Few paid videos will be much better than what you can find for free online.
It may take time to find the best content creators for the specific kind of basketball training you want to do, but you will succeed sooner or later and the money you save can be used elsewhere. There are even specialized channels for just post players or just dribbling.
As long as the channel is concerned just with basketball it can be a good place to learn from. I usually avoid videos put out of various “everything tutorial” channels that just so happen to be basketball related as they are for the most part lack depth that is often necessary when learning a move.
If you’re looking for a basketball-related movie to relax to, I’ll assume that you’ve already watched a few and that you’re sick of the stereotypes like game-winning shots at the buzzer or sensational turnarounds which occur in these movies with alarming regularity.
Recommendation For You – Blue Chips (1994)
Predictable plot can easily destroy a sports movie for me and it’s the reason why I often have trouble agreeing with people’s top 10 lists. There’s plenty of proof out there that a good sports movie can be made without employing cheap overplayed tropes like the ones mentioned before.
Blue Chips is an example of one such movie. Despite not being a great success at the box office when it first came out in 1994, it gained somewhat of a cult following over the years. Despite coming out 25 years ago, the movie is strangely relevant to our time given recent events.
Academic integrity and the rights of college players to be compensated have recently been thrust into the limelight again with various investigations, scandals, and court decisions. These are also explored in the story of Blue Chips.
Plenty of people I know have seen the movie and I have yet to find someone who didn’t like it. It won’t blow you away with Oscar-worthy acting or screenwriting, but it will offer plenty of entertaining moments for fans of the game.
Blue Chips (1994)
Congrats, you’ve almost made it to the end and you have probably learned quite a few things about how to select the basketball equipment for yourself and which parts of it you may or may not need. All that remains now is to pick up the pieces you feel you need.
If you lack experience, making this first step can be daunting. I suggest making your first step a simple one. Go for the basics first and get yourself a good basketball and a good pair of shoes. These two items will get you surprisingly far with proper practice and a bit of luck.
Once the basics are in place it will be relatively easy to work your way up. As you gain experience with the game, you will be able to better judge which pieces of equipment are right for you and which ones you don’t quite need.
By now, you may have made up your mind on whether or not you’re going to upgrade your basketball gear or add a new piece to your collection. If so, let us know in the comments below what your pick is, and maybe we’ll dedicate an article to it in the future to help more people learn about its features.
If you have any questions, if you’re torn between several pieces of gear, or if just happen to have any ideas about the topics you’d like to see us write about in the future, leave us a comment and your question or idea might just end up being the topic of a future article.
With all that being said, I most sincerely hope that this guide will help you make decisions about the equipment that will accompany you on your journey to becoming the best basketball player you can possibly be. I wish you the best of luck and thank you for reading.