Basketball in the shadows

Basketball Sizes – What Size Basketball Should You Use

When it comes to basketball it’s easy to think that a one size fits all equipment strategy is a fine way to go. However things couldn’t be further from the truth. Equipment size and basketball sizes especially has a large impact on play. From safety to muscle memory, using the right size ball for practice and game play is an important factor to remember.

Using the wrong size ball can have a negative effect on the development of a child or youth’s technique. Muscle memory plays a key role in improving your proficiency at a sport and helps you make the right decisions in those split second moments.

I play basketball with my children and the difference between my 5 year old having fun playing and walking away crying is generally the ball size. If he tries to play with a regulation size ball he often gets hurt. But using a mini ball increases his confidence, gives him better control and allows him to play safely.

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Mens basketball began in 1891 in Springfield Massachusetts by a Canadian professor named James Naismith. Naismith came up with the original 13 rules of basketball. Though founded on June 6th 1946 the NBA would play it’s first actual game on November 1st 1946, just two months before the official end of World War II. The  Toronto Huskies hosted the New York Knickerbockers at Maple Leaf Gardens in this debut game with New York winning by 2 points.

NBA Official Basketball Dimensions

    • Size 7
    • Circumference 29.5 in (75 cm)
    • Weight 22 oz (620 g)


Womens basketball took off just one year after the creation of the sport. It would be another 104 years before the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) would be founded on April 24th 1996. The regulation WNBA ball is a size 6 ball that is one inch (2.54 cm) smaller than the regulation NBA ball which is a size 7. This is a standard size 6 ball with a weight of 20 ozs or 567 grams. As of 2008, this size is used for all senior-level women’s competitions worldwide.

WNBA Official Basketball Dimensions

    • Size 6
    • Circumference 28.5 inches (72 cm)
    • Weight 20 oz (567 grams)

Men’s NCAA

The Men’s NCAA or National Collegiate Athletic Association has been and continues to be one of the most important sporting associations in the world. It continuously turns out high caliber athletes ready to become national representatives in a number of different sports.

Headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana the NCAA was formerly known as the IAAUS (Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States). It began on March 31, 1906 and quickly became the authority on college level sports. The name change came about in 1910 and has been the NCAA ever since.

The mens NCAA has a slightly different basketball court layout from the NBA. Check it out here!

The Men’s NCAA has become best known for it’s March Madness championship games that draw huge crowds and is widely televised across the globe.

Men’s NCAA Official Basketball Dimensions

    • Size 7
    • Circumference 29.5 in (75 cm)
    • Weight 22 oz (620 g)

Women’s NCAA

The NCAA added its women’s championship basketball program in 1981 and has grown in popularity and expanded its teams exponentially over the last few decades. The association now accepts 64 teams to qualify for the tournament played in March and April.

Women’s NCAA Official Basketball Dimensions

    • Size 6
    • Circumference 28.5 inches (72 cm)
    • Weight 20 oz (567 grams)

Boys 15+

At the age of 15, boys are generally able to handle game play with a size 7 ball as used in the NBA. High school age is a key time in developing advanced game tactics, ball handling and proper team and sports etiquette.

Youth should using proper equipment at all times now that they are participating at higher levels competitively. All equipment should be properly fitted and in excellent condition at all times to prevent serious injury. Equipment should be inspected regularly and all defective items should be properly disposed of.

Boys 15+ Official Basketball Dimensions

    • Size 7
    • Circumference 29.5 in (75 cm)
    • Weight 22 oz (620 g)

Boys 12-14

Youth ages 12-14 should still be focusing on the overall fun of game play. Serious scoring and competitiveness should be limited when possible and when it makes sense to. Focus should be placed on sportsmanship and gaining an understanding of more advanced rules.

Youth at this age are still learning where there talents lie and which sports they are drawn to. A wide variety of different sporting activities should be tried and youth should be encouraged to gain proficiency at the areas of sports they have the most fun playing.

This is a time to develop passing and shooting skills using appropriately sized balls and nets to avoid injuries. They should also gain experiences in leading their teams and increase overall physical coordination.

Boys 12-14 Official Basketball Dimensions

    • Size 6
    • Circumference 28.5 inches (72 cm)
    • Weight 20 oz (567 grams)

Girls 12+

As with the boys of the same age group, girls should focus on gaining a love for the game.

Again, limit overly competitive situations focus on sportsmanship and advanced game rules.

Help them determine which sports they most enjoy and help them identify natural talents they may have. Help them gain proficiency at the sports they have the most fun playing.

Team leadership, coordination and physical conditioning are great skills to develop and master.

Girls 12+ Official Basketball Dimensions

    • Size 6
    • Circumference 28.5 inches (72 cm)
    • Weight 20 oz (567 grams)

Kids 9-11

Children ages 9 to 11 can be easily discouraged if they are not able to fully participate or gain some proficiency in the games they are playing. Helping them develop general basic skills that will serve them in a wide range of sports is the best option for them. It takes away a lot of the fun if they can’t hit the net so appropriate ball and net sizes are very important at this stage.

Kids 9-11 Official Basketball Dimensions

    • Size 5
    • Circumference 27.5 inches (70 cm)
    • Weight 17 oz (481 grams)

Kids ages 5-8

Children ages 5 to 8 are at an important phase in their preparation to playing team sports. They need to learn the basics of a number of different athletic activities and gain some greater efficiency with throwing, catching and proper running techniques. Learning how to react to ball being passed and thrown to them is another important skill set that should be mastered early on.

Team-play and low level competition are good things at this age but focusing on the fun that can be had while playing sports should be at the forefront of all games and activities. If the child can develop a love for the sport at an early age, their chances of gaining proficiency at that sport increase substantially.

Kids ages 5-8 Official Basketball Dimensions

  • Size 4
  • Circumference 25.5 inches (65 cm)
  • Weight 14 oz (396 grams)

Kids under 5 SIZE 3 – Novelty Mini Ball

Children under the age of 5 should focus on becoming proficient at rolling the ball across the floor in a straight line and throwing the ball with some precision to another child or adult. Catching from a gentle toss is good as well with the use of a soft-touch or thickly padded softball size ball. Do not use an actual softball as these are far too hard and can be dangerous to the child.

Kids under 5 Novelty Basketball Dimensions

  • Size 3
  • Weight under 14 oz (396 grams)


It really doesn’t matter what size the ball is when the children are younger as long as they are having fun in a safe environment. As youth get older and competition becomes more fierce, using properly sized equipment makes all the difference and becomes a safety concern.

Remember, sports should be fun!


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