Basketball Equipment

Written by Jeremy Horelick
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One reason that basketball remains so popular at home and has grown so quickly overseas is that basketball equipment is so easy to come by. A ball is a must, as is some sort of hoop, though any farm boy or girl will aver that a peach crate or milk pail is a fine surrogate for an honest-to-goodness 18-inch steel rim. Unless you hollow out the bottom of your "bucket" or tear out its wooden planks, you'll also need a stepladder in order to retrieve your shots.

The only other basketball equipment you'll need is a flat, preferably paved, surface and a pair of tennis shoes. Backboards and nets are typically sold with rims as all-in-one sets, though it's always possible to replace any one of those pieces without buying the other two. Backboards, whether of wood or glass, can shatter, rims can bend or even break, and nets are routinely torn down, cut down, or worn into oblivion by a hail storm of falling three-pointers.

Basketball Equipment Specs

As noted above, the diameter of a standard basketball rim is exactly 18 inches, which translates to roughly 46 centimeters. Remarkably, this is wide enough to accommodate two balls at the same time. Nine inches is the standard diameter for a ball, though younger kids often play with mini-balls, which are easier to handle and shoot. By the same token, women's basketballs are just smaller then men's, typically by about half an inch, depending on how you measure (across the channels or around them).

Another important spec pertaining to basketballs is pressure, a direct determinant of "bounciness." It's likely that the NBA holds its regulation balls to strict standards, but at lower levels such as prep and junior leagues, balls may be anywhere from 8.5 to 9.5 pounds of pressure. An over-inflated ball may be advantageous to dribblers, but it's a decided disadvantage to shooters, for it diminishes the odds of "friendly" bounces on missed shots.

Other Types of Basketball Equipment

There's some debate as to whether or not basketball apparel and learning aids constitute basketball equipment. Neither is a prerequisite for play, but coaches and athletes alike turn to them for a leg up. Instructional tapes and DVDs present a skill-based advantage, while apparel can offer a psychological one. Unsurprisingly, basketball teams whose players dress uniformly tend to look, think, and act more like teams than as rag-tag crews of individual athletes.

It's a safe bet that many of the early NBA greats such as Bob Cousy, John Havlicek, and Bill Russell never saw an instructional video of any kind, namely because VHS technology was still years away. They may have watched films (the reel-to-reel kind), but mostly they learned the fundamentals through great coaches, who today are a dying breed. For coaches who haven't come directly from the court themselves, instructional videos and DVDs represent one of the best avenues for teaching the basics of dribbling, shooting, passing, and defense.

A Word about Buying Basketball Equipment

One piece of advice for parents whose children beg them to buy expensive basketball equipment such as pole-and-backboard sets: give it time. The only real piece of basketball equipment you simply cannot do without is a ball. There are literally a hundred different drills that youngsters can practice with just a basketball--no court, no net, no rim, no shoes.

For most kids, practicing dribbling, coordination, and conditioning skills isn't glamorous. Nevertheless, a solid blacktop, driveway, or even basement floor is the perfect place to test your child's mettle and commitment to learning the game. Then, once you've seen that your son or daughter is serious about improving his or her skills, you can start talking about fancy glass backboards with breakaway rims.


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