Shooting hoops in the driveway is a tradition in many households. And you can't shoot hoops without a basketball hoop.
While there are plenty of portable basketball hoops on the market for under $100, cheap models generally don't last long — and they're often wobbly, with a weak bounce off the backboard, even when they're brand new.
A cheap, basic hoop may be fine if all you want is a toy for your little kids to get a taste of basketball. Just be warned that they may outgrow it fairly quickly, as the backboards on these models can soon feel very small to players, and the shaking from shots off the backboard only gets worse as bolts loosen over time.
Instead, what you probably want is a well-built basketball hoop that will hold up sturdily through cold winters, strong winds and blazing summer sunshine alike. The goal is to have a gathering place for family games of HORSE, intense two-on-twos, ritualistic free throw shooting practice and more, for years to come. And it certainly won't hurt if the hoop looks ready for serious competitions as well, with a gleaming glass backboard and a pro-style breakaway rim you can occasionally lower so that everyone can dunk.
Basketball hoop buying guide
Full-size basketball hoops can cost less than $100 (sometimes even under $50), and run up to well over $2,000. How much should you spend?
Well, how you plan on using your basketball hoop, how long you plan on it lasting, and where it will be positioned on your property will help determine which model is most worth the money for you. Here are some factors to consider as you shop around:
• In-ground, portable or mounted? Before you buy a basketball hoop, think carefully about where you're going to use it — and particularly whether you want it to be portable.
Portable basketball hoops are popular not only because they can be moved around, but also because they generally cost a lot less and are more straightforward to set up. They're not entirely hassle-free, however. Installation can often be a pain (see below), and, as you'd probably guess, portable models are not as stable as permanently installed hoops anchored with concrete into the ground.
The base of a portable basketball hoop is usually meant to be filled with sand or water. It's much easier to fill the base with water, but water expands when frozen and the structure can be damaged if it turns to ice in the winter. Filling it with sand is the better long-term option, but funneling all the material into the base is often a time-consuming chore — and removing the sand can be an even bigger pain, if you ever need to do that.
In-ground basketball hoops are the choice for people who are serious about having a really good spot to play in the driveway or yard. They are obviously installed in the ground, so they're not prone to being knocked over like some portable models do when there are strong winds (or strong dunks). In-ground hoops are anchored in by concrete and built of stiff, high-grade materials. As a result, the best in-ground basketball hoops will be far more stable, with less shaking and wobbling after hard shots to the backboard, compared to portable hoops.
The main problem with in-ground basketball hoops, besides their typically high price tags, is that they cannot be easily moved. That may not be a problem if you don't foresee the desire to move the hoop to a different part of the driveway or perhaps out to the street. But before making your basketball hoop spot permanent, you should consider other reasons it might be nice to have a portable model. For example, you might want to be able to move it for delivery trucks, parties or future landscaping projects.
A third option for basketball hoops is the mounted model. This kind of hoop comes with a backboard and rim but no pole or base, and it's built to be mounted to a wall or roof (typically that of a garage). Mounted basketball hoops can be very sturdy, depending on what they're mounted to, but installation can be especially tricky and often requires the purchase of extra hardware.
• Backboard materials. While the cheapest basketball hoops on the market have backboards made with some kind of fiberglass or plastic you can't see through, nowadays most decent backboards feature a transparent material for a more polished look and feel.
Backboards made with tempered glass are what you'll find in local gyms and in high school, college, and pro games, and it is used in pricey high-quality basketball hoops intended for the driveway as well. Tempered glass is significantly stronger than regular glass. It is heavy and fairly durable, and more resistant to scratches than acrylic or polycarbonate — two other clear materials frequently used for basketball backboards.
Acrylic and polycarbonate are different kinds of plastic, and they're used in many mid-level basketball backboards. Backboards made with these materials will save you money compared to tempered glass, and they are also softer and less susceptible to damage from debris or vandalism — if, say, someone throws a rock. Because acrylic and polycarbonate are softer than tempered glass, however, the bounce off the backboard is dulled a bit.
Of the two plastic materials, polycarbonate is tougher; it's actually marketed as bulletproof. However, polycarbonate can become cloudy and brittle over time if it's constantly exposed to the sun's UV rays. Acrylic, often referred to as plexiglass, won't be damaged by the sun's rays and should remain perfectly clear regardless of how long it stays outside.
That's why so many customers prefer acrylic for outdoor basketball hoops. It's less expensive, softer and lighter than tempered glass, while being superior to polycarbonate in terms of its lifespan out under a powerful sun.
• Backboard size and shape. Cheaper, lower-quality basketball hoops often have small backboards that are rounded and shaped like a fan. Clear backboards are almost always rectangular in shape, and their measurements are usually specified in widths from 44" to 72".
A 72" tempered glass backboard is what you'll see in serious competitions ranging from high school games through the NBA. But an impressive backboard of this size may be overkill for casual pickup games in your cramped driveway, next to your old Honda.
On the other hand, a 44" backboard might seem puny, and, generally speaking, bigger is better when it comes to this subject. For most people, there's a happy medium with a clear rectangular backboard that's 54" or 60" wide.
• Height adjustability. Face it: You probably are never going to dunk on a regulation 10' rim. If you have very young kids, odds are their shots won't even reach over a 10' rim at first. The good thing is that most basketball hoops can be adjusted for height, which can add to the fun, big time.
Some models offer much easier height adjustment than others, so take a close look at how (and how easy it is) to change the backboard's height before you buy. The best models feature a crank that can be twisted to lower or raise the height to exactly where you want. Others have a pin system, in which you can adjust the height to different set levels. And some of these systems are better at keeping the backboard and rim firmly in place than others.
• Assembly. Putting together a basketball hoop out of the box is usually a lot more difficult than, say, building an IKEA bookshelf. For most new hoops, assembly requires at least two people, a few tools and a fair amount of muscle power, as well as anywhere from an hour to an entire afternoon. (Using a variety of colorful swear words is not necessary, per se, but you may find it helpful or at least inevitable.)
If all of this sounds overwhelming or not the worth the hassle, it's worth considering outsourcing this job to a professional. Some manufacturers and online sellers offer an add-on service to build the hoop at your home for $100 and up.
Best basketball hoops
1. Best overall (in-ground): Goalrilla FT72
For a basketball hoop that will be the envy of the neighborhood — and a magnet for kids seeking pickup games — check out the Goalrilla FT72.
Goalrilla's in-ground FT series of hoops is as good as it gets for driveway basketball games. They come in a choice of 54", 60" and 72", ranging in price from roughly $1,600 to $2,100, respectively. Every Goalrilla FT hoop features powder-coated steel frames and 1/2" thick tempered glass backboards, and they all come with a 9" anchor system and heavy-duty breakaway rims similar to those used at the highest level of competition. The rim height is adjustable too, from 7.5' to the standard 10', by twisting a hand crank.
While all of the Goalrilla FT hoops are sturdy, with little to no shaking after proper installation, the FT72 is exceptionally strong. It's built with a 6" x 6" steel pole, compared to 5" x 5" for the smaller Goalrilla FT hoops. Combine that with the fact that the FT72 is the biggest model in the series (72" wide by 42" high), and you can understand why this is our pick for the best overall in-ground basketball hoop.
As with any in-ground basketball hoop, be warned that it's essential for installation to be done carefully and properly. In addition to picking out the perfect spot for the new basketball hoop, you'll need precise measurements and quite a lot of concrete to pour. Also, be warned that while tempered glass backboards look awesome and provide a great touch for shots "off the glass," the material is often more likely to crack from an errant rock or tree branch than acrylic, polycarbonate or fiberglass.
2. Best overall (portable): Spalding The Beast Portable Basketball Hoop
Spalding makes the official NBA game ball, hoops and backboards, and the brand is also the unofficial go-to portable basketball hoop choice for homes all over.
The Beast is Spalding's biggest, sturdiest and all-around best portable hoop model that's widely available to the public. It features a tempered glass backboard — very rare for portable hoops, because glass is too heavy for them — which gives it a great bounce and touch. The Beast's 5" x 5" steel pole provides added strength, with minimal wobbling. The "Steel Pro-Image" breakaway rim is essentially the same kind used by the pros, and the rim height is adjustable with a hand crank.
With a base equipped to fill with a whopping 55 gallons of water or sand, the Beast is much heavier, sturdier and bulkier than most portable hoops. But it's actually easy to move, thanks to four wheels at the base and a pull-out handle that enables it to be dragged by one person. (Most portable hoops, by contrast, must be tipped over to roll on their wheels, and it's often a two-person job.)
While this is a much higher-quality portable basketball hoop compared to what you'll find in the average American homeowner's driveway, it's also a lot more expensive. The Beast comes in a choice of 60 x 36 or 54 x 32 sizes, generally priced at $1,000 to $1,200, respectively.
3. Editor's pick: Spalding Hybrid Portable Basketball System
Perhaps a $1,000 basketball hoop is out of the question, let alone one for $2,000, but you still want a product that allows for serious play and is much better and more durable than a toy. If that sounds like you, there's a sweet spot in the range of $500 to $800 where you'll find very good quality portable basketball systems without feeling like you went overboard.
Our pick for this category is the Spalding Hybrid, so named because the base is filled with a mix of water (19) gallons and sand (four 5-pound bags). In fact, the base — or rather, how it's filled and emptied — is one of its selling points. Unlike many other portable hoop bases, which have one tiny hole at the base serving as a fill-up spot, the top layer of the Spalding Hybrid's base can be removed entirely so it's fast and easy to fill it with sand. (Likewise, this makes it exceptionally easy to remove the sand if that's ever necessary.)
The Hybrid comes in a choice of 54 or 60 acrylic backboards, priced at $550 and $800, respectively, when we looked. The backboard is supported by a steel pole (either 3.5" in diameter or 4" square, depending on the model), which is angled forward so it stays out of the way when people are playing. The pole is braced by a triangular "rebounder," which adds stability to the backboard at the same time it helps steer basketballs back into the court after they've gone through the hoop.
The hoop comes with a breakaway rim so that it won't bend if someone dunks, and the rim height is adjustable from 7.5' to 10' by twisting a hand crank. Also included: ground stakes to help it stay firmly in the ground, and a pair of plastic wheels for rolling it to a new location.
4. Editor's pick runner-up: Silverback NXT Portable Height-Adjustable Basketball Hoop
In addition to its top-notch in-ground hoops, Goalrilla makes very good portable models sold under the Silverback line.
The Silverback NXT line has polycarbonate backboards and comes in 50 or 54 widths, priced at $430 and $523, respectively, when we looked. One of the strengths of the Silverback line is, literally, its strength. The hoops are built with a steel frame that extends all the way through the base up into the pole that connects to the backboard.
The main pole is slanted for even weight distribution, and it is braced by a pair of angled steel poles extending from the base, for extra stability and minimal shaking. However, the Silverbacks do not have a "rebounder" at the base like the Spalding's portable models do.
Speaking of the base, the Silverback NXT's features a uniquely sloped design that helps keep the hoop balanced and makes it easier to move using a wheelbarrow-like method. The company also promotes the Silverback as a "Quick-Play" hoop that, theoretically, can be taken out of the box and fully built in 90 minutes or less, mostly with preassembled parts.
5. Best for Low Prices: Spalding 54 Polycarbonate Backboard NBA Portable Basketball System
For under $250, this Spalding model with a 54" polycarbonate backboard and an angled design that helps with stability and keeps the pole out of the way during play is a great value.
Like other portable Spalding models, this hoop has a rim that can be adjusted from 7.5' to 10' high. Instead of twisting a crank to adjust the rim inch by inch, however, it has a pin that can be moved to a handful of different set heights.
For casual shooting around and the occasional two-on-two game, this hoop does the trick. It's more stable and provides a more comfortable playing area compared to most other cheap basketball hoops designed for the driveway — which usually feature a vertical pole that players inevitably bump into, and is prone to wobbling.
However, at such a low price, you shouldn't be surprised that it's not the strongest and best-built basketball hoop out there. Polycarbonate is more durable than acrylic, but can turn cloudy when exposed to the sun for a few years. The pole is round and made of steel, and 3.5" in diameter, which is the same as many mid-range hoops but smaller than the heftiest top models. The base is big enough to handle 34 gallons of water or sand, which again, is less than some other models. As a result, this hoop may shake a little more than you like and could be more prone to tipping over compared to higher-priced competitors. That's why, in addition to filling the base with sand or water, many owners take addition precautions with their hoops by adding weight on top of the base or just laying them flat when heavy winds are expected.
Finally, shoppers should know that while this Spalding hoop is sold at Amazon, it's made especially for Walmart, and prices are sometimes slightly cheaper there (though it's periodically been out of stock). As always, it's smart to shop around.
6. Best mounted basketball hoop: Silverback NXT 54 Wall-Mounted Adjustable Height Basketball Hoop
We like the wall-mounted version of the Silverback mostly for the same reasons we recommend the brand's portable hoop. Namely, it uses high-quality materials throughout, the height adjustment is easy to operate, and installation should be quicker and less of a hassle than most competitors.
The frame is made of powder-coated steel that's back by a 5-year warranty, and it comes with a pro-style breakaway rim. To adjust the height, you hook a steel "actuator" (included) to a hook connected to the frame, and as you twist the backboard will go higher or lower. (This is a pretty rare feature for wall-mounted hoops, which tend to have old-school designs that lock in at one height, with no option for adjustability.)
Many of Silverback's parts come pre-assembled. Even so, installing wall-mounted hoops can be tricky and time-consuming. The brand promises that assembly can take place in "120 minutes or less," but it may not be a straightforward project.
Take note that mounting hardware is not included with the Silverback hoop and backboard. Why? Well, for one thing, the hardware you need can vary greatly depending on what surface you're attaching the hoop to. So be warned that it may require an above-average level of home improvement handiness and familiarity with the local hardware store to be able to install this hoop (or any wall-mounted hoop, for that matter) to your garage or another surface. Also, Silverback says that this hoop should not be mounted to any brick surface.
7. Best over-the-door basketball hoop: Franklin Sports Over the Door Basketball Hoop
Silverback's wall-mounted hoops are marketed to use outside and indoors. But for most people, the prospect of installing a full-size basketball hoop inside their homes just isn't a possibility.
What you can do to bring your game inside, however, is buy a mini basketball hoop that can simply be hooked over the top of a door. These mini hoops are incredibly popular for kids' rooms and offices, and there are dozens and dozens of different models. You can buy a super cheap one with a flimsy plastic rim for $10 or less, but odds are it'll break.
Instead, check out models that have real metal rims with springs that provide a nice touch for your shots. Franklin's over-the-door hoop is an excellent option, featuring a shatter-resistant backboard and a metal rim that's 9.5" in diameter rim that should — theoretically — survive rambunctious games behind a teenager's closed door.
The Franklin hoop comes in a few different colors and styles, with prices generally ranging from $25 to $35. A 5" rubber basketball with a nice grip is included, as is a pump and needle for inflation.
Another good option for over-the-door hoops is available from SKLZ. For about $30, the SKLZ Pro Mini Basketball Hoop comes with a 9" metal rim with springs, an 18" x 12" polycarbonate backboard and a 5" basketball (but no pump or needle). To supersize your indoor game, an XL version of the SKLZ hoop, featuring a 23" x 16" backboard and a 9.5" rim, goes for roughly $40.