Any neighborhood that isn’t within walking distance of a playground or school needs a basketball hoop. Of course, most kids today have less time for outdoor hobbies than we did thanks to formal playdates, a never-ending schedule of organized sports and activities their parents have signed them up for – and the tablets and phones that seem surgically attached to their hands.
Even so, most kids can’t fight the urge to at least occasionally go out to throw up some jumpers, practice the moves they’ve seen on TV or YouTube, play a game of “horse,” go one-on-one with a friend or see if they’ve grown tall enough to dunk. (Many adults can’t shake those urges, either.)
Basketball is fully ingrained into our culture and unlike most sports, it doesn’t require a huge amount of space or specialized equipment; all you need is a hoop and a ball. Buying a regulation basketball is easy. Picking the right hoop, however, is a bit more complicated – the easily-bent metal rims you once saw mounted to almost every suburban garage have largely been supplanted by more elaborate and functional choices. We’ll run down the Groom+Style team’s best basketball hoop top 5 list, after some tips on what you should be looking for.
Types of Basketball Hoops
Old-fashioned, wall-mounted rims and backboards (which were often mounted on telephone poles in neighborhoods where no one had a garage) are still around.
Cheap models with plywood backboards, and even simple metal rims without backboards at all, are certainly very inexpensive options. But when you can get a much stronger and durable modern hoop for a reasonable price, it doesn’t make much sense to go with a flimsy alternative which will probably break or fall down within months.
Complete wall-mount systems aren’t just backboards that are nailed directly to a structure; they have the same types of strong, intricate and adjustable support brackets used in gyms and arenas to secure the backboard a safe distance from the wall.
The models that are most common these days are portable basketball hoops. Most consist of a large base into which a support pole is placed, with the backboard and hoop mounted at the top of the pole. The base is normally filled with sand or water to keep the unit stable and in place and the pole is often augmented by extra braces. Portable hoops aren’t as rigid as other styles but good ones won’t vibrate or shake too much, and they can be easily wheeled to different locations or put away for storage.
There’s also the time-honored in-ground hoop, with a support pole anchored in concrete. The best modern versions have extra support and anchoring structures and adjustment options not seen on the old-school “pole stuck into the ground.” Installing an in-ground hoop naturally requires more work than the first two choices we’ve mentioned, and also requires a suitable flat surface and a long-term commitment to the location – but who wouldn’t love a permanent basketball court with a hoop that won’t vibrate or wobble in their backyard?
Modern Basketball Rims
Unless you’re buying a super-cheap hoop, you’ll find that home basketball rims are no longer just bolted to the backboard. Just like the ones used in college or NBA ball, they have a spring system that puts “give” into the rim so the backboard or rim won’t break or bend when pulled or grabbed in the midst of a monster jam.
The best basketball hoops have enclosed and protected spring systems which not only are less susceptible to damage but guarantee truer bounces.
Quality backboards are rectangular and not the old-style “fan” shape; you can choose from small backboards (42 inches wide) all the way up to regulation size (72 inches).
Less-expensive hoops (not counting the wooden ones we’ve mentioned) will have backboards made from materials like polycarbonate or polyethylene, which will stand up well to the weather but will seem “deader” than higher-quality materials. Moderately-priced backboards are usually manufactured from transparent acrylics which provide a better and truer bounce on rebounds.
Top-end backboards are made of shatterproof tempered glass, just like the ones in NBA arenas but not as thick.
The Best Basketball Hoops: Other Important Factors
With the exception of wall-mounted hoops, most units will have some sort of height-adjustment feature. Cheap models require you to manually lift sections of the support pole and lock them into place with a removable bolt. The majority, however, let you crank the backboard and rim to your desired height, usually between seven and ten feet. Some expensive hoops even have a pneumatic system so you don’t have to crank them.
The distance between the support pole and the backboard is also important to consider. The structure and design of the support system most often determines that distance, which may not seem like that big a deal – until you run smack into the supports right after driving in for a layup. The more space there is in front of the pole, the safer you’ll be.
The Groom+Style review team didn’t consider any of the models we looked at to be a layup; portable and in-ground models were each in the running and the competition for top-five rankings was difficult to resolve because prices vary so widely. Here’s how it turned out.
1. Spalding NBA “The Beast” Portable Basketball System
There are two very good reasons that Spalding’s “The Beast” nickname fits this terrific portable hoop. In size, strength, and quality it’s about as close as you’re going to get to a professional-style in-ground unit. And its retail price is definitely scary until you see everything you get for the money.
The first impressive, beastly feature, of the Spalding NBA System, is its huge base that takes 50 pounds of sand or water and makes sure, in the words of just about every dad, “that isn’t going anywhere.” In truth, the hoop can actually go anywhere you want it to since it has sturdy caster wheels, along with a combination rebounder/pull handle that lets you move this extremely heavy hoop fairly easily.
Also impressive is the angled, five-inch square pole system (extendable from 7½ feet to ten feet by turning a crank) with welded struts. It holds the backboard firmly in place without annoying vibrations and leaves a good amount of maneuvering room under the hoop. The metal is powder-coated to withstand the elements.
We’re nowhere near finished. The backboard on “The Beast” is a full sixty inches in width, the largest you’ll find on a portable hoop, and its steel-framed ¼” tempered glass is also the very best material of any backboard on the market. Finally, the rim is the Pro-Image breakaway solid steel model known for its outstanding spring return system, along with a weatherproof nylon net.
Are there any drawbacks at all? The review team found only two: this unit is so large and complex that it can take hours to assemble it, and it may not fit in a small driveway.
Spalding’s “The Beast” is an outstanding portable basketball hoop. The rebounds are true, it will stay exactly where you want it to, and even though it’s not as vibration-free as a top in-ground model, it’s awfully close. If you don’t mind laying out the big bucks, you won’t be disappointed.
Facts and figures on the Spalding NBA “The Beast” Portable Basketball System:
2. Goalrilla GLR GS 54 Basketball System
Even the Groom+Style team had to swallow hard when looking at the price of the Spalding NBA basketball hoop. So the cost of Goalrilla’s regulation size (72” x 42”) in-ground system, the GLR GSI, took us into heart attack territory. That’s why we’ve reviewed and ranked the smaller GLR GS 54 system instead. It’s in the same general price range as “The Beast” and while it’s not a monster, it’s still a fabulous hoop.
The GS 54 is designed for areas where court space may be at a premium. The backboard is 54” x 34”, somewhat small for accomplished players but just right to be installed next to small driveways or paved spaces.
Despite its size, though, the backboard is made from high-quality 3/8” tempered glass, which you see won’t on most comparable models. The Pro Style steel breakaway rims work well. The one-piece powder coated support pole is five inches square and once the included rebar and anchoring system is sunk into concrete, it’s as solid and stable as a great outdoor hoop should be.
You can adjust the height of this model from 7½ to 10 feet with a crank, the anchoring system makes it easy to level the backboard perfectly, and once it’s finally time to play the rebounds are true and the vibrations are minimal.
It’s a lot of work to install the Goalrilla GLR GS 54, and you’d better pick out a location carefully because you’re going to have to live with it for a long time. But we believe this is the best compact in-ground basketball hoop you’ll find – and if you have been saving hard then the full-size GS1 is even better.
Looking closer at the Goalrilla GLR GS 54 Basketball System:
3. Lifetime 54-Inch Acrylic Portable Basketball Hoop
Not everyone has four figures to spend on a basketball hoop, but an “el cheapo” model can leave you shaking your head after a few minutes of weird bounces. The Lifetime 54-Inch Hoop splits the difference nicely, costing less than half the price of “The Beast” yet still having plenty of game.
The backboard is made from steel-framed acrylic, and its 54-inch size is more than enough to make things satisfying. It’s mounted on Y-extension arms attached to a three-piece weather-resistant pole with two supports; the pole fits into a 35-gallon base which is filled with water or sand for stability. There’s some vibration to the hoop, but it’s not objectionable. The Slam-It Pro rim is quite good, with double compression springs and a wraparound brace, and the height can be adjusted by crank from 7½ to 10 feet. There’s not much room to work under the backboard.
You have to consider price as well as features when choosing the top 5 best basketball hoops, and while this Lifetime model isn’t as big or sturdy as Groom+Style’s top pick, it’s an extremely good portable hoop for just a few hundred bucks.
More details on the Lifetime 54-Inch Acrylic Portable Basketball Hoop:
4. Silverback In-Ground Basketball System
Just as the Lifetime balances affordability with solid features in a portable hoop, the Silverback is our suggestion for a less-expensive but still high-quality in-ground unit. The 5/16” thick tempered glass backboard is 60 inches wide (not professional size) but wider than the Goalrilla we’ve reviewed and among the largest outdoor backboards, you’ll find.
The powder coated two-piece steel pole is four inches square and can be easily adjusted to heights between 7½ and 10 inches. And the anchor kit uses rebar steel rods for stability when cemented three feet into the ground.[youtube id=”yJu4Eej74gQ” width=”750″ height=”340″ position=”left”]
The two-piece pole creates a little more wobble than you’ll get with the smaller Goalrilla in-ground hoop, but that’s a minor issue.
The Silverback is a well-built basketball system with a large backboard that will give you hours of fun, for hundreds of dollars less than Groom+Style’s top-rated in-ground model.
Specifications for the Silverback In-Ground Basketball System:
5. Lifetime 90022 Youth Basketball Hoop
Younger kids get extremely frustrated trying to play on a full-size basketball hoop. Some manage to deal with the frustration until they’re taller, but others just give up. A great answer to the problem is a scaled-down portable model like the Lifetime 90022, which can grow right along with them until they’re ready to go one-on-one with you for real.[youtube id=”hF8J42CEgdM” width=”750″ height=”340″ position=”left”]
The 90022 is a rust and weather-resistant portable hoop with a ten-gallon base that holds sand or water; there’s a 30-inch fan-shaped backboard with folding rim, and the telescoping three-piece support rod lets you start the basket out at 5½ feet for young kids, moving it up in increments of six inches until reaching the maximum of 7½ inches – when they can move seamlessly to a full-sized hoop.
The sturdy Lifetime 90022 Youth Hoop sells for an easy to handle price, so it’s the ideal way to let your kids play basketball to their heart’s content even though they’re too short for a real-life hoop. Giving them their own basket will do one other thing, too: free up your full-sized unit for you and your buddies.
Digging deeper on the Lifetime 90022 Youth Basketball Hoop:
Curious about other activities for kids, and for those young at heart, then consider long boarding. If this sounds interesting then read all about it in Groom+Style’s best longboard review – top 5 list.