We'll start with the fundamentals: there are three main types of basketball hoops.
- Portable Basketball Hoops are stand-alone units that include a base, pole with adjustable bracket, backboard, and rim in one complete system. It's relatively easy to adjust the height on portable hoops, and the wheels on most units make them easy to move around at will. This benefit is a double-edged sword, however, since portability also means these systems aren't as stable as some. It's a good idea to fill the base of your portable basketball goal with sand or water to provide the weight needed for stability.
- In-ground Basketball Hoops are a more permanent alternative. These systems are cemented into a hole dug into the ground, which means they're not going anywhere anytime soon. It also means you have to be willing to make a fairly significant investment in terms of installation time and effort. You'll need at least six 90-pound bags of cement to adequately secure your pole in the ground.
- Garage/Wall-Mounted Basketball Hoops can be mounted to the side of a house or garage and usually include a backboard, rim, net, and mounting kit. These systems are as permanent as in-ground basketball hoops and are not designed to be moved once installed. These systems can also be challenging to install (although they don't require you to dig a hole in the ground) but often allow you to create a court with minimal space.
There's more to dribble when buying a basketball hoop than who gets the ball first. Consider the components.
You curse it every time you hit it, but every hoop's gotta have a rim. Standard basketball goal rims are 18 inches in diameter and have net clips to connect the net. It should have steel support braces at least a half in diameter. Think you're gonna do a lot of dunking? Breakaway rims release the rim from the lip when pressure is applied to keep the backboard from breaking. The spring mechanism of breakaway rims also help make the rim softer, meaning long shots are easier to sink and balls go in more often.
Whether you say swoosh or swish, a nice net's essential. Most standard outdoor nets are made from nylon mesh cord and designed to stand up to both Mother Nature and your jump shot. Breakaway net clips can also be used to help prevent injury.
Your backboard has a significant impact on how you play. Material is the biggest factor when it comes to how your backboard bounces and how long it will last.
- Glass backboards are generally accepted as the best and are what you'll find on NBA courts. But the best comes at a cost, and glass backboards are also the most expensive. It's also important to note that while glass offers the best rebound, these are the most fragile backboards and easiest to break.
- Acrylic backboards offer the look of glass at a lower price point. Acrylic backboards are also lighter than glass, which means they don't require as large a pole for support. But lighter weight also means less bounce. Many acrylic boards boast NBA-style graphics and official endorsement by the pros.
- Polycarbonate backboards play much like acrylic backboards, but tend to be much more durable. In fact, polycarbonate backboards are approximately five times stronger than acrylic. These backboards offer similar bounce to those made of acrylic, but are less common and typically don't come in wall-mount options or larger sizes.
A regulation backboard is 72 inches wide, and that's what you see in the NBA. These are certainly available for your home court, but luckily there are many smaller options, too. Most home backboards are between 40 and 72 inches.
- 44 to 54 inches - This space-saving size range is usually a good fit for an average two-car driveway.
- 60 inches - If you want to split the difference between space-saving and oversized, this size is a good fit for two- to three-car driveways.
- 72 inches - Regulation-size hoops can look a little large on the driveway, but if you've got the space there's simply no substitute.
Shape can dictate play as well. Fan-shaped backboards offer a more streamlined look but provide less backboard for bank shots. Rectangular backboards are a bit pricier, but they do offer more shooting room. It's up to you to decide if sinking the shot is worth the extra cost.
Poles are the last key component of a basketball goal and literally support your hoop from the ground up. A good rule of thumb to follow: the bigger the pole, the more stable the system will be.
- Round poles are often found on portable systems and some smaller in-ground options, and are made of multiple pieces. These are not designed for dunking or hanging on the rim, with a standard size of 3.5 inches in diameter.
- Square poles work harder to reduce shaking and vibrations and are typically made of a single, solid piece of steel that runs from the ground to the backboard. Square poles come in four-, five-, and six-inch square sizes and are offered in higher-end systems as they provide the best support for larger and heavier backboards.
With the basics in place, there are a few extras to consider. Most of these add-ons are personal preference and depend on who will be dribbling down your court on a regular basis.
- Padding - Pole pads and backboard pads can help keep players safe, especially if your court is likely to be filled with children or particularly aggressive players. If this type of protection is something you think might come in handy, look for a basketball goal that comes complete with one or both types of protective padding.
- Height adjustment - Having the ability to adjust your basketball goal depending on who's playing is a major selling point for home use. Most adjustable systems offer a range of 7.5-10 feet and can be adjusted easily with cranks and pumps. Lower the net when the kids hit the court and raise it the regulation height of 10 feet for absolute stability and consistency in your game.
- Extension - This refers to the distance from the pole to the backboard and is important because it keeps the pole away from the backboard, which means players can safely pass under the backboard without running into the pole. A regulation free throw line requires a four-foot extension, but even if your home court doesn't have regulation lines, an extension is still worth considering for safety reasons.