Choosing the Right Basketball Hoop For You
Because everyone’s situation is different, basketball hoop manufacturers have developed an enormous range of products that attempt to fit everyone’s needs. However, that range can make choosing a basketball hoop feel impossible with how many different options and form factors are out there. Some people want a hoop just to play with the kids on weekends. Some have rising athletes who need home practice equipment. And some are serious sports fans who want a hoop that can handle them and their adult friends. At Swings-n-Things, we know basketball hoops that nobody else and we want to help you make the right decision for your family, which is why we’ve boiled down the most important decision points you should know about as you make your purchase. The hoop’s form factor is the most important variable, and then, the backboard’s specs. If you have the design and backboard styles locked down, you’re 80% of the way to getting the right hoop for you.
99% of consumer basketball hoops fall into one of three categories: portable, wall-mounted, or in-ground. In general, in-ground hoops are the highest quality and the most expensive, while wall-mounted and portable hoops occupy the budget tier. They also require different levels of court space, with wall-mounted needing the least and in-ground needing the most amount of space to properly install.
A container at the bottom of the pole filled with water, sand, or gel stabilizes portable basketball hoops, which can easily be moved after set-up. Most portable hoops offer height adjustment and the best have tempered glass backboards and breakaway rims. Due to their stabilization method, portable hoops usually aren’t safe to dunk on, and have the risk of falling on players if the weight in the base diminishes for any reason. Without the proper amount of weight, they absorb the impact of the basketball and thus can exhibit an unimpressive amount of rebound. Choose a portable hoop when you don’t have space or liberty to leave the hoop erect after you’re done playing, when you don’t own the court, or when the hoop must be placed on the court itself rather than adjacent to its surface.
Wall-mounted hoops attach to an existing wall or roof, often just above a garage door, and have adjustment mechanisms to ensure a 10ft rim height. They’re great for families who have a highly rectangular or oddly-shaped court, because you gain extra overhang when the hoop screws straight into a wall rather than sits directly in front of it. Due to their stabilization method, they are about as rigid as in-ground hoops. However, wall-mounted hoops usually don’t provide the same range of adjustable heights as an in-ground or portable hoop, and their height mechanism is coupled to their overhang, meaning if you don’t choose the right installation height, you could end up with significantly less overhang and room to play as an in-ground hoop.
In-ground hoops typically occupy the highest tiers of price and quality in comparison to other hoops. Regulation overhang (the distance between the pole and the backboard) is 4’, and the best in-ground hoops have an overhang between 2 1/2’ to 4’. Consequently, in-ground hoops require the greatest amount of court space among all hoop types and are typically installed on the edge of driveways or in a dedicated backyard court so the backboard and rim don’t impede cars from getting access to the driveway. In-ground hoops offer the most realistic and best play experience and boast high stability for dunks and other maneuvers that would be dangerous to pull off on wall-mounted or portable hoops. However, their installation is more involved than other hoop types because they need large, deep holes (18” diameter, 42” deep) to install their mounting plate. Finally, in-ground hoops like the Goalrilla are powder-coated meaning they can easily resist water, weather, and wear.
Hoop Construction Takeaway
Choosing a hoop form factor is the first major decision point you’ll need to pass before determining the rest of the features you need in a basketball hoop. If you’re still confused about which style to pick, there’s a simple questionnaire we’ve developed that will usually give you the best hoop for your money.
- What’s the size of your court? If you have a court that’s at least 15’ long in both directions, an in-ground hoop may be the best choice. Otherwise, if you have a wall (such as a garage wall or other structure) on which to mount a wall-mounted hoop, they offer a better play experience than most portable hoops which will be your last choice.
- Do you have permission to permanently install a hoop at the court? If not, your only choice will be portable basketball hoops.
- Do you want a large (72”) backboard size or the ability to dunk/play hard? If so, you should really consider in-ground hoops over the other designs due to their stability and durability.
- Do you want the ability to easily change the height of the rim or plan to do it often? If so, don’t choose a wall-mounted hoop because the height-adjustment mechanism for these hoops is more difficult to access than on portable or in-ground hoops. In addition, in-ground hoops like the Goalrilla often have easy-adjust actuators that make choosing the exact height you want as easy as turning a lever.
Once you’ve chosen your form factor, your next task is to decide on various details such as backboard size and material. Regulation backboard size is 72” x 42”, but the common sizes of 60” x 42” and 56” x 42” are also acceptable for learning. It’s not possible to make certain types of shots (especially angled layups and banked jumpers) on skinny backboards so at least 60”-width backboards are preferred for those who are serious about their home practice. However, the larger the backboard, the more court space is needed to prevent the hoop from dwarfing the play area. For small play areas (less than 15’ in any direction) 54” hoops are usually the best choice.
The three most common backboard materials (polyethylene/polycarbonate, acrylic, and tempered glass) offer differing levels of practice suitability. Tempered glass backboards both look and feel the best, resisting scratches and wear while offering a realistic rebound. Glass should be the first choice of those wanting a high quality play experience. Acrylic is a good substitute for tempered glass that maintains its transparency, resists scratches and mold, and provides an acceptable rebound. Polyethylene is most often found on children’s play hoops and does not exhibit a good rebound. It’s also a softer plastic, meaning it can be scratched easily and tends to show its age. However, polyethylene is nearly indestructible and can be a good choice for portable hoops in rough conditions. Backboard thickness is also an important factor, with regulation backboards being ½” thick. Thicker backboards weigh significantly more than thin ones, which is why many consumer backboards measure at ⅜”, a good compromise between weight and durability. At Swings-n-Things we’ve found that 60” x 42” tempered glass backboards with ⅜” thickness offer the best combination of price, durability, rebound, and size.
Padding and Overhang
The overhang (distance between the pole and backboard) contributes heavily to the play experience. Regulation overhang is 4’, but 4’ of overhang is quite often too deep for the average homeowner due to reduced court sizes and the need for car space. Most Goalrilla hoop overhangs are between 2 1/2’ to 4’, with 2’-3’ as the sweet spot.
Additionally, pole padding and backboard edge padding are necessities for those who plan to do more than shoot on their hoop. Layups, dunks, and shot blocks all significantly increase the chance that a player will jump into to be pushed into the backboard or support pole, meaning that for more aggressive play padding is essential to prevent injuries. Most in-ground hoops come with padding by default, and you can purchase additional padding at Swings-n-Things should yours wear out. You can even get pole padding that supports your alma mater! We have branded pads for Goalsetter hoops on our website here.
In-ground anchoring mechanism
A basketball hoop with an anchoring kit (extends deep into the ground, has four attachment points) is both more stable and flexible than one with a multi-piece support pole. Unlike support poles, anchoring kits can be leveled after the hoop has been installed thanks to the four separate attachment points. Finally, anchoring kit mounting allows the hoop to be easily removed and reinstalled in a different location should the need arise.
Standard vs Breakaway Rim
Regulation rims are called “breakaway rims” because they incorporate a hidden spring or coil between the backboard and the rim that allows the rim to move separately. These have the dual benefits of a softer touch on the rim rebound (better for your three-point shots!), and prevent the backboard from shattering if the rim is dunked or hung on because the hidden coil absorbs the impact rather than the backboard. Traditional rims are screwed directly into the backboard and exhibit a sharper rebound, in addition transferring all the force to the backboard which increases the chance of a shatter. For this reason breakaway rims are almost always the best choice for most consumers.
Installation and Support
There’s more to buying a basketball hoop than the hoop itself. In-ground and wall-mounted hoops have special installation needs, such as deep holes for anchoring kits, ladders, or multiple people who can stabilize a hoop while it’s being leveled. Most big-box stores such as Home Depot and Dick’s don’t offer much support to you after you’ve gotten the receipt, but at Swings-n-Things we offer full delivery and professional installation so you don’t have to lift a finger to get your new hoop ready to play. And we also offer relocation services even for in-ground hoops, something that’s only possible with anchor-mounted brands like Goalrilla and Goalsetter. We can detach and remount your hoop if you ever move or need to change locations, removing the need to purchase a brand new product.
Although the amount of options for basketball hoops can seem overwhelming, deciding between them becomes more approachable with a simple game plan.
- Choose form factor
- Choose backboard size and material
- Choose the rest of the features
This three-step process will help you frame your decisions in a logical way. And finally, if you’re unsure where to begin or are confused about some of the options presented here, Swings-n-Things has experienced sales associates who know every detail about all of our hoops and can help you make the right decision. Give us a call, use the chat bot on our website, email, or visit us in person. We’d love to speak with you and give you the information you need!