Indoor vs. Outdoor Basketball: What’s the difference?

April 8, 2022

As the weather warms up in the spring and summer months, there are more and more options to play basketball outdoors. Outdoor courts are especially attractive in the Lower Mainland: courts are sustainable city infrastructure because of the mild temperatures throughout the year, they are often accessible by bike, walk, or public transport, and they are free. They are a great way to promote active living. 

Although it may seem that it is just the location of play that is changing, outdoor and indoor basketball have some key differences! 

Physical Differences

The most obvious difference is that court material is substantially different between outdoor and indoor. Having to withstand natural environments, outdoor courts are made with durable material such as rubber or asphalt/concrete. Indoor courts are most likely to be hardwood. 

The basketball itself also differs between indoor and outdoor. To withstand harsh terrain, outdoor basketballs are made with composite materials and include sturdier rubber. In contrast, indoor basketballs are often made with full grain leather which is easily damaged if taken outside. For longevity, don’t use your indoor basketball for outdoor play!   

There are also differences in basketball shoes for outdoor vs. indoor courts. Outdoor basketball shoes will have thicker, durable rubber outsoles than indoor shoes. The traction often has wider and deeper grooves to accommodate outdoor terrain. Do not wear your indoor shoes outdoors to avoid wearing them out very quickly.  

An indoor basketball (left) and an outdoor basketball (right)

Style of Play 

Outdoor basketball is typically much less structured than indoor basketball. In particular, rules and fouls in outdoor basketball are much more flexible. A “street” style of basketball (primarily found in outdoor play) emphasizes showmanship from players whereas organized basketball (primarily from indoor basketball) often is more structured with set plays or offensive motions that everyone follows. Both give a different angle to the game that we love: good basketball. 


Outdoor courts are easy to access, free, and fun to enjoy outside. In the heat of summer though, it is nice to play in a cooler environment which is where indoor courts play a huge role. 

At Union, our courts are well-taken care of: grippy hardwood courts that are swept daily, quality rims, and a complementary fitness area for players to use. Join us for your next workout - we’d love to welcome you home.   

Union's lobby and reception area

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