Why are Basketballs Orange? ( History of the Basketball )

Have you ever wondered what the perfect basketball color combination is for your team? Is there a certain number of different colors that make up the perfect basketball color scheme for you?

Well, you definitely don’t have to look very far to find a variety of different colors that make up a great basketball color scheme.

While most of the internationally-known basketball teams use different color schemes, the basketball color always remains the same, which is orange.

What is the reason behind the color of a basketball?

What is the history of basketballs and why is the color orange and not purple or green?

This article will give you all the answers about the basketball’s color, its history, and ultimately, why it is orange.

What is a Basketball

To start off, let’s go through the essentials, what exactly a basketball is.

A basketball is a circular ball with an internal inflatable elastic cylinder, which is covered by leather, engineered composite or elastic. The perimeter of a basketball varies from one alliance to the next: most balls in the NBA have an outline of 29.5”, while NCAA balls have a greatest boundary of 30”.

In addition, it is important to note that the basketballs for outdoor and indoor are slightly different. In fact, while both have that flaming orange color, there is a difference about the material.

Indoor basketball are made using leather while outdoor ones are made using rubber. Indoor basketballs should not be used outside since the ground is different and it will, therefore, damage the ball’s grip.

History of the Basketball

Before jumping into the basketball color, let’s go through its history. At the point where the first basketball was first created, players used to play utilizing a football ball.

Since, of course, everyone involved in the game wanted a specific ball to play, in 1894, the company Spalding and Bros came up with a more appropriated and sophisticated ball made from leather. At that time, the circumference was 32”.

However, over 50 years later, in 1948, the previously created basketball saw its size diminished from 32” to 30’’.

It is important to note that the first versions of basketball had four panels. Over the years, the design improved and eventually became an eight-panel ball that is today the NBA’s official basketball.

Also, when basketball first started, the balls were initially brown and, only in the late 1950s, things changed and a new color, more visible and easier to distinguish, was introduced, the famous basketball orange.

Make sure to read below to know who invented this color and the reasons.

Why Have Basketballs Changed Color?

The story behind the basketball’s color is more obvious than we might think. In fact, as previously mentioned, the first basketballs were initially dark brown which were difficult for both players and audience to see.

Why were Basketballs Invented?

There are a few reasons why basketballs were invented and the origin is far more interesting than we think.

As we’ve seen before, the first basketball matches were played using a dark brown soccer ball and throwing them in peach baskets.

Fast forward to several years, this created some complaints from the players’ side and, therefore, something had to be done to improve the game.

It was Dr James Naismith to invent basketball back in 1891 and, at that time, players used to throw the ball into peach baskets hung at both opposite of the gym, just like the modern basketball game of our days.

Nowadays, all basketballs are orange and the color has become the NBA’s official basketball’s color.

Who Invented the Orange Basketball as We Know it Today?

As mentioned previously, basketball players were originally using footballs during matches. Then, of course, an official basketball was created by Spalding and Bro in 1894.

However, who invented this particular orange color found in basketballs? The idea and innovation behind the change was from Tony Hinkle, former American football, baseball, and basketball player and coach.

Tony Hinkle came up with a new color that was more visible to both players and spectators and hence, the popular nowadays orange color.

ABA’s Basketball Color

What is ABA, and what was its official basketball color? Read more about it below.

The ABA, also known as the American Basketball Association (ABA) was a men’s professional basketball league that was founded in 1967 and collapsed in 1976 when they were forced to be merged with the NBA.

Back in the days, there were 11 teams in the ABA and only 4 joined the NBA upon merging: Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers,New York Nets, and San Antonio Spurs.

That is to say, what was the ABA’s basketball color? While the official basketball color was orange since the 1950s, ABA’s basketball colors were red, blue, and white that made the ball visible to everyone but also full of style.

How are Basketballs Created?

Basketballs are very high-quality balls made of leather and that are used in both private and professional environments. Spalding, the company that first created the basketball in 1894, still makes them in our days.

First of all, the official NBA’s basketballs are made out of leather that exclusively comes from Horween Leather Company, based in Chicago.

Horween is some of the oldest leather tanneries in America and they receive shipments of over 3,000 cowhides a week. Needless to say, they go through a meticulous process that takes three weeks and that includes:

  • Leathers pieces are filtered and sorted by the clearness, thickness, and size of their grain.
  • Once the best pieces are selected, they are then colored and placed into tanning drums for storage.
  • They are then stamped using a 1,000-ton press that will then give the basketball that particular pebble found in official NBA’s balls.
  • The leather is then painted in lighter coats, dried twice with a strict process, and eventually checked before getting sent to China for the next cutting and sewing process.

Once these basketballs are made and sent back to America, Spalding make them go through several quality tests such as:

  1. The basketballs are both automatically and manually inflated and checked to make sure that they can be inflated and used with no future issues.
  2. The measurement test will measure the circumference of each and every basketball to make sure that the dimensions are the same.
  3. Also, a vertical test is made on all balls. All of the basketballs are dropped from 6 feet high and have to rebound at least 52 inches to pass the final test.
  4. To wake the windings is the final test for basketballs. In fact, all balls are rebounded at 20 miles per hour for a total of 50 times. This ensures consistency and quality for each of the balls.

As you can see, basketballs go through a strict process that will allow them to eventually get sold on the market safely for all users.

What are the Sizes of Basketballs?

Without any surprise, and depending on the basketball game and league, there are different basketball sizes that are available to players and professionals.

Let’s go through the different basketball categories that are available to the public and see in what games and leagues they are used.

Size Circumference Game / League Recommended For
Size 7 29.5”



Men’s NCAA

Men’s FIBA

High school, college, and professional
Size 6 28.5”



Women’s NCAA

Women’s FIBA

Boys ages 12 to 14 years old

Girls and women ages 12 and up

Size 5 27.5”


Youth Leagues


Both boys and girls ages 9 to 11 years old
Size 4 25.5”


Child Both boys and girls ages 5 to 8 years old
Size 3 22”
55.9 cm
All boys and girls ages below 4

As you can see, there are different sizes available for all ages and purposes. However, the basketball color for all of them remains the unchanged, beautiful, and very visible orange.

Our Conclusion

This was everything you needed to know about the basketball color. While some details are obvious, others are related to history and are important to know.

Other than that, and as we’ve seen above, basketballs found on the market go through strict processes to make sure that all professional and private players can enjoy their game safely when using NBA balls.

To conclude, there is a long history behind all basketballs and this is the reason why they got so popular and good looking nowadays. And eventually, basketballs get so many important tests passed to please all players around the world.

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