If you have recently purchased a genuine leather basketball, you might be surprised by how it feels in the beginning. This is because composite or rubber basketballs are designed ready-for-play immediately. Leather balls are not.
Why? Because leather balls have increased durability, which means they should last you longer. Breaking them in is simply a compromise you have to make for the higher quality!
If you are looking for a guide on how to break in a leather basketball, you're in the right place. Generally speaking, there are only two ways you can truly soften up your new leather ball.
The first is a little unorthodox, and the second consists of playing with it consistently. We have detailed both strategies below to show you how to break in a leather basketball efficiently.
1. Soak It Using a Leather Conditioner
When you purchased your genuine leather basketball, you probably weren't thinking about giving it a bath. Even so, this is a genuinely effective way to soften up the ball so that it is ready for play!
Just make sure you use conditioner or lotion that is actually meant for leather. We aren't talking about hair conditioners here.
Check below for a step-by-step process on how to condition your basketball to help break it in.
Step One: Make Sure Your Hands are Clean
We're not trying to sound like a parent here, but before you start cleaning anything you need to make sure your hands are clean too.
Dirt and oil are known to accumulate on hands throughout the day, even if they look perfectly clean.
This can make your ball harder to break in and can decrease the efficiency of the conditioner.
Step Two: Wipe the Ball Down with a Dry, Dust-Free Cloth
Similarly to washing your hands, you need to make sure your cloth is clean too. It doesn't have to be pristine or brand new, but just ensure it doesn't have any previous residue clinging to it that could compromise the quality of the ball.
Simply wipe the cloth over the basketball to remove any dirt or packaging that may still be present out of the box.
Step Three: Apply the Conditioner
With a separate leather conditioning cloth, wipe down the ball with the conditioner. You should try to cover the entire ball but don't apply too much as this could be wasteful.
A single layer is ordinarily enough at any one time. Leave the ball for fifteen-twenty minutes to allow the conditioner to sink in, then wipe away with a new cloth.
You may need to repeat this process three to five times before you can truly feel the ball softening up.
If conditioning your ball doesn't sound like your ideal Friday night, let's walk you through how to break in a leather basketball in a more conventional way.
2. Use It For Repeated Drills
Frequent use is always going to be the most effective way to break in a basketball. Just like with a new pair of shoes, they can only get really comfy after wearing them for a while. It's the same principle as a basketball.
The more you practice with it, the more it'll soften and your grip will improve.
Just remember: genuine leather balls are more suited for indoor use or on specially designed outdoor courts. Bouncing it on concrete won't break it in faster, it'll just make the grip uneven.
The best way to break in your leather basketball is to perform repeated dribbling drills. How you choose to enact this is entirely up to you. You can do it while running, practicing your shots while traveling, or even by dribbling while sat watching TV!
As long as the ball is repeatedly bouncing against a smooth, even surface, then you are good to go. It can take some time for you to start to notice a difference but don't give up.
Once they break in, genuine leather balls are the best to use in a game.
Why Choose a Leather Basketball Over Composite or Rubber?
In short, because they are more durable and will last you longer.
They are also easier to use and, over time, will adjust to your grip. Plus: they're what the pros use. If you want to live out your NBA fantasy, they're a must-have.
However, this only applies if your games are played inside. Genuine leather basketballs are not suited to the uneven ground of the outside world.
If you mostly play outside, a composite or rubber ball is preferable. They won't last you as long, but they can survive concrete far better.
Final Thoughts: How to Break in a Leather Basketball
Hopefully, we have answered your question about how to break in a leather basketball. The truth is, it takes time, and professional players can sometimes use a ball for six to seven months before it's ready for a real game.
Everyone's experience is different, just remember to stay patient. Playing with a broken-in, genuine leather ball is worth the wait!
You might also like: Best Indoor Basketballs for that Genuine Playing Feel