What Is the Difference Between a Basketball and a Netball? Unveil the Game-Changing Facts

Ever found yourself watching a game and wondering if it’s basketball or netball? You’re not alone! While they may look similar at a glance, basketball and netball are distinct games with their own set of rules and equipment.

At first glance, the balls might seem interchangeable, but they’re actually quite different. Knowing these differences can save you from a sports faux pas or, even better, help you dominate the court in whichever game you choose to play. Let’s bounce into the key differences that set these two popular sports apart.

Size and Weight of the Balls

As you peel back the layers of both games, you’ll uncover stark differences in their equipment — particularly the balls used. Basketball size varies by league, but they generally adhere to a standard set by the sport’s governing body. In the NBA, the official basketball size is a circumference of 29.5 inches, and these balls are designed for optimal bounce and grip. They weigh in the neighborhood of 22 ounces.

tsu ball featured image

Netball presents a different story. The regulation netball size is slightly smaller, with a circumference of 27.5 to 28 inches. However, what’s interesting is that despite its smaller size, a netball can weigh about the same as a basketball, typically ranging from 14 to 16 ounces. This might surprise you given their visual similarities.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the key specifics:

Aspect Basketball Netball
Circumference 29.5 inches (Standard NBA) 27.5 to 28 inches
Weight Approx. 22 ounces 14 to 16 ounces
Surface Texture Pebbled with wider channels Grainy with fewer indentations

Why do these differences matter? Well, they play a huge role in the dynamics of the game. A basketball’s larger size and pebbled surface make it easier to palm and dribble — a fundamental aspect of basketball gameplay. As you hone your dribbling skills, that gripping capability is essential.

Conversely, netball’s minimal bounce and grainier texture fit perfectly with its own unique rule set. There’s no dribbling in netball, so the design of the ball caters to passing and shooting — with a firmer grip lending itself to the precise throwing accuracy that’s paramount in the game.

When you’re coaching or playing, these differences in the ball’s characteristics will significantly influence your strategy and skill development. Whether you’re perfecting a chest pass in netball or a crossover dribble in basketball, you’re operating under a distinct set of physical tools tailored to the needs of each sport. It’s these nuances that make coaching, playing, and watching each game such a distinct and rewarding experience.

Design and Grip

The distinct design of basketballs and netballs is pivotal to the way they’re played. As a basketball coach, you know the importance of the ball’s surface in shooting and dribbling. Typically, basketballs have a pebbled surface with deeper channels, which allows for better grip and control. This design caters to the dynamic and physical nature of basketball, where adept ball-handling skills are crucial.

On the court, you’ll notice that basketballs made for indoor play have a softer, leather surface, which offers an improved grip as the game progresses and the players’ hands become sweaty. But when you’re pounding the pavement outdoors, rubber basketballs are the go-to because of their durability and stronger grip on rough surfaces.

Switching to netball, the ball has a slightly different texture. Netballs are covered with a grainy, rubberized surface to provide grip, even in wet conditions – a common scenario in netball games, especially given that netball is often played outside in countries like New Zealand and England.

  • Basketball Grip Features:
  • Netball Grip Features:

Your years on the court and your time coaching have shown you just how much the grip can affect passing and shooting accuracy. You’ve seen that players often need time to adjust when switching between the two sports, primarily due to these design differences. It’s this unique texture of the netball that asks for a different handling technique, one that’s less reliant on the bounce and more on precise passing.

Whether you’re surveying the next game on your TV or sizing up the ball during basketball drills, you’re aware that even the slightest variation in design and grip can have a significant impact on a player’s performance.

Positions and Rules of the Games

When you’re looking to understand the core of any team sport, zoning in on player positions and game rules will give you the insights you need. In basketball, you’ve got five players on the court from each team. These guys are tasked with performing as point guards, shooting guards, small forwards, power forwards, or centers. Each position holds a strategic role, with point guards usually steering the ship due to their ball-handling and playmaking skills.

Basketball Positions:

  • Point Guard (PG)
  • Shooting Guard (SG)
  • Small Forward (SF)
  • Power Forward (PF)
  • Center (C)

On the flip side, netball fields seven players per team, and they’re restricted to certain areas of the court, tying them down to specific defensive or offensive duties. Netball’s positions are distinctive and include roles like Wing Attack (WA) and Goal Defense (GD), which don’t have direct equivalents in basketball.

Netball Positions:

  • Goal Shooter (GS)
  • Goal Attack (GA)
  • Wing Attack (WA)
  • Centre (C)
  • Wing Defense (WD)
  • Goal Defense (GD)
  • Goal Keeper (GK)

Let’s dive into rules. Basketball is synonymous with the 24-second shot clock rule, fostering a fast-paced game where you’re always on edge, looking to capitalize on every possession. Meanwhile, netball takes a different approach with no backboard and a player being allowed to hold the ball for only three seconds before having to pass or shoot.

Here are some game rules to keep in mind for basketball and netball:


  • 24-second shot clock
  • Players can dribble the ball
  • Contact is generally penalized but often less stringent than in netball
  • No shot clock but a three-second possession rule
  • No dribbling; players must pass to move the ball down the court
  • Stricter rules around player contact and obstruction

Recognizing the strategies in each of these sports is a game-changer. As a basketball lover, you know the thrill of a well-executed pick-and-roll or the intensity of a full-court press defense. Netball, while maintaining a similar team spirit, showcases more set plays due to its positional restrictions and faster turnover of the ball, following stringent rules on movement and possession.

Dribbling and Shooting Techniques

Dribbling in basketball is fundamental. You’re constantly on the move, requiring skillful hand and eye coordination to manipulate the ball. It’s about pace, precision, and keeping the ball on a tight leash while you scan for passing avenues or aim for that sweet shot. Now, think of the way you dribble a basketball, the ball bouncing up to waist height, giving you enough time to maneuver through defenders. That’s not something you’ll see in a netball match, because dribbling simply isn’t part of the game. Players must pass the ball within three seconds and cannot take more than one step while holding it.

When shooting, basketball again provides a contrast. You’ve got the freedom to showcase your style, whether it’s a layup, a fadeaway or a three-pointer from downtown. In netball, however, shooting is restricted to the goal circle, and only two positions are allowed to score – the Goal Shooter and the Goal Attack. The shooting technique in netball is typically a high release and overhand shot, aimed to swoosh through a hoop that lacks a backboard, requiring precise accuracy and control.

In basketball, you’ve learned the importance of the backboard – it’s not just part of the hoop; it’s a tool to be used. The angle of your bank shot might be the difference between scoring and turning over possession. For a netball player, the absence of a backboard means refining shooting technique takes on an even greater importance as they have only the rim to rely on.

Your ability to jump also plays a significant role in basketball shooting techniques. The vertical leap allows you to rise above defenders, giving you those precious milliseconds to get your shot off. Netball requires a different approach since jumping while shooting is against the rules.

Recognizing these key differences in the two sports not only enhances your appreciation but also adjusts your mindset if you dare to switch courts. You’ll need to adapt your skills accordingly, and that’s the beauty of sports – they’re ever-evolving, always challenging. Remember, no matter the game, it’s your passion and dedication that will truly define your performance on the court.


Now that you’ve dived into the distinct worlds of basketball and netball it’s clear that each sport has its unique characteristics from ball size and texture to gameplay and positions. Whether you’re aiming to refine your skills on the court or simply enjoy watching the sports you’re better equipped to appreciate the subtleties that make each game special. Remember adapting to the specific demands of basketball or netball can enhance your playing style and enjoyment of the game. So grab the right ball for your sport and get ready to play!

Frequently Asked Questions

How do the sizes and weights of basketballs and netballs compare?

Basketballs are larger and heavier with a circumference of 29.5 inches and a weight of about 22 ounces. Netballs are smaller, having a circumference of 27.5 to 28 inches and weight between 14 to 16 ounces.

What are the key differences in ball design between basketball and netball?

Basketballs have a pebbled surface with deeper channels for a better grip, while netballs feature a grainy, rubberized surface suitable for grip even in wet conditions.

How many players are there on each team in basketball and netball?

In basketball, there are five players per team on the court, while in netball, there are seven players per team.

What are the main differences in game rules between basketball and netball?

Basketball features a shot clock to limit possession time, and players can dribble the ball. Netball has strict possession rules without dribbling and limits shooting to within the goal circle.

Can you dribble in netball?

No, dribbling is not allowed in netball. Players must pass the ball without moving their landing foot until they have passed it.

Is the backboard used in both basketball and netball?

The backboard is a key element in basketball, but it does not exist in netball, significantly affecting shooting techniques in the sport.

Are jumping and shooting techniques the same in basketball and netball?

Jumping is integral to shooting in basketball, allowing for a variety of shooting styles. In contrast, jumping while shooting is not permitted in netball, leading to different techniques.

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