As parents we’re always looking for ways to get closer to our kids. Personally I’ve tried Disney family vacations, working tirelessly through homework, searching for learning opportunities and just about everything else. Some things work better than others because kids are human beings and sometimes humans don’t react the way we expect them to. Sports is one of those activities that allow us to share a common interest, chat about life, strategize, engage in “teachable” moments and a whole host of other actions that bond and develop our little ones, and basketball is a sport that has so many ways a family can play together, it’s hard to count the number. You do need the right equipment for the sport to be enjoyable, but that doesn’t mean you need to spend thousands of dollars. In fact you can get great portable basketball system for just a few hundred dollars if you focus on what’s important to you. This review will help show you the way.
#1 Best Value – Lifetime 52 Inch Portable Basketball Hoop System – Read on Amazon
The first area of focus is our child’s commitment. It’s a lot easier to spend a significant sum of money if we know our child is going to commit to the sport, rather than if he or she is just trying it out. Commitment means that we will have made a modest investment in their future, “trying it out” means that we will have just thrown money out the door. So if there is a chance they won’t stick with it, it’s better to buy a less expensive unit rather than a more expensive one. Our list below has the best value option (i.e. the unit you want if you’re not sure if they will commit) and the best overall option (i.e. the unit you want if you are sure they will commit). Both are very good portable basketball goals, but the second has a few nice attributes that the first does not.
The next is composition. A portable basketball system gets its sturdiness from three things: the size of the base, the composition of the pole, and very importantly, the size and makeup of the backboard.
Below we review a variety of portable basketball hoops for kids. Hot Ten Review’s research indicates that these 10 units are the best on the market (in our humble opinion) and account for over 2/3rds of all portable basketball systems sold in 2016.
First lets chat about something that no review (outside of Hot Ten Reviews) seems to touch on. What’s important to you and your children may be completely different than every other buyer on this site – we try to hit what’s most popular, but understand that this may not apply specifically to you. That does not make you wrong, it means your priorities are different. Your economic situation may be great or you may be working three jobs. You may have an eight year old son who is the next Michael Jordan, or you may have an 11 year old daughter that is the next Albert Einstein. So understand that every portable basketball hoop (even the $99 version below) that we recommend is good if the criteria meet your needs. We don’t put lemons on our site. We also do more than provide an overall score. We rate categories so that if one is more important to you, you have options – so please check out the infographic below for a 30 second summary of the text on the site. Then go to the model that you find most interesting.
#1 Best Overall – Spalding NBA “The Beast” 60″ Glass Backboard – Read on Amazon
There are eight different criteria (along with price of course, captured under “best value recommendation”) that we parents need to think about when assessing which unit to buy. They are:
- Height adjustability range – by definition, portable basketball hoops for kids need to be able to start out low and adjust higher as our children grow. All of the units we reviewed start with the hoop at seven and ½ feet (except one, which starts at 8 feet) and adjusts up to a regulation level of 10 feet.
- Easy to raise and lower – Those adjusting the rim need to be able to do so easily. They could range from a kid, to an older brother or sister, to a mom or a dad. So the units that are the easiest to adjust up and down scored the best here.
- Storage compactness – portable basketball hoops need to be able to store well during off season. This basically means lowering the rim down as far as it will go and laying it flat, or laying it up against the wall. The best units were able to do this in the smallest amount of space.
- Mobility – these basketball hoops should be very heavy. This is what keeps them safe. But you may need to reposition the unit from time to time. This means they need wheels and weight balance. The best units have both, but neither the wheels or weight distribution cause any additional safety issues when the game is being played.
- Base sturdiness – the size of the base of the system makes the unit steady. Basically the bigger the better. The portable basketball hoops we reviewed start at a base capacity of 27 gallons and go all the way up to 50. Anything less and you will get a wobbly unit. Further, it’s important to note that these units are not designed for hang time, meaning hanging from the rim. This creates a safety issue. This becomes particularly problematic at the lower end of the base size spectrum.
- Backboard sturdiness – today’s school backboards are almost always made of glass. Glass gives the most bounce and it is the material that is most sought after on a portable basketball hoop because it makes the unit rock solid. The problem is that it’s also quite breakable and somewhat heavy, so if the backboard is going to take any significant punishment, you will need either acrylic, or polycarbonate or risk having the backboard shatter. Most of today’s portable basketball hoops are polycarbonate. Polycarbonate is virtually indestructible, but unfortunately it has the least bounce. Acrylic is in the middle of both bounce and strength and is used in the lower price range as it is seem as the worst of both worlds by some. With a Polyethylene coating, acrylic becomes almost as strong as Polycarbonate and makes a low priced basketball hoop a good value.The other element to consider is the backboard width itself. Regulation is 72 inches, but very few portable basketball systems are that wide. Most range between 40 and 60 inches. Anything wider and it starts to become less portable.
- Warranty – warranties do matter, because you will have both a base and backboard that can crack. The units we tested had protection that ranged from one year to a lifetime warranty, with both our top value and top overall recommendation units warrantied to 5-years.
- Assembly time and instructions – assembly time on most units ranged from 4 to six hours, with a common observation that the assembly instructions were all “light” on detail if you’re not paying close attention. So please, read the instructions fully at least once before going back through and starting the work. For those of you who don’t want to assemble the unit yourself, most of the units we recommend will also send an installer for about $140 who will put the entire basketball hoop system together for you.
Spalding vs. Lifetime Portable Basketball Goals
There are two well-respected manufacturers in the portable basketball goals game. They are Lifetime and Spalding. In a nutshell, Lifetime makes the less expensive units and Spalding makes the more expensive units. The difference in the two (in our humble opinion) comes down to a slight (slight) difference in quality and precision in the construction. Both are good. Both will generate the same amount of fun, the Spalding units are just a little more “tight.” If you’d like more detail on Spalding, or Lifetime click the hyperlinks in orange.
Should You Use Water or Sand in the Base Unit?
Nine out of 10 of the units listed gain their stability by adding either water or sand to the bottom. This is necessary because it adds a tremendous amount of weight and helps keep the unit from tipping over. All basketball goals listed will allow you to add either sand or water. It’s important to understand the distinction between each so that you don’t get a surprise heading into winter.
Water – First, water freezes, and when it freezes it expands. If you live in an area that gets below 32 F (0 C), you will need to drain the water out of your portable basketball base before frost or the base will eventually crack. So if you are planning on using the unit year round – use sand.
Sand – Sand does not drain. If you want to use the unit only during the Spring, Summer and Fall months, it is a lot easier to store it if you use water in the base and simply drain the water out going into the winter. Your basketball goal then becomes light(er) and much easier to move around, lay down and store.
Sand – You can’t simply turn on the hose and get sand. You need to go out and find it and bring it back. This means extra work and a little extra money.
Finally, if you want the most stable unit possible, use sand. 1 gallon of dry sand weighs 12.76 pounds, 1 gallon of water weighs 8.34 pounds. Sand is over 50% heavier than water. Having said that most people use water because it’s just easier.
Now on to the review…
Best Portable Basketball Hoops
#1 HTR Best Overall – Spalding NBA “The Beast” Portable Basketball System – 60″ Glass Backboard
1299.99 – $1099.99
[Overall Rank 8.22]
“The Beast” is Spalding’s best overall portable basketball hoop. The unit has the largest base (50 gallons of capacity) of all the units listed. The backboard is very wide (60 inches) and is made of glass for professional quality ball action. Its rim height is easy to adjust in a few seconds using the screw jack adjustment system that takes it as low as 7.5 feet and as high as 10.5 feet (regulation is 10 feet). Assembly time is about four hours, but you can opt for a professional to come in and install if for less than $140 as part of the purchase option.
The unit has a 5-year warranty
#2 HTR Best Value – Lifetime 52 Inch Portable Basketball Hoop System
279.99 – $250.99
[Overall Rank 8.0]
For those on a budget, but still want a top end unit, we recommend the Lifetime 52 inch portable basketball hoop system. It is Hot Ten Review’s Best Value unit. The basketball hoop has a nice sized 35-gallon base, which puts it in the mid range of base density of the units reviewed. It’s backboard is 52 inches which is also mid tier in terms of size. What we like about the composition of the backboard is that it is made of polycarbonate, which is virtually unbreakable. It doesn’t provide professional rebounding like the Spalding above, but by definition a portable basketball hoop is usually not designed that way. Its rim height is also very easy to adjust using a simple hydrolic system that takes the rim as low as 7.5 feet and as high as 10.5 feet (regulation is 10 feet). Assembly time is about 4 hours, but you can opt for a professional to come in and install if for less than $140 as part of the purchase option.
This unit is great for developing skills, some one on one time, or family and friend neighborhood games.
The unit has a 5-year warranty
[Overall Rank 8.0]
The Spalding Pro Slam Portable Basketball System tied with #2 above in overall rating, but we felt the acrylic backboard made it slightly less desirable. Acrylic has a little better ball action than polycarbonate, but it cracks and scratches more easily. We liked the backboard width of this 54” unit, and its solid 34-gallon base made it about equal with the other mid tier units. The unit is easy to adjust in seconds and extends down as low as 7.5 feet and as high as 10 feet. Assembly time is 4 hours. but you can opt for a professional to come in and install if for less than $140 as part of the purchase option.
The unit has a 5-year warranty
#4 Lifetime 1221 Pro Court Height Adjustable Portable Basketball System, 44 Inch Backboard –
$149.99 – $99
[Overall Rank 7.78]
This is the least expensive unit of those reviewed, but it delivers surprisingly good results. It is perfect for the new player who is just deciding if he/she wants to get into the game and it will take them into intermediate level play. The 44 inch backboard is acrylic, but it is reinforced with a polyethylene coating which makes it crack resistant, and at the same time it offers better ball rebounding similar to glass backboards. It has a 27-gallon base, which put’s it at the lower end of those reviewed, but certainly not at the lower end of those offered in the market. The unit easily adjusts from 7.5 feet to 10 feet. Assembly time is one to 1 ½ hours.
The unit has a 5-year warranty
[Overall Rank 7.67]
This is the best value in the market for a high quality glass back-boarded portable basketball hoop. We also like the 54” width of the backboard. The unit has a 40-gallon base, which puts it on the higher end of foundation strength of the basketball goals reviewed, and it adjusts from 7.5 to 10 feet. Like #1 above this system uses a different type of backboard adjustment mechanism –a screw-jack adjustment system. This is necessary because of the weight of the glass, but it is relatively easy to use. The unit got a bit of a ding from us because of the feedback that said the glass broke from time to time (unlike #1 above where we did not receive such feedback). Spalding corrected the issue by adding a spacer between the glass and the metal support, and it has been fine since.
The unit has a 5-year warranty
#6(A) Lifetime 50 Inch Shatter Proof Portable Basketball Hoop
– $389.54 – $259.00
Tied for #6 with unit below
[Overall Rank 7.55]
Our number six portable basketball unit comes from Lifetime, again. This unit has a 50-inch shatterproof polycarbonate backboard, and easily adjusts from 7.5 to 10 feet. Like most of the other units, assembly time is between four and six hours and will require two people from time to time during the assembly period (a few spurts of a few minutes, just to keep things steady and aligned when connecting the pole).
The base is a solid 35 gallons, mid-tier by portable basketball hoop standards, which makes basketball steady when playing a little more aggressive game. The reason the unit is number six is that it is very good at almost every attribute, but is not great at anything. If the price was $100 lower this unit would be top five. Like most of the other units, the Lifetime 50 Inch Shatter Proof Portable Basketball Hoop has a five-year warranty.
#6(B) Spalding NBA Hercules Portable Basketball Hoop – 54″ Acrylic Backboard –
$393.49 – $344.27
Tied for #6 with unit above
[Overall Rank 7.55]
This is one of the classics at Spalding and it is very popular. Truth be told, this is definitely one of the coolest looking basketball hoops, but the attributes didn’t stack up for us for the price. The backboard is a nice 54” but it’s made of acrylic. We surmise that this is because the Hercules was designed several years ago and polycarbonate was not available. We also don’t see that the backboard is reinforced with a polyethylene like #4, the Lifetime acrylic backboard unit, which means that if it takes a beating, it could crack.
It adjusts from 7.5 feet to 10 feet like the others and it’s easy to raise and lower, like the others. The base is 37 gallons, which is better than the standard 34 that most of the units on review seem to have. 37 gallons vs. 34 gallons adds an additional 24 (water) to 36 pound (sand) of weight to the bottom of the unit.
The unit has a five year warranty.
[Overall Rank 7.12]
The SKLZ 50 inch portable basketball goal is number eight out of 10 in our review. This unit is very competitively priced, and has a nice sized 50-inch polycarbonate backboard, which is virtually indestructible but also offers the least “bounce” out of the backboard material options (glass, acrylic and polycarbonate). We like the solidness of the base (35 gallons) and think the unit is well constructed overall.
The two negative features are the adjustment on the minimum rim height (8 feet vs 7.5 on all the others – could be a problem for littler ones) and the one year warranty. This is basically one season which gives us some concern about the long term strength of the unit.
Unit 9 – Being updated.
#10 First Team Storm Arena Portable Basketball System – 72 Inch Glass Backboard
[Overall Rank 8.24]
Okay, all cards on the table, mathematically this was #1, but we had to make it #10 because of the price. This is because this is a review of portable basketball systems based on value. Still we had to throw this one in, because the First Team Storm Arena Portable Basketball System is the best portable basketball system we’ve ever seen.
The unit offers two things that none of the others offer: a 72-inch “regulation size” glass-backboard and a minimum height of 6 feet (extends up to 10 feet) for very little ones. This unit is for the person who loves basketball, and wants a “portable” basketball hoop that meets regulation standards. The First Team Storm does not use water weighting, but instead is just really heavy (1230 pounds – almost double the weight of the heaviest above). Comments from owners talk about the ability to dunk and hang, although we don’t recommend it because we don’t see that written as a feature anywhere.
The First Team Storm Arena Portable Basketball System also includes base padding in case you get a running start and accidentally keep going! You will need the company to send someone to assemble this for you, which is a service they provide.
This portable basketball goal also on sale, which makes it a more affordable. For the avid basketball fan that can afford it, the First Team Storm Arena Portable Basketball System is for you!
The unit offers a lifetime warranty, of course…
Phew! So there you have it. Whether you are looking for portable basketball hoops for kids, adults or for the whole family, all 10 of those listed above will serve you well. The only question now is what attributes are best for you. Have fun!