How to Fill a Basketball With Air

Inflate the ball correctly so you can play like a pro.

Inflate the ball correctly so you can play like a pro.

Even if you’re a WNBA all-star, you’re not going to do much on the court with a mushy or flat basketball. Once you have the right tools, pumping some air into your basketball isn’t a tough task. But it’s important to put the right amount of air into the ball, particularly when you’re practicing, so the ball bounces as it will during a game.

Screw the needle into the hose of a manual bicycle pump, then push the needle gently through the ball’s air hole. Push the pump’s plunger up and down until the ball feels firm when you squeeze it, but still has a bit of give.

Use an air compressor as an alternative to a bicycle pump. Place the compressor’s sports needle onto the hose, plug the compressor into an electrical outlet -- if necessary -- then switch the compressor on. Insert the needle into the basketball, then press the appropriate switch to pump air into the ball. If you know the pounds per square inch level your ball requires, observe the compressor’s gauge and stop adding air when your ball is full.

Test your ball after you’ve filled it with air. Hold a yardstick or other measuring device vertically, with one end flat on the floor. Line up the bottom of the ball with the top of the measuring device, drop the ball, then observe how high the ball rebounds, as measured from the ball’s bottom. If the ball is inflated properly it should bounce up about 60 percent of the distance from which it’s dropped. Add air into the ball if it bounces significantly less than it should. If the ball bounces too high, remove some air by briefly inserting an unattached sports needle, then squeezing the ball a bit, if necessary. Retest the ball after adding or removing air.

Items you will need

  • Bike pump
  • Air compressor
  • Sports needle
  • Measuring device


  • NCAA women’s basketball rules state that a ball dropped from 6 feet -- as measured from the floor to the bottom of the ball -- should bounce up between 51 and 56 inches, as measured from the floor to the ball’s top. For high school play, the ball should bounce up between 49 and 54 inches. The ball must be between 28 1/2 and 29 inches in circumference and must weigh between 18 and 20 ounces under high school and college rules.


  • Over-inflation may damage the ball.

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About the Author

M.L. Rose has worked as a print and online journalist for more than 20 years. He has contributed to a variety of national and local publications, specializing in sports writing. Rose holds a B.A. in communications.

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