Can a Basketball Explode?

You may have seen extreme videos of basketballs being dropped from mammoth heights and exploding on the ground below. Was it because of the height that the basketball burst, or was it because of an outside issue? There are a few causes that may force a basketball to explode, more than just dropping it off from massive heights. 

Although rare, a basketball can explode if it is stored at a temperature that is too cold or if it is over-inflated to a considerable level beyond the standard PSI. An exploding basketball can be very dangerous and can cause harm to those nearby. Luckily, there are ways to avoid this occurrence.

From novices to NBA veterans, players of every level should know how to properly store a basketball when it is not in use. It does not matter what material the ball is made from or how much it cost—all basketballs should be stored the same way and inflated properly. Read on to find out how to protect yourself from an exploding basketball. 

A Basketball Can Explode If It Gets Too Cold

Temperature is the main culprit causing a basketball to explode. On the one hand, a basketball should not be kept in areas that are too cold because cold temperatures lower the pressure of the basketball. Therefore, a basketball left in the cold will lose air and end up deflating quickly. This is because of how gas molecules react in the cold. 

  • When a basketball is left out in the cold, gas molecules contract and, as such, will have less energy and move more slowly.
  • This leads to the basketball having lower air pressure, which leads to the ball bouncing lower.
  • This is probably why you had a basketball that looked perfectly inflated but did not bounce high due to the cold temperature. 

Adding air can solve this problem, but how much air? This is where things get tricky because if you find your basketball has deflated due to being kept in the cold, you should never pump it up immediately. This is because pumping a basketball in the cold will cause the bladder to explode. Hot temps will not do this but could damage the ball. 

What about storing a basketball in higher temperatures? Conversely, higher temperatures will lead to higher air pressure since the gas molecules inside the ball are now expanding and moving around faster as the temperature increases. So, this time when you bounce the ball, it will bounce much higher because of the high temperature. 

An Over-Inflated Ball May Also Explode

Temperature is not the only reason a basketball can explode. If you overfill your basketball with an air compressor or similar device, too much air may cause the basketball to explode. You can test this by either rebounded it from six feet above the ground or by simply bouncing the ball—if it bounces to your chest, it has too much air. 

This was tested to the extreme when a group of men inflated their basketball to a whopping 50 PSI (for reference, the average is between seven and nine pounds per square inch). Then, they dropped the basketball off of a 415-foot dam with the hopes of the over-inflation causing an explosion. It did explode to an impressive extreme. 

Was the monstrous amount of air the cause of the basketball’s explosion? The team tested this theory by dropping a normally-inflated basketball off the same dam, and this time the drop was a success. The men even set a world record for a basketball being shot at the greatest height. Once the inflation was set normally, the ball did not explode. You can see the video below:

This has also been tested only by overinflating the ball without dropping it from a height. The following video is one good example of it.

How to Properly Inflate a Basketball

Obviously, you do not want to inflate your basketball to 50 or 60 PSI under normal circumstances. So, here are some tips to make sure your basketball is properly inflated and will not explode in the middle of your basketball game.

First, you need to make sure you have the right devices, including an inflation needle, air pump, and pressure gauge. 

  • Connect an inflation needle to a basketball air pump and moisten the needle so that it will slide into the value with ease. This is so the needle does not damage or puncture the valve, which will cause it to leak air.
  • Make sure the needle is fully inserted into the valve.
  • Begin inflating the ball.
  • If using a pressure gauge, this device can correctly manage the air to make sure the ball is inflated properly between 7 and 9 PSI.
  • If you do not have a pressure gauge, you can test the pressure by dropping the basketball from your shoulders. If it bounces to your hip/waist level, it is properly inflated!
  • Be sure to not only store your basketball in a warm, room temperature area but also inflate it in an area that is indoors so that the basketball does not explode.

If you are using an electric air pump, you need to make sure you are monitoring it closely since it fills up the ball quickly. If you overfill it too fast, it will explode and destroy the basketball.  

How to Handle a Basketball So It Does Not Explode 

The inside of a basketball has a rubber bladder that holds air when the ball is inflated based on the height of the basketball’s bounce. A basketball should be inflated enough so that it can rebound around 49 to 54 inches in height when it is dropped from six feet above the ground. Therefore, it is important to keep a basketball inflated properly. 

Basketballs usually range in size from 28.5 to 30 inches in diameter, and both men’s and women’s basketballs that are 29.5 inches are fully inflated when they weigh around one and ⅜ pounds. This is where maintaining your basketball at the proper amount of inflation gets tricky and could possibly even be dangerous. 

If you have a pressure gauge on your air pump, the recommended inflation of a basketball is usually around seven to nine PSI and typically in the middle, around eight and ½ PSI. This is usually the case for all types of basketballs, no matter the outside material. The outside of a basketball is made from different materials, such as: 

  • Leather (only determined for college-level play)
  • Rubber
  • Synthetic
  • Composition
  • Full-grain hyde

The outside covering is also called the bladder, and no matter what the outside of a basketball is made of, there are certain circumstances in which a basketball’s rubber bladder could burst and cause a basketball to explode. The best way to avoid an exploding ball is to uphold these tips:

  • Only store a basketball at room temperature.
  • Keep it properly inflated based on the size of the ball and desired rebound height.
  • Do not expose the basketball to harsh elements such as extreme cold or heat, direct sunlight, or rainfall.


Many players will purchase a basketball, keep it in the trunk of their car, and then only take it out for a pickup game in the local park. Now you know there is much more to storing a basketball after purchase. In addition, there are some easy tips to making sure your basketball is properly inflated so that it does not explode during that process.

It is not difficult to make sure a basketball is inflated and stored properly to ensure it will not explode upon impact. Just keeping your basketball stored at room temperature and monitoring its inflation can save you money from a destroyed ball as well as money from a possible trip to the hospital.

If you liked this post, be sure to check “If the Sun Was a Basketball How Big Would the Moon Be?” & “Can Basketball Players Wear Gloves?“.


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