Spalding Zi/O Basketball Review

By Max Kesler


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The Spalding Zi/O has been one of the top-selling composite leather indoor/outdoor basketballs for some time. The foam-backed Zi/O cover is designed to be soft and full of grip. Priced similarly to the Wilson NCAA Wave and Spalding’s own Replica NBA Game ball, is the Zi/O worthy of your consideration?

Spalding NBA Zi/O Indoor-Outdoor Baskeball 29.5"
  • Official NBA size and weight: Size 7, 29.5 inch
  • Zi/O Tournament composite cover
  • Foam backed design for excellent feel
  • Designed for indoor and outdoor play
  • Shipped inflated and game ready


The Zi/O cover is obviously the basketball’s standout feature. The cover is foam backed, so feels quite spongy, and sponginess is something that the vast majority of players like.

Thanks to its tight pebbling, the amount of grip the ball provides is quite high, and the cover also has a good amount of tack.

However, the ball does have a slightly sticky/plasticky feeling to it, almost like there is a layer of wax covering the entire surface. Personally I prefer the drier grip of the Spalding NBA Replica Game ball, but I can see arguments for why you’d prefer the feel of the Zi/O.


The Zi/O is quite bouncy when pumped up to 7psi, meaning you don’t have to pump the ball up to a higher pressure in order to get a sufficient amount of bounce. This is definitely a positive since pumping up a ball too much to get more bounce from it results in a firmer, harder ball.

The bounce is also very consistent, meaning you can expect the ball to end up exactly where you would expect it to end up. This is especially important for ball handlers practicing fancier moves, as oftentimes you will be anticipating the balls bounce rather than actually tracking the ball.

Pebbling and Channel Design

The basketball has tight and deep pebbling which is good for moisture wicking. However, during outdoor use it does seem to pick up quite a lot of dirt which doesn’t easily come off. This can impact grip and makes the ball less pleasant to handle all-around.

Unlike the Spalding Replica NBA Game ball, which doesn’t have pebbling on the large Spalding logo, the Zi/O features full pebbling meaning there is no chance you’ll make contact with a completely flat part of the cover.

The Zi/O’s channeling is relatively narrow but not shallow. It does not feature pebbled channels unlike most Wilson balls (e.g. Wilson NCAA Replica Game Ball, Wilson NCAA Wave Game Ball) but neither does the official NBA game basketball so it’s not like you’re missing an essential feature.


Composite Leather basketballs will always wear away faster on outdoor surfaces and the Zi/O is no exception. Although the ball is an indoor/outdoor basketball that fares better than the softer indoor-only composite leather balls, it will still lose grip over the first few months.

I’ve used the ball for three months and while the cover has definitely worn down by a significant amount, it is still very playable. Despite the pebbling being a lot flatter than its original state, it still feels grippy.

The basketball bladder and valve also haven’t had any air retention issues. This is a common problem among cheaper basketballs which end up going flat on their own.


The Spalding NBA Zi/O indoor/outdoor basketball is overall a good quality indoor/outdoor basketball. It is quite comparable to the Spalding NBA Replica Game Ball, with the main difference being the feel of the cover. The Zi/O feels more tacky but personally I preferred the Replica Game Ball’s more neutral feel. Other than that, the Zi/O cover is fully pebbled meaning you get more consistency across the ball.

Rating: 4/5

Still looking for the right outdoor basketball for you? Check out our outdoor basketball buyer’s guide here for our recommendations.

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Written by Max Kesler

Max Kesler, a Philly native, is the chief editor at HoopsBeast. He has covered the game at NBA and NCAA levels. He hopes to see his beloved 76ers win a championship soon.

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