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There’s a reason that a family game of touch or tackle football is a Thanksgiving Day tradition. While the real thing requires a lot of equipment ranging from helmets to jerseys to shoulder pads, the only thing you need for a casual game is a soft-enough ground and, most importantly, a football.
Arguably, the feature of American football (and rugby) that most sets the sport apart from other beloved American games is the ball itself. Unlike almost every other sport, football doesn’t use a round ball, but rather an elongated one. If you want to get technical, the shape is known as a prolate spheroid. The reason for its unique shape was that the ball was originally made from a pig’s bladder — “tossing around the old pigskin” is not an exaggeration. But even as football moved onto rubber and cow leather and then onto synthetic leather, it kept the unique oblong shape. In fact, the benefits of the aerodynamic shape mean that the football got even more stretched out over time.
Most footballs have details like a pebbled texture and laced stitching which make the ball easier to grip and throw. But even a football you’ve had for years retains one great mystery: the bounce. No matter how well you know your football, you can never really predict how it’ll bounce when you throw it on the ground. Point is, a lot of the excitement of football is owed to the ball itself, which is why even a casual player should have a quality one. We’ve rounded up some of the best footballs you can buy online, including options for juniors and training balls.
1. Wilson 2020 NFL “The Duke” Official Football
BEST NFL BALL
This football from Wilson is made to the specifications of balls used in NFL games, so if you take your game seriously, then this the ball to get. It’s also a great gift for any football fan. The ball is made from genuine Horween leather, which is the exclusive tannery that supplies the leather used on NFL footballs. The NFL logo is stamped on, along with the signature of the NFL commissioner and the words “The Duke.”
2. Wilson NFL Super Grip Football
BEST AFFORDABLE FOOTBALL
If you’re just looking for a classic, reliable and affordable football, this option from Wilson is the one to get. It has a pebbled composite leather outer that makes it easier to grip, while the stitching helps the player get a secure hold when throwing. It’s branded with the Wilson and NFL logos, and it’s a full, official-sized ball. The brown and white color is a classic option.
3. Rawlings NFL Game Time Football
BEST TEAM BALL
Besides a jersey, a branded football is one of the best places to show love for your team. This seller offers team logo balls for every NFL team. The balls themselves are all full-size balls with brown composite leather exteriors and white stitching, and the team mascot is printed on one side with the name on the other. The logos are all officially licensed.
4. Nike Vapor 24/7 Official Football
BEST COMPOSITE BALL
Maybe your loyalty isn’t with a sports team, but with a brand. If you’re checks over stripes, this Nike football is the one to get. The football is brown with white detailing and a large black Nike logo. It’s also available in a few different sizes. Like most of the options on this list, it’s made from composite leather, meaning it’s synthetic.
5. Passback Sports Training Football
BEST TRAINING BALL
This football from Passback is an innovative option for anyone looking to improve their passing abilities. It may look like a full-sized football that was in an unfortunate accident, but the flat bottom actually makes it ideal for practicing alone against a wall. If you threw a regular football at a wall you’d have no idea where it would end up. This ball, however, bounces straight back to you, so you can keep practicing.
6. Wilson GST Leather Game Football Series
BEST NCAA BALL
If you take the game seriously and need a ball that can keep up, this football from Wilson is the one to get. It’s made in the US from genuine leather, meaning that, with proper care, it will last a long time and gett better with age. It has several features that are designed to make it easier to grip, such as the sewn-on (instead of painted) stripes and the pebbled lacing that makes for a better grip when throwing.
7. Franklin Sports Junior Size Football
BEST JUNIOR FOOTBALL
If you’re looking for a junior-sized ball, this option from Franklin is an affordable option (which is important, considering they won’t be using it forever). The synthetic leather is designed to be easy to grip, and the black and green colorway makes it more eye-catching, so it won’t be confused with anyone else’s.
8. Shinola Leather Football
BEST CONVERSATION PIECE
This football is almost too beautiful to play with. Although you obviously could, because it’s made to last. It’s made in America from genuine leather with leather stitching across the top. It’s available in a traditional looking brown leather or a more modern blue leather. The Shinola logo is subtly embossed under the stitching.