Portable basketball hoops are actually not very portable – you can’t tuck one in your car like a portable cooler and go somewhere with it – but they are the most portable basketball hoops that are almost the real thing. They are also getting cheaper and better all the time. Once a portable basketball hoop showed up in a neighborhood, the other house owners would want one and those with an over-the-garage basketball hoop would have to take it down and replace it with the portable type. America’s consumer-driven economy depends on this, and so now you can find portable basketball hoops everywhere.
If you don’t have one yet, you have come to the right place. We’ll show you the best ones to consider and purchase. The ideal is to be as close to a regulation basketball hoop as possible. Basically, it comes down to the backboard, as the hoop itself is fairly standard. Regulation backboards are 72” wide and 42” tall. This is way too big and heavy to support, so if you don’t want to spend a few grands on a portable basketball hoop you’ll have to settle for a smaller backboard, but large enough to not overly compromise play.
In addition, NBA and NCAA backboards are made of tempered glass, and therefore so are most gym and serious playground backboards. Tempered glass gives the most realistic bounce off the backboard for those bank shots and layups, but it is so heavy it can only be used in the most expensive portable basketball hoops. An acrylic backboard is the best compromise.
54″ Hybrid Portable Basketball System
Spalding makes the official NBA basketball which is probably why it is allowed to name this portable basketball hoop NBA Hybrid. The name alone should be enough to make some buyers make up their mind.
It comes with a 54” acrylic backboard. In our opinion, this is an acceptable compromise to the 72” tempered glass backboard. 54” is wide enough for all except the wildest bank shots. The difference is in the aim. If you always aim your bank shots and layups relative to the 24” x 18” rectangle above the hoop, instead of relative to the edges of the backboard, you should have no problem adjusting between 54” and 72” backboards.
In case you wonder why it’s called NBA Hybrid, this is because it has a hybrid base that can hold 200lb of sand and 19 gallons of water. A gallon of water weighs about 8.34lb so you will have nearly 360lb of weight to stabilize the hoop. This and the fact that the height is adjustable from 7.5 to 10’ mean you can totally dunk on this portable basketball hoop, as long as you don’t hang on the rim if you happen to weigh as much as Shaquille O’Neal. The rim is a closed spring-loaded breakaway rim so it is built to take some pounding.
Spalding’s U-Turn Lift system makes it easy to adjust the height of the rim. The whole thing has a nice mass and solidity to it. It has a 16” offset for more playing room under the hoop and there’s a front cover to stop you from running into the metal pole. Both of these features are usually found on more expensive portable basketball hoops.
44″ Adjustable Portable Basketball System
The Lifetime 1221 portable basketball hoop is cheekily called the Pro Court because it is as close to a professional hoop experience as you’re going to get in your driveway. If you’re a pure shooter, the Lifetime 1221 is closer to an expensive portable basketball hoop than a sub-$100 espresso machine is to an expensive espresso machine.
But if you’re into bank shots and wild layups, the 44” backboard will be a challenge. On the flipside, you can make shots from the baseline that would have been blocked by regulation 72” backboards.
The Lifetime 1221 comes with a straight pole so there’s not much room under the hoop. The height is adjustable from 7.5’ to 10’6”. However, with a basic bolt-on rim and a smallish 27-gallon base, this portable basketball hoop is not made for aggressive dunking.
The backboard is made of high impact plastic that Lifetime claimed is virtually unbreakable. Bounces off this backboard are rather deadened compared to glass and acrylic. All in all, the price is unbeatable.
44″ Adjustable Portable Basketball System
The sales pitch on the Lifetime 71524 XL is its 54” x 33” Shatter Guard backboard made of 1” thick Makrolon polycarbonate. Despite the fancy name, Makrolon polycarbonate is a plastic, though Lifetime claims their Shatter Guard backboard design is unbreakable.
Lifetime has a fancy name for the rim too. The Slam-It Pro rim is a closed breakaway rim that features double compression springs and wrap-around 5/8”-thick solid steel ring brace. The base can hold 35 gallons of water or sand. The Lifetime 71524 XL is built to withstand rugged, aggressive plays.
Like the Spalding NBA Hybrid, the height adjustment system adjusts the height of the rim from 7.5 to 10” with just a handle. Unlike the Lifetime 1221 which has a stepped adjustment, the height adjustment on the Lifetime 71524 XL is infinite.
The wheels on the base are just about the best you’ll find in this price range. This portable basketball hoop has a straight pole so you would have to be careful about running into the pole if you drove hard at the hoop.
The Lifetime 71524 XL is a wholesale upgrade over our value pick, the Lifetime 1221 discussed above.
It was not easy deciding between the Spalding NBA Hybrid and the Lifetime 71524 XL but ultimately our choice for the best portable basketball hoop is the Lifetime 71524 XL. At the time of this writing the Lifetime 71524 XL is cheaper and the difference in performance is insignificant enough that you might as well spend the difference in price on play sand to fill the base (instead of water) and a couple of high quality basketballs.
However, if you must have the better bounce of an acrylic backboard and more room under the hoop, go for the Spalding NBA Hybrid with 54” acrylic baseboard. There’s another build of the Spalding NBA Hybrid that comes with a 60” acrylic baseboard. This model is also known as “The Beast” and it is available for a couple hundred more.
On the other hand, the Lifetime 1221 is the ultimate value in portable basketball hoops. The Lifetime 1221 is a significant upgrade over those over-the-garage fixed basketball hoops.