It is undeniable that there are a lot of decisions to be made when looking at the hundreds of basketball hoops on sale. Should you get a portable or in-ground unit? Should you have a system with a square or round post? How big should it be?
But one of the most important decisions is the material of the basketball backboard. The four back panel materials offered are molded plastic, acrylic, polycarbonate, and glass. So what’s the difference between them and how do you know which one you should buy?
It’s the cheapest basketball backboard, and you usually see it on the cheaper systems. If you are an adult player interested in playing a good game of basketball, you should generally stay away from this material. It vibrates a lot, and the soft enough plastic just absorbs the force of the basketball when you throw bank shots. This means that instead of getting a good bounce, it kind of goes down. If, however, you are buying for a child, this material is fine, as they are usually not concerned with high quality bounce anyway.
The acrylic basketball backboard is a step up from molded plastic. It works a bit better because it can be translucent, like professional systems, and acrylic is a bit stiffer material. This favors you in two main ways. First, it means that you can bank shots without worrying so much about the ball falling straight. And secondly, it makes it more durable which means it can take a lot more abuse without cracking.
Polycarbonate looks like acrylic, feels like acrylic, and plays like acrylic. So what’s the difference? The difference is in the excessive durability of the material, which is especially important in mid-range basketball hoops where the back panels are relatively thin (around two to three eighths of an inch). If you plan on playing particularly hard on your basketball hoop, or even want an extra level of assurance that your hoop will last a very long time, polycarbonate is definitely the way to go.
Glass is the material they use in the NBA, in college and even in the vast majority of high school courts. The reason it’s still so popular is because it’s the stiffest material of all, and therefore offers the most bounce.
Buyers should be aware, however, that systems with this level of quality are generally more expensive than acrylic or polycarbonate basketball hoops, typically costing at least eight hundred dollars and often more. However, in terms of play, there is simply no comparison to the stiffness and bounce of a real glass basketball hoop.