Why Are WNBA Balls Smaller? How Do WNBA & NBA Balls Differ?

Why are WNBA balls smaller

Have you ever watched a WNBA game and noticed the players using a slightly different ball than the one you see in the NBA? Why are WNBA balls smaller? There must be reasons for that.

In this article, we will explore all aspects of women’s basketball to understand this fascinating sport comprehensively. Scroll down now!

About WNBA

The Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) is the professional women’s basketball league in the United States. It was founded in 1996 by the National Basketball Association as its women’s counterpart.

The WNBA consists of 12 teams, all located in the United States. The season typically runs from May to September, and the champion is determined through a playoff format.

The WNBA features some of the best women’s basketball players worldwide. Games are fast-paced and exciting, showcasing the athleticism and skill of these elite athletes.

The WNBA has grown in popularity, attracting a dedicated fanbase. It plays a significant role in promoting women’s basketball and inspiring young girls to pursue the sport.

Why Are WNBA Balls Smaller?

The WNBA uses a smaller ball for female players

WNBA balls are smaller than NBA balls for a few key reasons related to female player physiology and performance: smaller hand size, quicker playing style, and better comfort and performance.

  • Hand size: On average, women have smaller hands than men. A smaller ball (28.5 inches in circumference for women vs 29.5 inches for men) allows for better control, dribbling, and shooting for female players.
  • Playing style: The women’s game often emphasizes quicker ball movement and perimeter shooting than men’s. A slightly smaller ball can facilitate this fast-paced, finesse-oriented style of play.
  • Comfort and performance: A heavier or larger ball could cause strain or fatigue for some players. The lighter weight and smaller size of the WNBA ball can help optimize player comfort and performance throughout the game.

What Basketball Size Is Used In The WNBA? 

The WNBA uses a size 6 basketball with a circumference of 28.5 inches. This is slightly smaller than the size 7 basketball (29.5 inches) used in the NBA. The difference in size is chosen to accommodate the average hand size and playing style of female athletes in the WNBA.

A size 6 basketball provides a better grasp for female players

Here’s a quick comparison:

FeatureWNBA BallNBA Ball
Circumference28.5 inches29.5 inches
Weight20 ounces22 ounces

Additional facts:

  • The size difference between the WNBA and NBA balls was implemented in 1978, even before the WNBA’s official founding in 1996.
  • Some argue that a unified size could be implemented, making it easier to choose the best basketball. However, concerns about player comfort and potential disadvantages for female players persist.
  • A size 6 ball is a recognized standard in women’s basketball at various levels, not just the WNBA.

WNBA vs. NBA: What are the Differences? 

The WNBA and NBA may share the sport of basketball, but they still have some differences. Here’s a closer look:

League structure

  • History: The NBA, founded in 1946, has a much longer history than the WNBA, which was established in 1996. This means the NBA has had more time to build things up, like better facilities and more money.
  • Training grounds: The NBA has minor leagues where young players can train and improve before joining the big leagues. The WNBA has a similar program, but it’s still in its early stages.
  • Salary structure: Men players earn a lot more money than women players. There’s a big difference. Still, people are raising discussions about ensuring everyone gets paid fairly in professional basketball.


  • Coaching styles: NBA coaches may emphasize individual player dominance to the basketball rim or specific defensive strategies. The WNBA, with its focus on team play and shooting, might see a different coaching approach.
  • International players: Both leagues feature talented international players, but the NBA has more international stars. This global reach adds more diversity and fun to the games.
  • Emphasis on strategy: While both leagues require strategic planning, the NBA might have a more complex playbook due to the focus on players fighting for positions close to the basket and one-on-one matchups.
The playing style may be different between the two leagues


  • Training and conditioning: NBA players have more overall physical strength and condition advantages. This is due to biological differences and higher salaries, which allow for more dedicated training resources.
  • Injury rates: The higher level of physicality in the NBA can lead to a higher risk of injuries than the WNBA.

Media coverage

  • Marketing and sponsorship: The NBA benefits from a good marketing infrastructure and larger sponsorship deals. Therefore, they receive more financial resources and brand recognition than the WNBA.
  • Social media presence: While both leagues are active on social media, the NBA attracts more followers. For example, both the Men’s and Women’s Finals are happening simultaneously. While the NBA gets news headlines, dedicated TV shows, and social media buzz, the WNBA only receives a small mention in the newspaper and maybe a quick highlight.
  • Impact on youth sports: Both leagues inspire young players, but the NBA might significantly affect boys’ basketball participation due to its wider reach and popularity.


Why are WNBA balls smaller? We’ve learned that it’s not just about the size of the basketballs. They are chosen on purpose: to help deal with physical differences between men and women players, improve skills, and make the game smoother. 

Choosing smaller balls symbolizes the WNBA’s commitment to including everyone and ensuring players perform at their best.

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  • Dalvir O'Connor

    Meet Dalvir O'Connor, CEO and founder of Sportssio, boasts 15 years of experience in sports knowledge and analysis, backed by his Master's degree in Sport Psychology....

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