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Learn the differences between materials used for basketball backboards

What backboard material options are available?

Basketball backboards have several different material options used by different manufacturers. Most commonly used are tempered glass, acrylic, polycarbonate, and plastic. Each material option here has positives and negatives. Frequently, when purchasing a basketball system the backboard best suited for your needs will be a function of price, location of use, and who will be using the system. For each of the backboard material options stated here, we will break down each material into these categories. From there, you can always move between options as price, location of use, and who will be using the system overlap each other. We will start out looking at tempered glass.

Tempered Glass Backboards

Price

Basketball systems with a tempered glass backboard material tend to be the most expensive option. When comparing similarly-sized backboards, tempered glass is the heaviest option, and therefore the most expensive to ship. Sometimes a particular manufacturer will deviate from this more expensive market by making the glass material thinner, or supporting the glass with a small backboard frame; but, overall, glass backboards will be the most expensive.

Location of Use

Glass backboards are best-suited for indoor use or in a residential location that has a low-tendency to experience abuse. Tempered glass is the most rigid of backboard material, which is great for rebound but is more susceptible to breakage. If someone were to throw a rock at a glass backboard it can either shatter the backboard, or create a nick in the glass material; then, like a windshield chip, if water freezes in that nick, the frozen water can cause the rest of the backboard to crack.

Who Will Be Using the System

Glass material is preferable for most basketball players that are trying to develop their game. Most high schools use tempered glass. Colleges and the NBA also use tempered glass. Shooting practice is best done with tempered glass as it gives a true rebound. Other materials deaden the bounce, which can affect bank shots.

Final thoughts

Tempered glass backboards are frequently preferred when the basketball system is within your budget because of the material's rigidity and superior rebound. Those who opt for a different backboard material frequently do so because of budget constraints or concerns that the system may be vandalized. For instance, a city park or outdoor public recreational area would likely want a different material then tempered glass, such as acrylic, that might hold up better to vandalism.

Acrylic Backboards

Price

Acrylic backboards are frequently lower in price than glass backboards, though there are some exceptions to this rule. The reason for the lower cost tends to be the lighter weight of the backboard compared to glass, which makes shipping much less expensive and thus an overall lower price for comparably-sized glass backboards. Acrylic backboard basketball systems can actually dip to in price to the $200 range and go as high as $2,000 or more. To note the differences in systems and different price points, you should take note of the backboard material's thickness and the material and size of the backboard frame supporting it. Cheaper backboards will have thinner backboard materials and plastic backboard frames; more expensive options will have thicker acrylic material and steel backboard frames.

Location of Use

Basketball systems with acrylic backboards are best suited for driveway, backyard sport courts, and commercial applications. The reason for this use is these locations are more open to abusive use. Acrylic backboards, due to their flex, hold up better to abusive situations where vandalism might occur.

Who Will Be Using the System

Acrylic backboards are great for casual to moderate-level basketball play. They can provide a better rebound than polycarbonate backboards, but are not as rigid as glass backboards. Casual shooting practice works well with an acrylic backboard. Young to adult players will enjoy playing on an acrylic basketball backboards system.

Final thoughts

As acrylic backboards cover a lower price range than glass backboards, systems with acrylic backboards are an excellent option for mid-range budgets. They provide ample strength in the backboard and support to create a great shooting and playing experience.

Polycarbonate Backboards

Price

Polycarbonate backboards are typically less expensive than acrylic backboard options. Whereas acrylic backboards can occupy a large range of prices, sometimes thousands of dollars in difference, basketball systems with polycarbonate backboards typically range in price from $150 to $500.

Location of Use

Like acrylic backboards, polycarbonate backboards hold up well to abusive conditions. Unlike the rigidity of tempered glass, polycarbonate has a bit of wiggle that can withstand impact better than most tempered glass backboards. Systems with this type of backboard are typically used in driveway basketball courts and at some commercial locations.

Who Will Be Using the System

Basketball hoops with polycarbonate backboards are well-suited for families and beginning to intermediate level basketball players. They do not produce as strong of a rebound as tempered glass backboards or acrylic backboards, so bank shots can be affected.

Final Thoughts

Polycarbonate backboards are excellent for budget-conscience purchases and for beginning to intermediate level players. As this material is not as rigid and tempered glass, you have a broader area where this type of backboard can be used without being as susceptible to vandalism damage.

Plastic Backboards

Price

Basketball hoops with plastic backboards provide the cheapest pricing to start out. These systems can be priced into the $100 range and typically top out at about $200.

Location of Use

Due to the very introductory features of basketball hoops with plastic backboards, location does not matter nearly as much as the other backboard materials as they are very resilient to damage from aggressive or abusive use. However, basketball hoops with plastic backboards normally have very basis specs and are thus less likely to be found in commercial uses are more likely to be found in home driveways.

Who Will Be Using the System

Plastic basketball backboards are great for introducing basketball to young players. They do not provide much of a rebound, but most systems with plastic backboards are adjustable up and down and can be set at low enough settings for even young players to reach the rim with their shots.

Final Thoughts

If you are getting a young child their first basketball hoop or if you are wanting to make a budget-conscience purchase, then a plastic backboard basketball hoop might be a great option. These systems are much cheaper than other basketball systems with other materials for the backboard and they have sufficient features to accommodate younger players.