How To Pump A Basketball Without A Needle?

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In today’s guide, I am going to show you how to pump a basketball without a needle.

Ideally, you would have a pump + needle to inflate your basketball in a more civilized way. But if you don’t have a needle and have to pump your basketball, you’ll have to improvise.

Below, I will introduce you to 4 ways to pump a basketball with no needles. These methods don’t require that you buy anything – that would defeat the guide’s purpose since if you had to buy something, you should buy a needle.

4 Ways To Pump A Basketball Without A Needle

1. Use your tubeless bike’s valve stem

If you have a tubeless bike and a pump, you may use one of its valves to pump your basketball. Essentially, you will be using the valve stem as a replacement for the needle.

Here’s how to use a tubeless valve stem to inflate your basketball.

  1. Unscrew the fastener on the stem on one of your bike’s wheels and remove the stem.
  2. If there is any rubber coating on the stem, pull it off.
  3. Attach the stem to your pump.
  4. Insert the free end of the stem into your basketball.
  5. Start pumping.

And here’s a video demonstrating how to use a bike tubeless valve stem to inflate a ball:

If you have a tubeless bike, then this actually is the first option that you should try. Since the stem is similar to a regular ball needle, a tubeless valve stem allows you to essentially inflate the basketball traditionally.

But if you don’t have a tubeless bike, then read on for some other methods.

2. Use a can of compressed air

If you have a can of compressed air lying around, then you will be able to inflate your ball fairly easily. After using a tubeless valve stem, this is perhaps the easiest way of inflating balls without a needle.

Here’s how you should use a can of compressed air to inflate a basketball:

  1. Insert one end of the tube that comes with the can into the ball’s air hole.
  2. Hook the other end of the tube to your can of compressed air.
  3. Start pumping air into the ball. Pump the air in short bursts – otherwise, the expanding gas will absorb heat from the can, cooling it down.

Compressed air works well when the ball is just slightly underinflated. If you need to inflate a ball fully, then you’ll probably need to go through several cans of compressed air. If you have no other option, this is fine, but you should avoid doing this often since you’ll literally be wasting your money by chewing through compressed air.

3. Use a balloon to inflate your basketball

Another popular way of inflating balls without a needle is to use a balloon. This method can be a little finicky, but it’s at least worth a shot if you can’t use other methods.

For this method, you will need:

  • A balloon, preferably a larger one.
  • A thin straw or anything else that can fit into your basketball’s air hole.
  • A paper clip or clamp.

And here’s how you would use a balloon to inflate your basketball:

  1. Inflate the balloon as much as you can.
  2. Seal the balloon with a paper clip or clamp.
  3. Insert your thin straw into the balloon’s hole. 
  4. Insert the other end of the straw into the basketball’s air hole.
  5. Remove the paper clip/clamp to let the air move from the balloon to the ball. I recommend that you hold the balloon to keep it from shooting itself away.
  6. Depending on the balloon’s size, you may need to pump it several times to get the ball inflated.

I personally don’t really like this method. It requires plenty of tools – you may not have a balloon or a straw thin enough for the ball’s air hole lying around. Besides, the air may leak into your room rather than go into the basketball. 

You could make this method work, but it requires a lot of effort.

4. Use a pen ink tube to craft a needle

Finally, you may try to craft a temporary needle from a pen ink tube. This method is relatively simple and is a great option if the previous methods don’t work.

You will need four things:

  • A metal paper clip coated in plastic.
  • A ballpoint pen, ideally with little remaining ink so that you don’t have to drain it. 
  • Tape.
  • Scissors.

This method has been proposed by Flickr user Wendel Fisher, so all credit goes to them.

And here’s how you make a homemade ball needle:

  1. Take your pen apart and remove the ink tube. Keep the writing cap – you’ll need it later to connect the DIY needle to the pump.
  2. You need about an inch of tube free of any ink. If necessary, drain the tube by removing the writing point and then clean the tube by running alcohol through it.
  3. Use your scissors to cut about an inch of the tube.
  4. Insert the ink tube into the writing cap.
  5. Straighten your paper clip and insert it into the air hole of the ball.
  6. Cut around the edges of the clip’s plastic coating and pull the metal wire out. The plastic coating should remain inside the ball.
  7. Insert the plastic coating into your writing cap from the pointy end and tape the area to seal it.
  8. Place the writing cap against the end of the pump and seal it with some tape.
  9. Firmly holding your improvised “needle”, start slowly pumping the ball. You may need a friend to hold the needle in place while you are pumping.

This is a pretty complicated way of solving a rather simple problem, but if you need a pumped ball and have no other options, it should work just fine.

Other Useful Basketball Articles

Can You Pump Up A Basketball At The Gas Station?

You can inflate your basketball at a gas station, but you probably won’t be able to do so without a needle. So within the context of this guide, pumping your ball at a gas station isn’t an option. But if we were talking about pumping balls without a pump, then it would work.

You could pay a visit to a bike shop if there is one nearby. If you are outdoors and don’t have any tools with you, this would be an ideal option.

If the guys at the shop aren’t too busy, they should be able to help you. You should probably also pay them or purchase something (a needle, for example) just to be polite.

The 4th Quarter

If you need to pump your basketball often, then after you are done inflating it without a needle, do yourself a favor and buy a needle/pump – you won’t have to deal with any balloons or compressed air anymore.

You’d be just wasting your time if you were to stick to the listed methods rather than inflate balls the way they are supposed to be inflated.

Justin D. Johnson
Justin D. Johnson
Justin is a PhD student at Stanford University and has been a basketball youth coach for over ten years. He is passionate about sports, cinema, astronomy, and sharing knowledge.