Thu 09-Aug-12 02:13 AM | edited Thu 09-Aug-12 02:14 AM by Ferguson
The majority of people will disagree with me, but you should consider using a monopod without a ball head, especially if cost is an object -- get the more expensive carbon fiber (i.e. really light).
I'm using a 200-400, rarely shorter than 200, on a monopod. With a 200-400 I'm either shooting far-away sports (i.e. almost horizontal), or am shooting birds or aircraft. For the latter I'd never want a monopod anyway. It's very easy on a monopod to just shift slightly and aim up/down if your target is football -- I bet you never will go up more than 5 or 10 degrees. And right/left is easier to rotate about the monopod than move it on a ballhead anyway.
Most people use a head -- but you might give it a try.
Basketball -- well, I'd do by hand anyway. There if you are closer, well, maybe.
I have a Manfrotto 694CX. Wasn't expensive, very light, 4 sections so it collapses and I strap it to the side of my camera bag.