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Can NBA players wear shirts under their jersey?

Having played basketball for a number of years, I was regularly told by referees in the UK, that I was not allowed to wear anything underneath my basketball jersey. Obviously, this was due to FIBA rules at the time. It did make me wonder at the time, can NBA players wear shirts under their jersey?

Can NBA players wear shirts under their jerseys? Yes NBA players can wear shirts under their jerseys. However, these are usually compression shirts which are worn under their jerseys to absorb sweat.

We have taken a look at how NBA players have worn shirts under their jerseys and how this impacts the game of basketball

Have NBA Players always worn shirts under their jerseys?

No NBA players have not always worn undershirts. If you go way back in NBA history, the NBA players would have only worn their jersey. NBA uniforms have evolved from the time where players could wear only simple shorts along with tight shirts. Michael Jordan once suggested that shorts should be made longer to provide players the opportunity to grab onto them to get a breather every once in a while. Of course, the league listened to its most iconic star. From that point onward, due to uniforms being much longer and more comfortable, players could wear additional gear underneath official jerseys.  The one piece of clothing gaining popularity among NBA players is the compression gear, most usually compression tights worn underneath their jerseys. Having in mind that those tights are not a fashion choice, but instead offer interesting benefits to ones wearing them, let’s look into what those benefits are:

  • They increase the level of oxygen delivered to leg muscles, which leads to better performance.
  • They shorten the period of muscle recovery after hard workouts and games.
  • They increase performance by reducing muscle fatigue during games and workouts.
  • By holding muscles in their right place, they can be of great use when it comes to preventing muscle pulls and other muscle injuries.
  • They are believed to have an effect on muscle power and can help improve jumping results.
  • They can be used as added protection from usual  contact in games, which otherwise results in many annoying bruises and scratches.
  • Increases blood flow and enables the body to get rid of harmful substances, and as a result, shortens the amount of time needed to fully recover.

Looking at these various benefits, it is obvious why not only NBA should wear these shirts, but all athletes in general. Having said that, NBA players have the most tiresome schedule out of all athletes and they are in desperate need of every advantage they can think of when it comes to taking care of their bodies. One season consists of 82 games plus 28 potential ones in the playoffs. That means that from October to mid June, they have to play at least once every 3 to 4 days, not counting practice. One more reason why compression shorts are popular among NBA players in particular are the conditions of NBA courts. Most of these courts are built on top of hockey ice rinks and it can be very cold in the arena as a result. Compression gear allows the players to keep warm at all times during games. It may seem obvious and trivial, but even some major superstars have suffered from cramps in critical moments of games so these tights do provide an edge over some who might neglect the potential difficulty low temperatures can present.

Although all those mentioned benefits result in big sales numbers, there is still a lot of confusion regarding this subject matter. Even though many still believe that all this talk is just a marketing ploy to build yet another successful industry, recent studies have found that not to be the case and should provide new light on this topic.

In 2016, 55 studies were examined in detail and they provided following conclusions:

 -Compression gear has no effect on: running, ice skating, triathlon, cross country skiing and kayaking.

–  Cyclists can improve time trial performance.

– Compression gear increases skin temperature and risk of hypothermia could not be confirmed.

– Improved lactate elimination.

– Reduced muscle pain, damage and inflammation during recovery.

– Improved blood flow and reduced space for swelling.

All these factors mean that compression gear can potentially improve recovery time, and subsequently enhance performance.

When it comes to fashion, players now also have the option to use this added surface to match colors and make their uniforms really pop. This trend started with LeBron James and Kobe Bryant, and is now especially popular among younger players in the league, and even more so in college basketball. In NCAA, you can hardly ever see the players’ skin anymore, as it is concealed by not only compression tights, but also long socks which they raise to the calf. Describing this trend, some players offered unexpected explanations: some hide their insecurities, some contain uncontrollable sweating and some use it to express themselves further. Whatever the case, covering up more and more is part of the long evolution of uniform fashion and it is taking over the game.