Why do NBA Players Wear Sleeves, Tights and Spandex? NBA Fashion Airballs

My girlfriend, who is not a sports fan by any stretch of the imagination, while watching the NBA play-offs, asked me why the players appear to being wearing tights. Why do NBA players wear tights? I have to admit, from a pure visual perspective, I have to agree with her, that they look ridiculous. As an avid sports fan, and particularly a fan of basketball, I have to swallow my pride and come up with something rational to explain the phenomenon that is fashion in the NBA. Truthfully, NBA fashion off the court, is becoming just as horrendous and embarrassing as on the court. While I don’t make a vocation to pay much attention to men’s fashion, as I’m a jeans and t-shirt type kind of guy, even for the simpleton that I am when it comes to fashion, I have the sense to recognize bad fashion as bad fashion when I see it.

NBA Superstars trying too hard.  Westbrook, Wade, Lebron
NBA Superstars trying too hard. Westbrook, Wade, Lebron

Fashion Flops or Trendsetters

What do you think motivates these players to dress this way?

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Allen Iverson, sporting the Basketball Sleeve
Allen Iverson, sporting the Basketball Sleeve

The Basketball Sleeve: The start of the latest on court fad

We didn't just all of a sudden start seeing players wear spandex. But the movement does have an un-designated leader. In 2000 and 2001, Allen Iverson had consistent injuries to his right elbow. Allen suffered from bursitis, and consequently felt comforted by having compression around his elbow. While this has no medical benefit whatsoever, as bursitis is not treated by compression, rather steroids, anti-inflammatory medication, or quite simply, rest, it did provide a mental pacifier. Given that Allen Iverson was one of the best point guards in the NBA at this time, and one of the most prolific players of his generation, his fad caught on and other follower’s started wearing the basketball sleeve. But the argument or division between NBA players wearing tights, or sleeves as a fashion statement, vs medical device can be traced even before Allen Iverson.

The follow the leader mentality really got its start before Allen Iverson, by a player named Michael Jordan. Anyone who is a big enough basketball fan knows two things about Michael Jordan. One, he would sometimes wear his UNC shorts, under his Bull’s shorts, and 2, that he often wore a strap around his knee. In Michael’s defense, this strap, which is often a velcro/elastic band did serve a valid medical purpose, as “jumper’s knee” or Pateller Tendinitis, can be somewhat alleviated by restricting movement of the tendon running from the tibia to the platella. But once Mike started wearing it, soon others began to follow. So goes the saying, “If I could be Like Mike". Michael Jordan redefined the commercialization opportunities for sports, and thus opened the door for the debacle for NBA fashion today.

Who Wore it Better: Lebron James, or the 5 year old

Who looks better in tights, Lebron or the 5 year old Ballerina?

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Swan Lake, or Men in Tights

Enter, the self-proclaimed "Chosen One". If you don't think this guy has a big enough ego, check out his back tattoo below. For this egomaniac, he doesn't just self-proclaim himself the chosen one, but also, King James. But this article isn't for the purpose of knocking Lebron's ego, rather his proliferation of the the latest NBA gaffe: NBA players wearing leggings, tights and spandex. Just like Mike, If Lebron Jame's, or Kobe wore it, it must be ok. These players look more like ballerina’s than basketball players.

Take a look at Lebron James in one of his more memorable outfits. Nice costume Lebron, you remind me of a 5 year old girl dressed up for a ballet recital. Think I’m wrong? The only thing missing from her attire is the number 23 on her jersey.

What on earth is the benefit from wearing spandex or nylon tights providing to an elite athlete during an NBA basketball game. Ask Lebron and he'll tell you he wore them "to prevent injuries" (USA Today: NBA Players Suddenly Wearing Tights).


Lebron James Chosen one tattoo:  Can you spell Ego?
Lebron James Chosen one tattoo: Can you spell Ego?
Kobe Bryant wearing purple spandex. Really Kobe? This is for protection?
Kobe Bryant wearing purple spandex. Really Kobe? This is for protection?
Carmelo Anthony, loves his matching orange sleeves.
Carmelo Anthony, loves his matching orange sleeves.

I call foul. Health benefits? Really? Does that explain why Kobe Bryant, for 1 game, found a pair of purple spandex? You would think if health issues played a role, you'd be wearing them more than one game. Or did he realize that this looked ridiculous and thought better of his image than to try to get attention through embarrassment.

Then comes the Carmelo Anthony era, who, as a late bloomer to adopt the spandex pants, started with the double arm sleeve. One arm wasn't good enough, lets go for two, and match our secondary color. What on earth? I could see the argument that maybe the sleeve helps stop the drip of sweat from reaching your hand, really? Michael Jordan certainly didn't seem to have this problem. Maybe the new NBA arena's need dehumidifiers.

What possess these guys to suit up the way they do as if the game has radically undergone some change that the average fan is unaware of. As if there are so many new ways of being injured and I missed the memo, that colorful spandex has some un-marketed abilities to keep you safe.

Off the Court Madness

Unfortunately, the embarrassment and circus act of NBA fashion on the court, has morphed off the court as well. I honestly can't say much about it, as I'm relatively just speechless and disconnected to the mind-set of these guys. In a league that tries to act gangster, with tattoo's, piercings, and antics a little more like a playground in the projects, off the court, these guys try to shed their tough on court images by dressing like, Steve Urkel, or Peewie Herman. I can't imagine in good faith, these guys are truthfully picking these clothes out with the intention of trying to be fashionable.

I'll let you decide. I honestly can't wait until this latest fad is over and we can get back to the business on the court, where men act like men.

Looking like a nerd on purpose
Looking like a nerd on purpose
Really Lebron?
Really Lebron?
Russel Westbrook - bad fashion All-star
Russel Westbrook - bad fashion All-star
Lebron James and Dwayne Wade
Lebron James and Dwayne Wade

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Comments 1 comment

James 2 years ago

The padded sleeves are used for protection of the elbow.

The compression leggings compress the muscle and help to keep them warm. The warmth keeps them fresh and helps to stifle the muscle from stiffening up

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