NBA Uniform Rules
The NBA, like other professional sports leagues, is known for having strict dress code policies. The league and its players have long gone back and forth over warm-ups, jerseys, shorts, shoes, and clothes on the bench when inactive.
Uniform Numbers, Names
NBA players must adhere to these uniform policies when playing in an NBA game:
- A player must wear his number on front and back, in a solid color that contrasts with the jersey color
- The numbers on both sides must be at least 0.75 inch wide and 6 inches tall
- A player must display his surname on his back in letters at least 2 inches tall
- Each player must be "uniformly dressed" for the player introductions
- While playing, players must keep their basketball jerseys tucked into their shorts
NBA teams have their own logos on most of the uniform pieces, but players have less control on where they can display commercial logos, such as Nike, Adidas, Converse, etc.
Players can choose their own shoes, which display the logo of the company from which they were purchased
Other than shoes, basketball players are not allowed to display a commercial logo on any article of their game wear
The Great Shorts Controversy
Following the period of short shorts, some NBA players began to wear baggy, long shorts. David Stern, the Commissioner of the National Basketball Association at the time, intervened and said that shorts could not extend lower than 0.1 inch above the knees.
In 2005, Reebok, the league’s uniform manufacturer, sent out shorts that did not meet the code; as a result, thirteen players were fined $10,000 each for wearing the shorts. The players union then filed a grievance, highlighted by Union Director Billy Hunter stating, "I understand the need to appeal to a fan base who buys tickets, but sometimes I think it's like throwing the baby out with the bath water.”
The Great Headband Controversy
When headbands became popular, the NBA decided to issue official headbands with the league's logo. 4-time All-Star Rasheed Wallace protested by wearing his inside out. The league made him stop that practice, but players then began wearing them upside down, another practice that was soon banned by the league.
Tights Not Allowed
During the 2005-06 season, Lakers star Kobe Bryant and Cavaliers star LeBron James began wearing tights as a part of their basketball uniforms, a practice pioneered by veteran guard Jerry Stackhouse.
The NBA banned tights, but decided to allow players to wear lengthy compression sleeves on their legs. Players can also wear compression sleeves on their arms, a practice popularized by Allen Iverson.
Per the rule book, NBA officials are directed to make certain no player wears jewelry on his hand, arm, face, nose, ear, head or neck.
According to the NBA Dress Code published on NBA.com, "Players who are in attendance at games but not in uniform are required to wear the following additional items when seated on the bench or in the stands during the game: Sport Coat, Dress shoes or boots, and socks." Also, no headgear of any kind is allowed.
An example of a violator occurred in 2013, when a league official ordered Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah to leave his team's bench because he was wearing a sweater.
- NBA.com: Official NBA Rule Book: Rule 2, Section II, Page 10; Rule 3, Section VI, Page 17; Comments on the Rules II, H, Page 60
- ESPN.com: League Would Amend Uniform Code to Ban Tights
- New York Times: In the NBA, Arm and Leg Sleeves Settle In
- NBA.com: NBA Player Dress Code
- ESPN: Union Files Grievance Over Long Shorts
- Yahoo.com: NBA Dress Code Police Ask Joakim Noah to Leave the Bench During a Game
- New York Daily News: NBA's Ridiculous Uniform Rule Is Coming Up Short
- Epic Sports: Basketball Uniform Decoration Rules
- Yahoo Sports: NBA Has Banned Upside Down Headbands