Why Basketball Players Wear Leg Sleeves: 3 Main Benefits

I’ll never forget going to see my first ever NBA game in person. It was way back in 2003 and the Atlanta Hawks were playing the Memphis Grizzlies. I was in shock at how many players on the court were wearing leg sleeves that looked like tights.

I remember wondering if the leg sleeves really provided support or if they were just a fashion statement by the players. In this article, we’ll discuss the three main benefits that leg sleeves bring to basketball players. We’ll also take a look at arm sleeves and go over why they’ve risen in popularity amongst basketball players.

3 Benefits of Leg Sleeves for Basketball Players

1. Protection Against Future Injuries

Most basketball players wear leg sleeves to protect their legs from injury. Basketball is incredibly taxing on the knees, ankles, calves, and feet. The NBA schedule is also grueling and demanding, with teams playing three to four games per week.

That high amount of games can lead to a wide variety of painful lower leg injuries such as tendonitis, sprains, and shin splints. Basketball players have learned that leg sleeves can help prevent these injuries because of increased blood flow and better blood circulation. The leg sleeves work the same way compression shorts do, by keeping the area warm and supported.

Basketball is often a rough and violent game filled with hard fouls. At times, these fouls result in nasty scrapes and cuts. Players often wear leg sleeves to keep from re-opening an old wound and having to come out of the game to tend to it.

2. Comfort

Many NBA players also wear leg sleeves because of the increased comfort level they provide. Any type of compression sleeve will help the muscles warm-up at a faster rate. This makes the player more comfortable and confident.

Leg sleeves also increase basketball players’ comfort level because of their sweat-wicking material. Basketball is a high exertion sport and most players perspire quite a bit. 

Most leg sleeves are made from some type of quick-drying material like polyester, nylon, spandex, or a combination of all three. This helps keep players feeling dry and light instead of wet and weighed down by sweat.

3. Increased Performance

Basketball players, like all athletes, are looking for any kind of competitive advantage they can get. Leg sleeves can improve a player’s jumping ability and overall flexibility. This happens because of the aforementioned increased blood flow and improved blood circulation.

Leg sleeves also help reduce muscle soreness and fatigue. This is especially helpful for teams that are playing on back-to-back nights. Less muscle soreness means a player is more likely to perform at a higher level.

Leg sleeves also have a sleek, cool look to them. It may only be a slight psychological edge, but players usually perform at a higher level when they feel they look good. We have all heard the phrase, “Look Good, Feel Good, Play Good”.   

Why Do Some Basketball Players Only Wear 1 Leg Sleeve?

Many basketball players will only wear leg sleeves if they are trying to protect against re-injury. If the player has only injured one leg in the past, he is likely to wear a compression sleeve on that leg only.

Think of leg sleeves kind of like you would a knee brace. You probably would never wear a knee brace on a knee that you’ve never had trouble with in the past. It’s the same thing with leg sleeves.

LeBron James started wearing one leg sleeve after his groin injury about a year ago. NBA stars like Devin Booker and Dwight Howard also choose to wear a sleeve on only one leg. Other famous NBA players started wearing one leg sleeve as a tribute to Kobe Bryant after he passed away in January of 2020.

Other Types of Sleeves that Basketball Players Wear

Arm Sleeves

arm sleeve basketball

Leg sleeves are not the only type of sleeves that basketball players wear. Arm sleeves are worn by lots of players, and they extend from the bicep muscle all the way down to the wrist. Arm sleeves provide support to the elbow joint and lots of players like to wear them to keep their shooting arm warm.

Hall of Fame point guard Allen Iverson started a trend of wearing one arm sleeve over 20 years ago. Iverson was suffering from a painful case of elbow bursitis in his shooting arm so trainers had him wear the arm sleeve. Apparently, the arm sleeve worked as Iverson went on to win the NBA MVP Award for the 2001 season when he was with the Philadelphia 76ers.

It’s now very common to see NBA players wear sleeves on both their shooting and non-shooting arms. LeBron James, one of the greatest players of all time, will at times wear a sleeve on his right (shooting) arm. The late great Kobe Bryant also wore arm sleeves and leg sleeves at different times throughout his amazing NBA career.

Arm sleeves have become immensely popular with NBA fans because so many of the game’s greatest players wear them. In fact, recent data reports show that as many as 65% of NBA basketball players wear at least one arm sleeve. The NBA has even said that arm sleeves are one of their best-selling non-apparel accessories.

Knee Sleeves

knee sleeve basketball

Basketball players who have an unfortunate history of knee injuries usually wear knee sleeves. McDavid, a manufacturer that makes tons of different athletic compression sleeves, offers knee sleeves with and without extra padding around the knee joint. McDavid has a stellar reputation in the sports world and they’ve been making quality sportswear products since 1969.

Knee sleeves help give extra stability to the knee, which helps prevent ACL, MCL, and PCL ligament tears. This is an extremely important feature of the knee sleeve because a devastating knee injury often takes a full year for the player to recover from. Any measure a basketball player can take to avoid a knee injury is always a good idea.

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Mike Noblin

Mike has been involved with basketball for over 30 years as a player, coach, and bettor. He has a degree in Sports Psychology and enjoys following both the NBA and College Basketball on a nightly basis.