The NBA has a strict dress code for how its players must look on the court when they are playing -- and on the bench when they are not. The league has skirmished with active players over long shorts, leg tights, displaying commercial logos and the street clothes worn while attending games as inactive players.
Uniform Numbers, Names
A player must wear his number on front and back, in a solid color that contrasts with the shirt 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.
Shirts Tucked In
While playing, players must keep their uniform tops tucked into their pants. They can't wear T-shirts under their tops.
Players can choose their own shoes, which display the logo of the company from which they were purchased. Otherwise, players are not allowed to display a commercial logo on any article of their game wear.
The Great Shorts Controversy
As the NBA transitioned from really short shorts to baggy, long shorts, Commissioner David Stern intervened. The league decreed 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 code. The league fined 13 players $10,000 each for wearing long shorts, prompting the players union to file a grievance. "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," Union Director Billy Hunter told reporters at the time. "Too much scrutiny is going on, and what's it's doing is interfering with the play."
The Great Headband Controversy
When headbands became popular, the NBA decided to issue official headbands with the league's logo. Rasheed Wallace protested by wearing his inside out. The league made him stop that practice, but then players began wearing them upside down. The league banned that practice as well.
Tights Not Allowed
During the 2005-06 season, stars like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James began wearing tights -- 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.
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. In 2013, 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
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