Athletic wear has evolved so much through time that even casual players just cannot play without them anymore. These are more than just accessories, in fact, some even recommend these things to be worn to avoid injuries.
Recently, a new trend has emerged where players wear a sleeve on one leg. Interestingly, at the forefront of this trend are some of the game’s brightest young stars. So, this begs the question, why do they do it? Is it merely for style or is there another reason behind it? Let’s find out.
Why Do Basketball Players Wear Sleeves on Their Legs?
Basketball players wear leg sleeves for a variety of reasons and it’s usually a combination of many things. More specifically, while leg sleeves can work as a stylish accessory, they also prevent a lot of unwanted injuries.
Much like any compression gear, leg sleeves are known to reduce swelling and pain to promote faster healing after the game. By compressing the muscles, sleeves prevent microtrauma in the muscles and reduce inflammation. Professional players need all the help they can get to heal quickly and in time for their next game — thus the need for sleeves. For more casual players who aren’t exactly in the best condition, the sleeves will help them keep the post-game pain manageable.
Leg sleeves also provide stability in the compressed area, more specifically the knee. For players who have a history with their knees, wearing a sleeve can prevent injury and increase confidence in playing. For those who are fortunate enough to have healthy knees, wearing leg sleeves is a great way to keep things that way.
Lastly, leg sleeves also help in keeping a player’s legs warm. This reduces the risks of getting cramps and helps a player stay ready on the bench.
Why Some Basketball Players Choose to Wear Just One Leg Sleeve?
Leg sleeves are undeniably helpful and, not to mention, stylish — so why do some basketball players wear them on just one leg? For some of the NBA’s young superstars, wearing sleeves on one leg has become a thing. Lately, even veterans in the league such as LeBron himself have followed suit.
It’s easy to write off this trend and say that these players are doing this just for style. But, this may not be the actual case.
Even though leg sleeves are beneficial, some players simply won’t wear them unless they are ordered to — simply because they don’t feel comfortable. At the end of the day, most players, especially professionals, will wear what will allow them to perform comfortably and better. If given the chance, most players won’t wear any form of sleeve.
However, most of these players have already experienced knee or other issues in one leg, which leaves them no choice but to wear a sleeve over that leg. Wearing just one sleeve will give them targeted support and help reduce the risk of reinjury in that leg.
Other players also choose to wear a sleeve only on their dominant leg. Although professional players are taught not to rely on their dominant leg too much, this habit cannot be totally eliminated. Wearing a sleeve on their dominant leg gives much-needed support while still allowing them to play freely with their other leg.
3 Notable NBA Players Who Have Popularized One Leg Sleeve
A trend won’t be one without trendsetters — and the NBA has a lot of them. From Michael Jordan’s shorts within his shorts to Allen Iverson’s braids and shooting sleeves, the NBA has had its fair share of trailblazers through the years. So, who should be credited for the one-legged sleeve trend?
1. Kobe Bryant
If we were to pick the actual pioneer for this trend, it would have to be Kobe. In 2005, Kobe started wearing a knee support on his right leg. Soon enough, this knee support extended to his calf area which then became the prototype for modern-day leg sleeves. Kobe was also one of the first NBA players to wear compression pants during games. Kobe didn’t just inspire hoopers with his mentality, as it turns out, he was also a fashion icon. In fact, when Kobe passed away in 2020, a lot of players wore one-legged sleeves as an ode to his legacy.
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2. Devin Booker
Devin Booker is widely regarded as one of the modern-day equivalents of Kobe Bryant. He was personally trained by Kobe so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they also adapted some of the Black Mamba’s habits and style. He even famously scored 70 points during the anniversary of his, as a young kid, meeting Kobe for the first time.
Devin Booker was drafted 13th overall in 2015 by the Phoenix Suns. Ever since his rookie year, Booker already rocked the one-leg sleeve so he is widely considered as the one who turned the trend into what it is now. Kobe did it first but Devin made it mainstream.
3. Steph Curry
Let’s start off by saying that Steph Curry was a fragile kid, physically. He struggled during his first few years in the league because he couldn’t adjust to the physical demands of the NBA. However, once he (literally) got his footing, the league was never the same.
Steph plays every game with perhaps the most set of protective gear due to his history of injuries. From ankle braces to shoulder sleeves — Steph has probably worn them at least once in his career. Curry regularly sports the one-legged sleeve as well, especially during the last few seasons. Being the game-changer and trendsetter that he is, it’s not surprising that people, especially kids, have followed suit by wearing the same get-up.
Choosing the Best Basketball Leg Sleeves: What to Look For?
Single-leg or not, basketball leg sleeves are virtually essential these days. Whether you’re a casual or a professional player, there’s really no harm in having leg sleeves in your wardrobe. And, for those who don’t have them yet — there’s no shame in that. Here are three main things to look for when buying basketball leg sleeves:
Size and Fit
Leg sleeves have a lot of benefits and a lot of that stems from their ability to compress your legs. Getting properly-sized leg sleeves allows you to fully reap these benefits. Sizes of leg sleeves usually come in ranges so all you need to do is to measure your thighs and match them with the right size. Leg sleeves should feel tight but not tight enough to cut circulation and not loose enough to see ripples around the edges of the sleeve.
Leg sleeves are usually made out of nylon and spandex. This composition enables the sleeves to compress effectively and stay durable for some time. Known brands such as Nike or McDavid are known to make strong sleeves that will last for years but for a price. Investing in a good pair of sleeves isn’t the worst thing to do with your money especially if you regularly play ball.
Design and Style
The NBA is quite strict with colors which is why you would usually see the players wear sleeves with their team colors. For casual players, these coloring rules do not exist so feel free to pick a color that you’re comfortable with. Some leg sleeves also include pads in their design for added protection — this is something we would recommend if you have a history of injuries.
Other Sleeves Basketball Players Wear
Apart from leg sleeves, basketball players also wear other types of gear to protect and support other parts of their body during games.
Shooting or Arm Sleeve
These sleeves usually protect the elbow from any potential injuries. They also provide compression on a player’s shooting arm to control shooting form and prevent fatigue — hence the term shooting sleeve.
Wearing shoulder sleeves keeps the complex shoulder muscles in place to prevent injuries. Some players even go as far as wearing shoulder braces for additional support before wearing shoulder sleeves to prevent re-injury.
Any basketball player, casual or professional, has probably experienced leg cramps — particularly in the calf area. One of the benefits of wearing sleeves is that they can keep an area warm and loose. People who are more prone to cramping than others should have a calf sleeve readily available.
Ankle sleeves are quite popular among basketball players since ankle injuries are very common in the sport. Ankle sleeves are the lighter version of ankle braces that players like Steph Curry would wear to protect their ankle and Achilles areas.
In the game of basketball, running is a requirement and post-game inflammation or pain in the thigh area is almost a guarantee. Wearing a thigh sleeve will prevent microtrauma in the quad and hamstring areas.
Wrapping Things Up: Why Do Basketball Players Only Wear One Leg Sleeve?
Basketball gear has evolved through the years, which made playing safer and a tad bit more stylish. One of the current trends in the game is wearing only one leg sleeve — which isn’t as senseless as some people paint it to be. Leg sleeves help players by keeping muscles stable and warm enough to lower the risk of injury and inflammation. However, some players choose to wear a sleeve only over an injured leg and keep their other leg as free as possible.
At the end of the day, players will prioritize comfort over anything else because this would allow them to play the game the way they want to — as you should.
We hope you enjoyed this post! If you did, be sure to check out our other basketball FAQ articles here.