Why NBA Players Wear Headbands? 3 Reasons & Who Wears Them

The crowd goes wild as your favorite NBA players enter the court. But you see something distinctive being worn in some of the players’ heads. These athletes are wearing headbands, which makes you think, ‘Why do NBA players wear headbands?’

NBA players wear headbands for different reasons, such as branding or simply because they like wearing one. However, some of these professional basketball athletes wear headbands to absorb sweat.

In this article, we’re going to dive deeper into these reasons. Continue reading, and you should find other useful information, such as a brief history of when professional basketball players started wearing headbands and which of these athletes frequently wear these apparels.

1. Absorb Sweat

Many headbands NBA players wear tend to have a terrycloth construction. Still, some manufacturers decide to produce headbands made of cotton or polyester. These materials are ideal choices to absorb sweat.

Sweating is a natural process of the body to cool down. Keep in mind that the body warms up during intense physical activities, and basketball players know the intensity of their beloved sport too well.

Although sweating is a body’s natural response, it can become detrimental while playing basketball. Sweat can trickle down to the eyes from the forehead. In turn, this scenario can cause momentary blindness as sweat can cause mild (and sometimes serious) pain in the eyes.

If sweat gets in the eye, some players have to close their squint or close both eyes. Doing so will make them miss important opportunities during the match, such as catching balls or missing shots.

A reliable headband acts as a stopping device, preventing sweat from rolling down from the forehead to the eyes. Therefore, NBA players won’t have to worry about sweat distracting them from making important calls throughout the remainder of games.

2. Fashion Statement


Aside from absorbing sweat, some NBA players wear headbands because these accessories are now part of their image. One case, in particular, is LeBron James.

Ask different basketball enthusiasts, regardless of their level of enthusiasm towards the sport, about the players they know. You’ll find that many of those people know LeBron James, at least as a basketball personality. But, you should also find out that LeBron tends to not look like himself if he’s missing a vital component – his headband.

The 6’9” point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers (at the time of writing) tends to be always seen on the court while sporting his iconic headband. But, James lost the headband during the 2013 NBA Finals, specifically during Game 6.

Despite James winning the MVP for that season, many people found it weird, and perhaps even slightly off-putting, to see the star player without his headband. It would also seem that he loved that headband and stopped using other similar accessories for years.

In November 2018, the LA Lakers had a practice session, and most of the team thought that it was only going to be a regular practice trainings. However, James went inside the establishment with a headband wrapped around his head.

Several basketball enthusiasts, including those from the media, stormed social media with posts about James and the return of his headband. This moment was a proud event for LeBron James fans everywhere as they would see their beloved professional basketball players sporting his iconic style again.

3. Branding

Think of basketball headbands as tiny billboards strapped around the heads of the players on the court. Keep in mind that these accessories are reasonably easy to see. It’s because of this trait that many supporting brands are jumping into this opportunity to promote their businesses.

For instance, the Brooklyn Nets’ point guard Kyrie Irving would sometimes wear a headband with the famous Nike “swoosh.” The idea here is to let people know that even famous basketball celebrities can wear apparel from popular retail brands. With Irving’s fame, who, at one point, even wore SpongeBob SquarePants sneakers, Nike can influence other people into purchasing its products, producing more sales.

3 NBA Players That Love Wearing Headbands

1. Ty Lawson (Type of Headband: Standard, Solid Color)

Ty Lawson

Born with the name Tywon Ronnell Lawson, Ty Lawson has a rather roundabout way of playing the professional basketball game. He partnered with four different teams throughout his 8-season career. Lawson played for the Indiana Pacers, Houston Rockets, Sacramento Kings, and the Denver Nuggets, of which he stayed the longest.

Like other NBA players, Lawson liked to wear the headband as it might be a way to help him concentrate on the game, instead of trying to sweat off his eyes. But, things changed when LeBron James lost his headband. It was because James went into a point-scoring spree after he lost his headband. This event leads people, including Lawson, that losing the headband would make them play basketball better than before.

Lawson even tweeted that he’s never going to wear his headband again. Perhaps that tweet was a joke as Lawson still wore his headband in succeeding seasons.

2. Paul Pierce (Type of Headband: Standard/Stripe)

Paul Pierce is quite the veteran in the NBA as he played for 19 seasons before retiring in 2017. Nonetheless, he joins the ranks of known NBA players who always play with headbands on their heads.

Played as a small forward for the Los Angeles Clippers, Washington Wizards, and Boston Celtics, it would appear that Pierce didn’t mind that he wasn’t wearing a headband during official matches. In 2015, he threw his headband to a Raptor’s fan. But, instead of keeping the headband, said fan threw the head accessory back to the athlete. Pierce responded by chucking the headband back to the person before exiting the court.

Here’s a video of that particular event:

3. Vince Carter (Type of Headband: Standard w/ Solid Color or Pattern)

Like Paul Pierce, Vince Carter is his fair share of many professional basketball seasons. He started in 1998 and continued to play in the NBA for the 2019-2020 season. Carter also partnered with different teams, including the Brooklyn Nets, Dallas Mavericks, and Toronto Raptors, of which he stayed for seven seasons.

Throughout his time in the NBA, basketball fans worldwide could see Carter wearing his recognizable headband while playing as a power forward, small forward, or shooting guard. Keep in mind that basketball headbands generally work best when worn properly. If it’s not worn correctly, the cloth may not absorb sweat efficiently. Plus, the player with the ill-fitting headband might find it disorienting, knowing that they’re not wearing that apparel appropriately.

In context, J.R. Smith of the New York Knicks pulled Carter’s headband down in the middle of a match. Perhaps many people thought of the gesture as amusing, but a closer look tells another story. Check the video below to see the event happen:


It seems that Carter did not look enthused that Smith pulled his headband. Also, Smith is quite popular in the NBA by pranking other players, even those from the opposing team.

Who Was The First NBA player to Wear a Headband?

First NBA Player Headband

Born with the name Wilton Norman Chamberlain, Wilt Chamberlain (also called Wilt the Stilt and the Big Dipper) initiated and revolutionized the wearing of headbands in the NBA. His first recorded headband was thick in the front and thin at the back. He kept using headbands throughout his NBA career from 1959 to 1973.

Is There a Headband That NBA Players Can’t Wear?

Although the NBA allows players to wear most types of basketball headbands during games, the association disallows the use of ninja-style headbands. Mike Bass, the league’s spokesman, told ESPN in an interview that this particular style of headband isn’t part of the traditional NBA uniform. Further, it hasn’t been through the association’s approval process. 

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