Why do NBA Players Use Chalk? Explained

You’ve seen NBA players like LeBron James and Michael Jordan toss chalk in the air before the start of games. But have you wondered why NBA players use chalk? Can it help improve the players’ grip?

Basketball players, especially those in the NBA, use chalk to promote better grip. Continuous physical activity over a short period can cause the hands to become sweaty. Perspiration will, in turn, loosen grips, causing the athletes to fumble frequently.

An NBA player’s grip is essential to winning matches. Losing control of the ball means giving points to the opposing team.

why NBA players use chalk

Many NBA players use performance chalk to wipe their hands before going into the court. The athletes can get a better grip from rubbing their hands with the white substance. In turn, the players won’t worry too much about losing the ball because of sweaty hands.

Various manufacturers use magnesium carbonate in developing performance chalk. This white, inorganic mineral has liquid-absorbing compounds to reduce sweat on the skin significantly.

But what is magnesium carbonate?

According to the National Library of Medicine (NIH), this compound is a magnesium salt with the primary role of being an antacid and a fertilizer. Also called magnesite, this substance is crystalline in form and can have different colors, such as yellow, white, or grayish-white.

Magnesite is also an excellent absorbent, which is one of the reasons why many basketball players put it in their hands before matches or during timeouts. The substance binds to liquid compounds, making the mixture form a rough texture. In turn, the solution reduces the slipperiness of sweat significantly. This compound also has other uses, such as adhesives and paint-binding agents.

Why Does LeBron James Throw Chalk in the Air?

LeBron James, the 6’9’’ point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers (at the time of writing) and main protagonist for the Space Jam sequel, tosses chalk in the air after rubbing the substance between his hands before games.

But why does he do this pre-game ritual?

In truth, no one but James himself knows the true reason why he does it. However, James said in one interview that the fans went wild when he does it. Therefore, he decided to keep tossing chalk into the air.

However, in 2014, he stopped doing this chalk-tossing ritual. It was the time when James was with the Cleveland Cavaliers and many of his fans noticed that he no longer tosses chalk before games.

Speculations and rumors spread like wildfire as to why the iconic NBA player stopped doing the habit. Some fans hypothesize that James seemed to have more concentration during matches when he spends more time doing practice shots before his games begin. Others think that James stopped doing this act to avoid putting unnecessary attention upon himself and leave his teammates out of the spotlight.

But in 2019, five years after seemingly giving up on this ritual, James brought the iconic chalk toss back. It was while the NBA player was in Shenzhen and the point guard thought that he would give his fans a show while on international soil.

Does Baby Powder Help with Grip?

baby powder grip

Baby powder and other kinds of chalk, such as chalkboard chalk, are still usable to reduce and prevent significant sweat buildup. However, even though baby powder can absorb sweat, it also acts as a lubricant. It’s also the reason why a child’s skin smoothens after applying this product.

Is Liquid Grip Better Than Standard Hand Chalk?

Liquid grip or liquid chalk is a water-based product with rosin and performance chalk mixed together. The moisture in the product dissipates liquid quickly. Plus, it adds additional grip by binding to the fatty acids on the player’s skin.

Aside from the NBA, players in other sports also use liquid chalk to strengthen their grips. Some of these leagues include the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the National Federation of High Schools (NFHS), and the Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique (FIG).

Other physical activities, such as bodybuilding, weightlifting, and even professional arm-wrestling have individuals that use chalks or other similar substances to improve their grips.

Why Don’t NBA Players Wear Gloves During Games?

One problem with using chalk to enhance grips during official basketball matches is that the substance wears out over time. NBA players would need to reapply the product repeatedly throughout the match. If they don’t, the athletes would find their sweat lubricating the ball, making it more challenging to hold when needed.

Therefore, it begs the question, ‘Why don’t NBA players wear gloves?’

It’s because most gloves can’t provide proper grip. It’s also the same reason why other athletes in other sports leagues don’t wear these accessories. For instance, have you seen gymnasts wearing gloves while they’re doing flips and spins on poles? Probably not.

If an NBA player would wear gloves during a match, his control and grip over the ball wouldn’t improve. On the contrary, the athlete would have more trouble controlling and holding the ball while wearing gloves.

Materials like neoprene and nylon have their benefits, but their smooth surfaces aren’t ideal for holding the basketball. Wearing leather gloves also isn’t ideal because excessive sweat will ruin the material.

What do NBA Players Put on Their Hands?

Many NBA players prefer using powdered or liquid chalk on their hands. But some of these official basketball athletes also like to use dirt.

Specifically speaking, some NBA players wipe their hands on their shoes. The dirt latches onto the skin, providing additional grip. Albeit it’s not the most hygienic way of enhancing handgrip, the act still works.

Final Words

NBA players use chalk to enhance their control and grip over the basketball. However, this substance isn’t the conventional chalk used on chalkboards. Most players prefer to use performance chalk as other similar products act as lubricants instead of improving grips.

Players like Michael Jordan and LeBron James are a couple of the many players that show the world they use chalk before and during matches. These two famous NBA superstars do a ritual called the ‘Chalk Toss’ to hype themselves and their fans.

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