All Pro Pro Basketball

A History of Banned Accessories in the NBA

As you may have heard, the NBA has banned the “Ninja-style” headbands that became popular with several players last year. Whatever you may think of this move, it’s hardly the first time the league has banished an accessory from the hardcourt. Here’s a selective timeline of NBA gear that has sent to the showers:

1980: With gold chains becoming a signature look for 76ers center Darryl Dawkins and others, the league bans necklaces as a potential safety hazard (although some players, including Michael Jordan, later wear gold chains for exhibition events like the slam dunk contest).

1984: During an era when most NBA sneakers are predominantly white, Bulls guard Michael Jordan wears black-and-red Air Jordan 1s in a preseason game. The league immediately bans them from regular season use. (Or at least that’s the party line. Several sneaker historians have challenged that narrative.) Jordan later appears on David Letterman’s late-night show and jokes about the situation.

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2000: Sam Perkins of the Pacers wears a du-rag during a preseason game. The league promptly identifies it as a potential safety hazard and shuts it down.

2006: With Lakers star Kobe Bryant and others wearing long tights under their shorts, the league considers banning them but allows a loophole for players who claim a “medical need” for them. Players throughout the league quickly produce a doctor’s note, and soon tights become entrenched as part of the NBA’s standard look.

2009: Heat guard Dwyane Wade wears a Band-Aid with his name on it under his left eye—even after his eye injury has healed. The league is not amused.

2010: The NBA bans sneakers from Athletic Propulsion Labs, saying that the sneakers’ proprietary jump-boosting technology game players an unfair competitive advantage.

2010: After Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo and others popularize the style of wearing their headbands upside-down, with the familiar NBA logo inverted, the league bans the practice.

2011: After suffering from increased light sensitivity in the wake of a migraine, Dwyane Wade—yes, him again—wears dark goggles in a game against the Knicks. After considering the issue, the league bans the tinted eyewear, saying that it could give Wade an unfair advantage because opponents wouldn’t be able to see his eyes.

2014: After LeBron James of the Heat wears a carbon fiber mask to protect his broken nose in a game against the Knicks, the league asks him to switch to a clear mask. LeBron graciously obliges.

2017: After Kelly Oubre causes a stir by wearing a Supreme compression sleeve, the league tells him to stop wearing it. Oubre speculates that league execs may have found the sleeve to be “too wavy.”

There are more examples of banned gear, of course (including lots of other banned sneakers). If you know of any particularly good ones that aren’t listed here, feel free to send them this-a-way.

Paul Lukas has never worn a Band-Aid with his name on it. You can read more of his uniform writing on his Uni Watch Blog, plus you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook, or sign up for his mailing list so you won’t miss any of his SI columns. Want to learn about his Uni Watch Membership Program check out his Uni Watch merchandise, or just ask him a question? Contact him here.

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