There's Fashion and Function Behind the One Leg Sleeve That Basketball Players Wear

"Ever since my senior year of college, it feels unnatural to play without it,” said WNBA star Michaela Onyenwere.

Callie (Carlos) Cadorniga - Author

Mar. 25 2024, Updated 10:11 a.m. ET

Michaela Onyenwere wears one leg sleeve during basketball games
Source: Getty Images

There are a few things that all sports have in common, but perhaps one of the most universal factors in all sports is the uniforms that the athletes wear. Whether you're playing a team sport or are a solo competitor, you're almost always going to be wearing specifically designed clothing in a professional setting. More often than not, these clothes will signify who the athlete is representing, but they'll also prioritize form and function to allow them to play their best in whatever sport they're in.

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Sportswear is often breathable, functional, and fits perfectly to the game being played, and almost every article of clothing on an athlete's body can factor into how well they perform. But while certain apparel like comfy jerseys and durable shoes are a must, some clothes can be head-scratchers for those not in the know. For instance, some basketball players can be seen wearing only one leg sleeve with their usual uniform. Is there a purpose behind this fashion choice? Let's break it down.

Basketball players wearing one leg sleeve
Source: Getty Images
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One leg sleeve for basketball players can serve all sorts of different purposes.

Some professional basketball players can be seen wearing only one leg sleeve or single-leg tights on their lower extremities when playing. Some players wear typical double-leg tights, but there are a fair number who only work with the one. You would think that physical symmetry would be important in a game like basketball, but some players prefer this asymmetrical style. In fact, this fashion choice can be seen in players all throughout the NBA and WNBA.

As for why players only rock the one sleeve, there could be all sorts of reasons. For some, it provides comfort to the leg being covered, which is especially beneficial for basketball players who have problems centered on one knee or leg. For the most part, however, the one leg sleeve is simply a fashion choice that some players prefer when on the court. For any athlete, comfort is important when on the field or court. To that end, some players are just more comfortable in the one leg sleeve.

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Players like Chicago Sky WNBA star Michaela Onyenwere have had experience with the one-leg sleeve as both functional and preferable. In a 2022 interview with WNBA, she revealed that she had a minor knee injury in college. This led to her wearing one sleeve to provide comfort to that knee while still being able to play despite having never worn sleeves in play before. Even after her knee got better, however, she continued to wear it out of simple comfort on the court.

LeBron James wears one leg sleeve during games
Source: Getty Images

"It became a staple of my on-court style," Michaela told the outlet. "Ever since my senior year of college, it feels unnatural to play without it."

She continues wearing one leg sleeve to this day. In fact, so many athletes rock this style that one-leg sleeves are an easy option to shop for in terms of athletic wear. Many prominent sportswear stores include several one-leg options for people who prefer it.

Whether it's a statement or an assist, the one-leg sleeve still remains prominent in basketball.

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