Best Compression Pants For Basketball

What are compression pants to begin with? Have you seen those “sleeves” basketball players wear under their shorts? Sometimes, those really are sleeves, but in most cases, those are actually medical-grade compression pants. 

To put it plainly, compression leggings are like Lycra pants but tighter. That’s so your muscles don’t shake out of place when exercising or engaging in high impact activities, which reduces or outright prevents soreness after a good workout or match. Most importantly, they improve your circulation, meaning less fatigue and more endurance. 

It makes sense that even NBA players would swear by these basketball compression leggings to enhance their on-court performance. The question is: which ones do they use?

To answer your question and help you become the best basketball player you can be, we’ve compiled the top 5 best basketball compression pants. That’s NBA gear right there, so take your pick! 

1- Nike Training Pro Utility Tights – Best Basketball Compression Pants

NIKE Men's Pro Tights, Black/Dark Grey/White, Large
1,161 Reviews
NIKE Men's Pro Tights, Black/Dark Grey/White, Large
  • Dri-FIT Technology helps you stay dry and...
  • Compressive fit provides support
  • Mesh on inner leg gussets allow for ventilation in...

Athlete or not, everybody knows Nike is a staple in the sports gear industry. It started as Blue Ribbon Sports way back in 1964 and was renamed Nike in the ’70s. Nowadays, its checkmark logo, the “swoosh,” is recognized all over the world. 

They might have started as a shoe brand, but they have some mean compression pants too—case in point, their Nike Training Pro Utility Tights. Not only do you get the benefits of compression pants, but you also get to stay dry. Not something you can’t say about many of the other options out there.

Oddly enough, these leggings have more polyester than spandex, and yet they’re very stretchy. What’s more, they come with Dri-FIT technology, a particular type of polyester that soaks up the sweat and spreads it thin in the fabric, so it evaporates faster. Also interesting, it’s woven differently in zones of friction to avoid chafing and keep you nice and cool. 

The Nike Training Pro Utility Tights are an all-in-one kind of deal. Comfortable, firm, yet stretchy, and little to no friction; plus, it dries fast. It really is a no-brainer for basketball players.

Pros

  • Stays dry
  • Breathable
  • Little to no friction 
  • Durable Polyester

Cons

  • No padding

2- Under Armour Men’s HeatGear Armour Compression ¾ Leggings – Best for ¾ Compression Pants for Basketball

Sale
Under Armour Men's HeatGear Armour 2.0 3/4 Leggings , Black...
2,994 Reviews
Under Armour Men's HeatGear Armour 2.0 3/4 Leggings , Black...
  • Tough, lightweight HeatGear fabric, with all the...
  • Stretch-mesh gusset & inseam panels deliver...
  • Updated ergonomic design keeps seams off high...
  • 4-way stretch construction moves better in every...
  • Material wicks sweat & dries really fast

Speaking of sport gear colossi, this list wouldn’t be complete without Under Armour compression leggings. Here’s the thing about Under Armour; they started in 1996 with prototype #0037, “The Shorty,” a really tight t-shirt that wicked sweat quickly. At the time, it was a game-changer for the company, and now, a perfected version of the same principle is used in their HeatGear Armour Compression Legging.

These basketball compression pants are 79% polyester and 21% elastane, so they’re a bit more flexible than your standard compression pants. It’s not just about the materials, but the way it’s made. It’s woven in a 4-way stretch-mesh that allows it to expand in any direction more easily. 

Similar to Nike’s Dri-FIT tech, Under Armour also evaporates sweat quickly, only this one is also antimicrobial fabric, so no bad odors to worry about. You just have to appreciate how the seams are places they don’t rub on zones of friction. 
Made with attention to details, Under Armour’s HeatGear Armour Compression ¾ Leggings is a piece of compression garments that solves pretty much everything that could pain a basketball player. 

Pros

  • Dries fast
  • No bad odor
  • Stretchy yet firm
  • Plenty of sizes

Cons

  • Some users find it a bit too tight around the crotch

3- 2XU MCS Run Compression Tights – Most Lightweight Compression Pants 

2XU Men's MCS Run Compression Tights, Black/Nero, Medium
180 Reviews
2XU Men's MCS Run Compression Tights, Black/Nero, Medium
  • MCS (Muscle-Containment-Stamping) applies...
  • The only graduated compression technology proven...
  • PWX (Power-Weight-Flex) is a signature fabric that...
  • Reflective logos for greater visibility
  • Slim flat waistband for comfort with rear zip...

This is one of the “youngest” companies in activewear. 2XU, or “Two Times You,” got its start back in 2005 in Australia and has increasingly become a favorite among triathletes worldwide. Still, it’s also becoming quite popular amongst basketball players. Their 2XU MCS Run Compression Tights is a prime example of that. 

They’ve made a point of cutting down as much fabric as possible from their products without losing compression, making them lighter than most compression garments in the market. 

These compression pants are mostly PWX compression fabric, which is pretty much 80% polyester and 20% elastane. What really makes them stand out is something they call “MCS” or Muscle Containment Stamping. In other words, there are patches of incredibly tight fabric strategically placed around the thighs – kind of like a shock absorber for your knees – and around your calves to make sure blood is more efficiently pumped back up to your heart. They dry fast and are also antimicrobial, therefore odorless, it is also a huge plus. 

The 2XU MCS Run Compression Tights are a very versatile piece of compression garments for both the court, the gym, and even the road if you’re going for a jog to stay in shape. Their best trait is how quickly you forget you’re wearing them.

Pros

  • Very lightweight
  • Dries quickly
  • Has pockets – not that you’re going to use them much during a game, but it’s nice to have them
  • Amazing compression 

Cons

  • Only available in black.  

4- TSLA Men’s Compression Pants Running Baselayer Cool Dry Sports Tights – Best Budget Option

TSLA Men's Compression Pants, Athletic Sports Yoga Leggings &...
8,472 Reviews
TSLA Men's Compression Pants, Athletic Sports Yoga Leggings &...
  • Mens compression pants geared for all weather and...
  • TSLA workout leggings are made out of Polyester &...
  • Non abrasion athletic fabric with excellent...
  • Performance Boosting fabric : Moisture...
  • Protective clothing that safeguards your skin from...

Next, we got a little something from the TSLA Progressive Sports Gear team, not to be confused with Tesla Gear. TSLA is definitely newer, so it might take a little while before we get to know them a bit better through their official website. Their best introduction card, however, is their line of compression pants. If you’re looking for something budget-friendly, this is as friendly as it gets. 

Their compression pants are woven into a 4-way stretch, so you can bet they’re pretty flexible and shouldn’t rip easily. They’re also sweat-wicking, a very nice feature. The most surprising thing about these tights is how underrated they are. For something that’s made to keep muscle vibration to the minimum and help you recover faster, not a whole lot of people know about it. 

All in all, decent pants for something comfortable to wear for practices and drills. 

Pros

  • Flexible
  • Nice variety of colors and patterns
  • Comfortable
  • Durable 

Cons

  • Some sizes are smaller than advertised.  

5- McDavid 748X Teflx ¾ Length Tight Compression Football and Basketball Girdle – Best Compression Pants with Padding

McDavid 748X Teflx ¾ Length Tight Compression Football and...
40 Reviews
McDavid 748X Teflx ¾ Length Tight Compression Football and...
  • TEFLX provides ultra-durable resistance uniquely...
  • 9mm Hex Technology is lightweight, flexible and...
  • Dry and cool via hDc Moisture Management...
  • Pro athletes use 3/4 length tights for expanded...
  • Body mapping design and articulation at knees to...

Most sports gear brands start out with a line of products meant to enhance the athlete’s performance, and while safety is never neglected, it’s usually more of a requirement than a priority. That’s where McDavid stands out. Their sole purpose has always been protective gear since their beginnings in 1969 when they made the first knee guard for football. 

You can still see the same amount of dedication to safety put into their 748X Teflx ¾ Length Tight Compression Girdle. The first thing to notice is the knee pads. The beehive pattern keeps it safe but flexible. Then there’s the TEFLX fabric, a durable mesh made to last and endure skids on wood. Another neat feature is their hDc Moisture Management Technology, which keeps you dry and cool. Plus, their body mapping design prevents them from getting crumpled in the back of your knees. 

Suppose you’re looking for some extra protection. In that case, these basketball compression pants will keep your knees protected while at the same time giving you the benefits of compression for muscles and performance.

Pros

  • Flexible knee pads
  • Available in black and white
  • Breathable
  • Sturdy but stretchy

Cons

  • Only two colors available

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The Ultimate Buying Guide

Size and Compression

There’s a common misconception about choosing the right size for compression pants. New users might feel their size a bit too tight, and so they move up a size. Others tend to buy at least one size smaller to really feel the compression. Here’s the thing: too loose, and you’re going to miss out on the benefits of compression pants; too tight and you might injure yourself. 

Remember, compression pants are purposely made to feel tighter than your regular Lycra, spandex, and such, even in your size. To be fair, picking the right one can be quite tricky. The more specialized the company, the more specific it gets. Some brands will have you plug in calf circumference and other measures in a calculator to find the right fit. Other brands will provide a conversion chart based on height and weight or just your regular size.

So, just be mindful that sizing doesn’t work the same for every brand. Check their instructions for fitting before you buy. 

On that note, the McDavid 748X Teflx ¾ Length Tight Compression Basketball Girdle may not be a one-size-fits-all, but the fitting is pretty straightforward. It comes in enough sizes to be one of the most universal compression pants for basketball out there. 

Length 

You’ll find these as full-length pants and ¾ pants. 

Full-length pants come down to your ankles, while ¾ pants sit just below your knees down to the middle of your calves. 

Now, the length of your compression pants is pretty much a matter of preference. You’ll notice most NBA players sport ¾ compression pants; well, that’s because they get all the benefits of full-length pants, but their ankles are less restricted. Keep in mind these guys have layers of athletic tape, socks, and high-top basketball sneakers. A few more inches of thick spandex might turn out to be more of a hindrance than support for your ankles. 

What really matters is that you get compression where it counts, your muscles. In that sense, Nike Training Pro Utility Tights is the MVP of compression pants. 

Material 

Most compression pants are 90% polyester and 10% elastane or spandex. If you’re looking for something stretchier and breathable, keep an eye out for compression pants with more elastane. 

Now, the less spandex it has, the stiffer and hotter they are. That’s right, these tightly woven compression pants also retain more heat than Lycra; perfectly ok for training outdoors in cold weather. The downside? They even rip quicker than pants with more spandex. 

The Under Armour Men’s HeatGear Armour Compression Leggings, for example, is one of the few compressing pants that are perfectly balanced between stretchy and rigid; warm, but breathable. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do basketball players wear compression pants?

Compression pants are supposed to improve their circulation by pumping blood from their legs back into their hearts and lungs, which means more oxygen running through their system. As a result, they get less exhausted and can play longer.
 
It also helps them keep their muscles in the right place. By reducing muscle vibration, they’re able to recover much faster and bounce back from injuries quicker.
 
Then there’s also the padding. Compression pants for basketball include padding in the knees and hips should they bump or charge into other players and fall. Speaking of which, sliding on wood can leave some nasty burns, and that extra layer of spandex is all they need to get back up with no burns on their legs.

What compression pants do NBA players wear?

Well, it depends on the player, but just to give you an idea: James Lebron is known to wear Nike Pro Combat Hyperwarm compression pants. Stephen Curry likes his ¾ Nike Heatgear Compression Tights. Another common sight is Russell Westbrook’s Jordan Pro Combat Compression pants.

How tight should compression pants be? 

Unless you’re getting optimized compression pants – which would require specific measures and calculations– the right fit is the one that exerts pressure without restricting the way you move and becomes negligible after a little while.
    
So, tighter than regular spandex, but not tight to the point that it doesn’t let you move correctly. It should require just a little bit more effort to squeeze yourself in and out of them. You also have to be able to forget you’re wearing them after a few minutes into your warm-up.
 
One more thing, and this is super-important: there’s got to be enough wiggle-room for your privates. Seriously, testicular torsions are no joke. Ladies, wearing compression pants that are too tight may eventually cause yeast infections if you use them too long.

The Conclusion

Basketball is a full-contact sport that requires a lot of energy and speed. You need to stay protected and also stretch your endurance. That’s where every piece of gear counts. To be clear, you’re a good basketball player because of your skill and instincts, not your equipment, but gear can help you enhance your performance.

Basketball compression pants are all about improving your performance—less exhaustion and less sore muscles after every game. So, be sure to have a pair of trusty compression pants in your locker, and you’ll notice the difference. 

Justin D. Johnson
Justin D. Johnson
Justin is a PhD student at Stanford University and has been a basketball youth coach for over ten years. He is passionate about sports, cinema, astronomy, and sharing knowledge.