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  • Writer's pictureCompression Athlete

What Should I Wear Under Basketball Shorts?

Learn the favorite choice of players for comfort and confidence on the court.

Male and female basketball players wearing compression shorts under basketball shorts.

Whether you’re new to the sport, just starting to play competitively, or simply curious about the standard practice, you might be wondering what basketball players should wear beneath their shorts when competing.

Having different uniform styles across various sports can always make this choice a little tricky for the uninitiated.

Not to mention, certain sports rely heavily on personal preference whereas others have a best or most common choice.

When it comes to basketball, you want a comfortable solution that keeps you secure, supported, and locked in while you’re moving around on the court.

For many years now, there has been an overwhelming favorite among basketball players, both men and women, that not only meets the basic needs but also elevates overall performance.

So, here we’ll cover what the common practice is among basketball players when it comes to deciding what to wear under basketball shorts.

What Do Most Basketball Players Wear Under Their Shorts?

Basketball is a high-intensity sport that requires quick cutting, sprinting, jumping, and defensive shuffling.

It’s also fairly common for players to end up knocked down on the court, whether taking a charge or taking contact at the rim.

Basketball players require baselayer garments that are designed to handle high-intensity activity.

For this reason, compression shorts are the overwhelming favorite among basketball players to wear under their uniforms.

This is true among both male and female players, including those at the highest levels of play in the NBA and WNBA.

Basketball players wearing compression shorts under uniform shorts.

So, why is this exactly? What makes compression shorts so well suited for basketball?

For starters, the snug and stretchy fabric of compression shorts fits like a second skin and wears perfectly under the looser fitting design of basketball shorts.

This provides players with a secure baselayer, so no matter how much your basketball shorts shift, slide down, or ride up as you play, you can count on your compression shorts staying in place no matter what.

Additionally, compression shorts apply slight compressive pressure to your leg muscles, which increases stabilization and overall muscle endurance.

And the fabric of compression shorts is lightweight, breathable, and features sweat-wicking capabilities, which is ideal for a high perspiration sport like basketball.

You might have also noticed how some players wear padded compression shorts, such as these padded compression shorts from McDavid, the brand that pioneered padded compression garments.

Padded compression shorts have built-in padding on the thighs and tailbone that is lightweight, flexible, and well-positioned to protect against the typical bumps and bangs that occur in basketball.

College and NBA players are the most common wearers of these padded options, as the more physical style of play can take a toll on a player’s body over the course of a season.

Best Basketball Compression Short Picks for Men

While there are several great athletic brands out there today, when it comes to choosing the best compression shorts for basketball, two in particular stand out among the pack.

Both Under Armour and Nike have led the way for compression baselayers and remain the favorites of basketball players at every skill level from amateurs to professionals.

Athlete wearing Under Armour HeatGear Compression Shorts.

Shop at Under Armour: UA HeatGear Compression Shorts

Shop at Dick's Sporting Goods: UA HeatGear Compression Shorts

These compression shorts feature the most important characteristics of basketball compression shorts: lightweight fabric, full mobility and stretch, and a sleek design that fits well under athletic shorts (i.e. no pockets or other bulky features).

Athlete wearing Nike Pro Dri-FIT Compression Shorts.

Shop at Dick's Sporting Goods: Nike Pro Dri-FIT Compression Shorts

The quality fabric and superior design utilized by these compression shorts from Under Armour and Nike make them the favorites of most basketball players.

And the numerous performance benefits that compression shorts offer make them the best all-in-one option to wear under basketball shorts.

Check out our full list of the Best Men’s Basketball Compression Shorts.

Best Basketball Compression Short Picks for Women

Just as with the men’s picks, Nike and Under Armour are the stand out choices for women’s basketball compression shorts.

Athlete wearing Nike Pro 365 Compression Shorts.

Shop at Dick's Sporting Goods: Nike Pro Compression Shorts

These compression short picks feature lightweight fabric with a comfortable and stretchy fit that won’t restrict your lower body movement in any way.

They also utilize a sleek design that eliminates bunching and fits great under athletic shorts.

Athlete wearing Under Armour HeatGear Compression Shorts.

Shop at Under Armour: UA HeatGear Compression Shorts

Shop at Dick's Sporting Goods: UA HeatGear Compression Shorts

In general, women have a bit more freedom than men when it comes to choosing what to wear under basketball shorts.

Besides being a comfortable and secure baselayer, compression shorts offer support in the groin region, which for obvious anatomical reasons is more important to men than women.

So, if you have an underwear preference that fits comfortably and smoothly under your basketball shorts (i.e. wont chafe) and offers full mobility on the court, by all means go with what you’re most comfortable in.

However, keep in mind that other options typically wont be able to offer the same benefits that compression does, such as overall security, muscle stability, and sweat-wicking capability, among others.

These characteristics come in very handy during a high-intensity practice or game.

Check out our full list of the Best Women's Basketball Compression Shorts.

Choosing the Right Basketball Compression Shorts

When choosing a pair of compression shorts to wear for basketball, you’ll want to think about maximizing the benefits that compression can offer your game.

Compression shorts should wear like a second skin—tight but not restrictive. This is the key factor that makes compression shorts ideal for basketball.

They offer benefits that come from a snug fit, such as worry-free security, muscle stability, sweat-wicking, and a great fit under shorts that eliminates chafing, all while still retaining the mobility and flexibility required of you on the court.

Remember, as you’re choosing compression shorts comfort is key.

Basketball players wearing compression shorts.

Compression shorts should actually have a very pleasant and comfortable fit. You should have no problem wearing them for extended periods of time.

It’s also a smart idea to have a few pairs of compression shorts available, especially if you have a long season ahead with many practices and games.

Even with their sweat-wicking capabilities, you’ll want to opt for a clean (and dry) pair each time and wash after each use.

Finding the right pair may take a little trial and error, as various compression garment fabrics and styles can fit differently on different athletes. But once you’ve found a winner, you’ll know it.

The right pair of compression shorts offers support while also allowing you to move freely and comfortably. Also, the right pair means you aren’t thinking about them while you play.

How to Wear Compression Shorts for Basketball

When it comes to basketball, players wear compression shorts as a baselayer under their uniform shorts.

In other words, the snug and stretchy compression shorts are put on first and worn right against the skin with the basketball shorts then worn over the top.

The vast majority of basketball players wear compression shorts with a leg length that is shorter than the leg length of their uniform shorts.

So, not only are the compression shorts worn underneath the basketball shorts but also shorter in length, further reducing their visibility.

Female basketball player wearing compression shorts under uniform.

When playing basketball your compression shorts will only make minimal appearances while you’re active (running, jumping, shuffling, getting up from court, etc.).

The freer fit of your basketball shorts may reveal the snug fit of your compression shorts. But this is typically just the bottom few inches of the compression short legs that are visible.

And note that it’s really no problem when they do.

Compression shorts showing during play isn’t given any thought or worry by players in the way that an athlete might be concerned about their underwear showing.

Additionally, note that another style of wearing compression shorts for basketball is where the compression shorts extend an inch or two past the length of the basketball shorts.

This style tends to be less common and is simply a personal preference choice.

There’s no physical or competitive advantage gained by wearing compression shorts this way when playing basketball.

How Should Basketball Compression Shorts Fit?

When you try your compression shorts on, they should fit tightly on your body but not too tight that they restrict any of your movement.

While you shouldn’t see any loose or baggy spots in the fabric, any bulging in the thigh area could indicate that the fabric is pressing too tight on your body.

While compression shorts should lay smooth and flat, some leg rolling and bunching is to be expected when you’re active.

In basketball, there’s simply too much moving, jumping, hinging, pumping, flexing of the body in this area to eliminate it completely.

But this is actually preferable, as the amount of compression required to eliminate it would end up hindering your range of motion.

Compression shorts worn under basketball shorts can vary in length but are typically sized smaller in length than the shorts worn over them (i.e. the uniform or outerwear).

Basketball players wearing compression shorts under uniforms.

One area in which you can make some adjustment with compression shorts is in the inseam, as these shorts typically come in short, mid, and long lengths.

However, with compression shorts you don’t have to worry about the leg of the shorts showing from underneath your uniform shorts.

So, unless you have certain team uniform rules to follow, you can pick a compression short length based on personal preference.

An important factor to keep in mind when wearing compression shorts under your basketball shorts is that you’ll want to have a pair that layers well, rather than a pair designed to be worn as outerwear.

In other words, you want a smooth and snug fit that is lightweight beneath your basketball shorts.

The compression shorts shouldn’t have any bulky features like pockets or other unnecessary detailing.

Parting Thoughts: Prioritize Comfort and Function

The absolute most important thing to prioritize when you’re figuring out what works best for you under basketball shorts is comfort and functionality.

When you’re battling on the court, you want to be in the zone, reacting freely and creating plays, not distracted or restricted by an uncomfortable fit.

Other factors like the style or look of the garment should always be secondary.

While it’s true that your compression shorts may occasionally be seen during the course of play, typically little of the garment is usually seen beyond the bottom inch or two of the legs.

So, above all, you want to find a solution that’s comfortable and allows you to perform at your best.

For any other questions you have about compression shorts, be sure to check out our Comprehensive Guide to Compression Shorts.

And if you’re looking for a fuller-length compression option for basketball that’s growing in popularity, check out our top picks for the best basketball tights.


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