5 Best Compression Pants For Basketball In 2021

In a rush? If you quickly want to know what my choice is for the best basketball compression pants, then I would recommend the Nike Pro Men’s Training Tights as the best one.

Compression tights have featured prominently in many NBA players on court attire. Popular players like LeBron James and Steph Curry are sporting them. Are these a fashion statement or are there actual health or performance benefits to using them?

I personally prefer to use compression tights for specific situations when playing basketball. I will share with you a few options which you can look into if you are on the hunt for a pair. Below are my picks for the best compression pants for basketball.

What do compression tights do? Do they really help?

Compression clothing has seen a lot of popularity due to perceived benefits. One benefit is improved muscle recovery after strenuous exercise which is mentioned in this 2019 study by Hettchen M, Glöckler K, et al. Another one by Engel FA, Holmberg HC, Sperlich B. in 2016 suggests that compression clothing can help with performance slightly by helping prolong the time to exhaustion.

While there are studies that support the use of compression tights, there are also those that say there are no significant benefits such as this study by Hill JA, Howatson G, et al.

This video summarizes these ideas very well.

I like to use compression pants for the added stability that I feel in my legs during a game. This could be a psychological effect. It also adds a layer of warmth for outdoor games when the weather starts to get colder. It makes me feel good so I continue to use them.

Popularity in the NBA

It is quite common these days to see players in the NBA wear tights as part of their basketball attire. A quick look at one of the top 10 plays roundup will show that every team will have at least a player or two parading this look on court.

Out of curiosity, I decided to dig a little deeper to find out how and when this trend started. According to GQ and ESPN, it was Jerry Stackhouse who started wearing tights to basketball games in the mid-2000s. According to him, compression pants have helped him cope with his groin injuries. It started to gain popularity but was short-lived after then commissioner David Stern rolled out a dress code for NBA players. Compression tights were only allowed for players with a medical reason to wear them. They must obtain permission from the league through a written request from their team doctor. 

By 2014, Adam Silver took over as new commissioner and we started seeing more players wearing tights again which we can still see to the present day.

How To Choose The Best Compression Tights For Basketball

Whether you want to wear them for medical reasons, comfort or style, you need to carefully consider several factors to find the best pair of compression pants for you..

Compression Rating

Compression rating is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg). This is the same unit used to measure your blood pressure.

Most athletic performance wear that are marketed as compression pants are typically tight fitting garments that can provide some light-level compression. These would typically not provide a specific compression rating.

If your purpose is to have serious compression for medical reasons then you need to pay particular attention to the compression rating on the garment. You should also seek advice from a doctor. You can find compression wear over-the-counter in ranges of 8-15 mmHg (mild), 15-20 mmHg (medium) and up to 20-30 mmHg (firm). 

Comfort

The type of material used for the compression tights will make a difference to how comfortable it feels. Performance compression wear uses a combination of synthetic fabrics like polyester or nylon and a stretchy material which is usually elastane. You may see some manufacturers refer to Spandex or Lycra which are other popular names for the same material. 

The polyester fabric will give you the breathability and moisture-wicking properties. Elastane provides the compression and stretch. You should look for both of these materials in your compression pants.

Size and Fit

Compression tights need to be snug to provide proper compression. You should however be careful not to have it too tight. That will feel uncomfortable and will distract you during your game. 

If this is your first time to wear compression garments then it’s best to start with a less snug option. This will help you get used to the fit. You can later decide to go with a smaller size or purchase a different brand that provides a higher compression level.

As everyone’s frame is different, be prepared to try out a few sizes before finding the best one.

Coverage and Length

Compression tights come in either full or ¾ length. The ¾ length will usually end at your shins. I use more of the full length version especially when I play outdoors during colder months. I usually wear mid-length socks so it doubles up on the coverage.

I do see NBA players wearing ¾ length tights and use their socks to cover the rest of the leg. This is good for indoor games which would not be as cold. This reduces the bulkiness of fabric on your ankle if this is something that bothers you.

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Color

This is really down to personal preference. For me, I prefer to have one pair of black and one pair of white compression pants. Having both will cover you for most of your games and will work with most team jersey colors. 

If you like a bit more color in your basketball attire, then compression tights in a solid blue or a solid red are also good options in my opinion. These colors are easy enough to find from most manufacturers and will match a lot of basketball uniforms. 

If you are even more adventurous, there are printed or multi-color options. I recommend that you get to know the rules in your league before deciding to go all out on the color and prints.

Price

This is another subjective criteria. At the end of the day, we all want the best value for our money. I suggest starting by knowing your purpose for buying compression pants. If you are after the look or just coverage and are not too particular about compression level then you will get the best value from less known brands that sell them in bundles of two or more.

If you are willing to splurge more for the brand name or are very particular about the compression level then established ones such as Nike, Under Armour or 2XU would be for you. 

I have looked at compression tights across various price points to make it easy for you to know your options.

5 Best Basketball Compression Tights

Now that you have all the details you need to make an informed decision, let us take a look at the best compression pants for basketball that you can buy.

1. 2XU Elite MCS Compression Pants

The 2XU Elite MCS Compression Pants provides really serious compression. It is one of the few products that provides precise information on compression rating. The Elite MCS has a compression rating of 20-30 mmHg (firm) which is the highest you can buy over-the-counter.

MCS (Muscle-Containment-Stamping) is a technology that specifically directs compression to the quads and calves to help reduce muscle fatigue and provide greater stability (less jiggle).

It is made of 80% Nylon and 20% Lycra. It is very comfortable to wear, keeps you dry during intense exercise,  and has an added bonus of sun protection (UPF 50+). It has a zipper closure and a rear zip pocket where you can keep those small essentials secured.

It prominently displays a reflective 2XU logo which I think enhances the look. These tights come only in the full length and a single color (black). It is machine washable so it is not troublesome to maintain.

It has a wide range of sizes (XS, S, M, L, XL) plus a separate “tall” size range for people with longer legs or above six feet in height. 

If you are serious on the compression requirement and not too concerned on the cost and length, then this is the one for you.

Pros

  • Gives the highest degree of compression available over-the-counter
  • Huge range of sizes
  • Breathable and moisture-wicking
  • Has sun protection of UPF 50+

Cons

  • Higher priced than most options
  • Limited options in terms of length and colors

2. Nike Pro Men’s Training Tights

This pair of body hugging tights from Nike uses the famous Dri-FIT technology that Nike apparel is known for. It helps you stay dry and comfortable throughout your practice drills or even during the big game. The waistband on these tights sit higher to help keep it secure when you move.

The material composition is made of 90-93% polyester and 7-10% elastane. I found this to be snug but still very comfortable, breathable and doesn’t restrict my movements. This is great for layering under basketball shorts.

This specific model comes only in full length but does offer several color options – black, white, grey and others. It is machine washable. There is a huge range of sizes available from small all the way to a 4XL.

Pros

  • Decent level of compression
  • Huge range of sizes
  • Very stretchable and does not limit movement
  • Breathable and moisture-wicking
  • Comes in a few different colors

Cons

  • Material can thin out in certain areas if stretched too much. Better for layering.
  • Price is on the premium side but not as costly as 2XU

3. Under Armour Men’s HeatGear 2.0 Leggings

While the name may lead you to think that this will keep you warm in cold weather, the HeatGear range from Under Armour is really meant to keep athletes cool and dry. 

The polyester and elastane combination makes it highly moisture-wicking and quick-drying. This is great in preventing the growth of odor-causing microbes. It is super light and breathable. The high elastane content gives it a 4-way stretch which makes movement really easy.

These leggings have an ergonomic design which increases durability. They fit tight like a second skin so you may want to go for the larger size if you are in between sizes.

There are a few color options which I really like: white, black, grey and navy. There is a ¾ version – Under Armour Men’s HeatGear 3/4 Leggings if you do not like full length tights..

Pros

  • Provides decent compression
  • Highly moisture-wicking and quick-dying. Prevents odor. 
  • Comfortable to wear and doesn’t interfere with your movements
  • A good selection of colors
  • Relatively affordable

Cons

  • The HeatGear term used can be confusing
  • Material can thin out in certain areas if stretched too much. Better for layering.

4. Runhit Compression Pants

These compression pants from Runhit are made of polyester and spandex. It stretches well and provides reasonable compression which is good for someone who is new to compression wear. It keeps you cool and dry by wicking away sweat.

The sections are sewn together with flatlock stitching. This sewing method is great for supporting stretchy fabrics usually found in sports wear and gives a clean, non-bulky look in spite of having several layers of threads in the stitch. This makes your compression wear more durable.

There is a large pocket which can hold up a phone up to the size of an Iphone 12 max. I would not suggest doing this though if you have a very large phone. I personally find the added bulk distracting and uncomfortable while playing. If it doesn’t bother you, then it is a good way to keep your phone with you at all times.

These tights come in a single or double pack. The double pack is really good value for money and comes in a wide range of colors and prints. There is a ¾ version – Runhit 3/4 Compression Pants if you prefer a shorter length.

It is machine washable, making it easy to maintain.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Flexibility to buy a single or double pack. I recommend the double pack for best value.
  • Provides a light level of compression
  • Moisture-wicking and does not restrict your movements
  • Multiple color and print options

Cons

  • Sizing runs small
  • Material is thinner than other options. Use for layering with other garments.

5. DEVOPS 2 Pack Men’s Compression Pants

This is another affordable option for those starting out with compression tights. It comes in a pack of two. There is no option to buy a single pair unlike the Runhit compression pants. It uses polyester and spandex. It is great for keeping sweat away from your body. It fits snugly but remains comfortable. It does not restrict your movements due to the elasticity provided by the spandex.

These tights come in a few colorways and available in a ¾ version – DEVOPS 2 Pack Men’s 3/4 Compression Pants. For the full length version you can choose to have a pocket or no pocket while the ¾ one only comes with a pocket.

It has a sun protection rating of UPF 50+ which is an added bonus. The tights are machine-washable for easy maintenance.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Provides light compression but does not restrict movements
  • Moisture-wicking and breathable
  • Sun protection of UPF 50+
  • Multiple colorways

Cons

  • Comes only in pack of 2
  • Material is thinner than other options. Use for layering with other garments.

The Awesome Choice

My recommendation for the best basketball compression tights is the Nike Pro Men’s Training Tights. While not being particularly high in compression rating, it is a great option for all-around basketball performance wear and will be suitable for most players. 

The Dri-FIT technology helps keep you cool and dry which helps make this skin tight garment feel more comfortable. It has a good amount of stretch to it and will hamper your performance during intense games. 

If you are looking for serious compression though, I would recommend the 2XU Elite MCS Compression Pants as the best men’s compression tights.

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