Black Stripe on NBA Jerseys: What Do They Mean?

The NBA is very strict about its players' uniforms. It even stipulates various rules regarding how a player should appear on the court. If you're an NBA fan, you must have noticed the occasional black stripe on the shoulder of the players' uniforms. 

However, not all NBA jerseys have this stripe. So, you may be wondering why is it there and what does it signify? In this article, you'll find out the meaning behind the black stripe on NBA jerseys.

Short Answer About the Black Stripe 

The black stripe on NBA jerseys is not a meaningless electrical tape attached to their uniforms. This stripe symbolizes respect for an icon or influential personality in basketball who has passed away

Other times we see this stripe is when the players pay their respects to some profound event outside of sports.


One good example is the 2013’ season finale between Boston Celtcis and Toronto Raptors. During the match, the Boston Celtics wore the black stripe on their jerseys in memory of the victims of the Boston Marathon Bombing. 

Again in 2017, all NBA teams wore the black stripe in memory of Isaiah Thomas's sister, Chyna, who passed away in a car accident. The tragedy occurred a single day before the start of the playoff.

So, the NBA can mandate all the league's players to wear the black stripe. But, the teams can also decide to wear the stripe to commemorate similar events on their own.

Past Usage of The Black Stripe on NBA Jerseys 

The black stripe practice has been around for a long time. Let's look at some of the notable appearances within the last two decades. 

  • 2020 – 2021 Season 

The Los Angeles Lakers recently wore white and blue City Edition uniforms with a black stripe with EB initials on the front left shoulder.

That was to celebrate the life of Elgin Baylor, who died in March 2021 at the age of 86. Elgin inspired generations of basketball stars as a player. Off the court, he was an activist for racial equality and justice.

  • 2019 – 2020 Season 

All NBA players wore the black stripe to honor their long-time commissioner David Stern. He passed away on Jan 1, 2020, after suffering a brain hemorrhage three weeks earlier. Stern was the NBA commissioner from 1984 – 2014. People credit him for shaping the NBA into the global, multi-billion-dollar business it has become today. 

Furthermore, Stern is named one of the most outstanding sports commissioners of all time and one of his generation's most influential business leaders. He helped create superstars such as LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, and Larry Bird. 

Additionally, David Stern oversaw the creation of the NBA Development League and the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA). 

Again in 2020, Utah Jazz adorned a black stripe on their jerseys to honor their legendary coach, "Original Bull" Jerry Sloan, one of the greatest NBA players of all time.

Sloan had a 30-year coaching career, with 23 years as the head coach of Utah Jazz. He passed on in May 2020, resulting in his team donning the black stripe. In addition, they wore a black patch with the numbers 1223 to commemorate his 1223 wins.

  • 2017 -2018 Season 

The 2017 – 2018 NBA season saw several losses that shook up the NBA community. In April 2017, Isaiah Thomas, a Washington Huskies player, lost his sister, Chyna Isaiah, in a one-car accident just one day before the team's final tournament. 

Celtics coach Brad Stevens asked the NBA league to allow his team to wear a black stripe. The league honored this request and the Huskies wore the black stripes in support of Thomas.

In October of the same year, Rich DeVos, the Orlando Magic team owner, lost his wife, Helen DeVos. Following her passing, the team adorned the black stripe in her remembrance.

Helen DeVos is honored for her outstanding contributions to the team. She was also famous for her charitable work, helping give back to the community. 

Again in 2017, Paul Allen, Microsoft co-founder and Portland Trail Blazers owner passed away. Paul Allen was a sports enthusiast and brought the Portland Trail Blazers to the league in 1988.

Everyone appreciated his hefty contribution to the association and his love for the game. Hence, the black stripe was again seen on The Portland Trail Blazers players' jerseys to signify Paul Allen's death.

  • 2014 – 2015 Season

Utah Jazz wore the black strip in 2015 in honor of "Hot Rod" Hundley. Hundley was a devoted basketball player for the Los Angeles and Minneapolis Lakers between 1957 and 1963. He garnered a total of 3625 points in his six-year basketball career. He later became a celebrated NBA play-by-play announcer. 

Additionally, Hundley was the first Jazz play-by-play guy and started with the team in 1974 when it was still in New Orleans. The team still remembers his excellent performances and utter dedication to basketball.

  • 2002 – 2003 Season 

The Lakers had the black stripe on their jerseys to celebrate the life of Chick Hearn, who was a play-by-play announcer for the Lakers and a Hall of Fame broadcaster.

  • 1999 – 2000 Season

The Lakers honored the life of the legendary Wilt Chamberlain with a black stripe in 2000. Chamberlain played center for the Lakers for five seasons before retiring from basketball. The community remembers him as a superstar in the sport's history.

He holds many NBA regular-season records and is the only player to have scored 100 points in a single NBA Basketball game. 

  • 1991 – 1992 Season 

The Chicago Bulls wore a black stripe jersey in memory of Sheri Berto Black. She was the long-time assistant to the team's owner Jerry Reinsdorf. Sheri died in 1991 after complications during routine surgery. Afterward, the Chicago Bulls wore black stripe jerseys for the rest of the season.

Other Patches on NBA Players’ Jerseys 

Apart from the black stripe, NBA players wear other types of patches to honor influential figures in basketball. To this end, the Golden State Warriors wore an orange stripe with the number 42 on it in 2016. The patch paid tribute to Nate Thurmond, one of the greatest players for the Warriors. 

The Lakers also wore a round patch with the initials KB embroidered on it to honor Kobe Bryant. Similarly, the team also wore a memorial patch with "JB" initials in orange to memorialize the team's legendary owner, Jerry Buss.

Final Thoughts

In short, the black stripe pays homage to anyone with a special place in the NBA community. While it's not the only way the NBA memorializes basketball's greatest, it's an integral part of the game. Throughout the years, it has become the most usual way for a team to show their respect.

Related: NBA Players Who Died on the Court

Joshua Bast

My name is Joshua Bast and I have been playing basketball ever since I was 7 years old. I love the game play, I love the feeling whenever I score a basket, but what made me fell in love was the camaraderie with my team mates. This blog is dedicated to help any up-and-coming basketball players maximize their potential.

Joshua Bast