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What Does The Black Stripe On NBA Jerseys Mean?

NBA players wear black stripes on their jerseys as tribute to an influential and iconic figure in basketball.

Typically, these are worn on the shoulder of the jersey when someone of significant influence has passed away.

Sometimes, these stripes are also worn to honor the victims of a tragedy that is not basketball related but still has profound impact on the NBA community.

For example, the NBA allowed teams to wear a black stripe in 2017 when Isaiah Thomas’ sister, Chyna, passed away in a car accident just one day before Boston’s playoff game.

Sometimes, the NBA mandates that black stripes be worn league-wide, and other times it is only one organization that decides to wear them.

Past Usages Of The Black Stripe On NBA Jerseys

End Of 2019-2020 Season

Long-time commissioner David Stern passed away in December of the 2019-20 season. Afterwards, all 30 NBA teams decided to wear black stripes on their jerseys for the remainder of the season as tribute.

Stern was integral in shaping the NBA into the powerhouse it is today.

In the late 70’s, the NBA as a league almost folded due to a lack of fans and no television exposure, but during Stern’s tenure the NBA exploded as a must-watch, trailing only the NFL in ratings.

Celtics in 2013

Boston wore the black stripe in memory of the Boston Marathon Victims after the bombing in April.

Though this was not technically basketball related, the suffering and grief was felt by many not only in Boston but also in the world, and the Celtics felt it right to pay tribute to this tragic event.

Magic in 2017

In 2017, Rich DeVos, the Orlando Magic owner, lost his wife Helen DeVos. The Magic donned the stripe in honour of her charitable contributions and her work with the team.

Lakers in 2000 and 2003

The Lakers wore a black stripe in 2000 in memory of Wilt Chamberlain, who passed away the offseason prior.

Chamberlain was, of course, one of the greatest players in NBA history, and he played with the Lakers for five seasons before his retirement.

They also wore a black stripe in 2003 for Chick Hearn, who passed away the prior summer. Hearn was a Hall of Fame broadcaster and play-by-play announcer for the team.

Bulls in 1992-93

After long-time Bulls employee Sheri Berto passed away in a tragic accident in 1991, Michael Jordan announced his team to wear a black stripe in her honor.

Sheri was so believed that the Bulls even named their new (at the time) training facility after her.

This is also one of the earliest recorded times when the black stripe was used.

Is The Black Stripe The Only Way The NBA Pays Tribute?

The black stripe is not the only patch that NBA teams use to remember those who have passed away.

For example, the Lakers used a black patch with the initials “JB” in memory of long-time owner Jerry Buss, and again used the initials “KB” to honor Kobe Bryant after the tragic accident in January 2020.

The Houston Rockets also used a blue and green striped patch to remember coach Kevin McHale’s daughter Sasha when she passed away.

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