Why Do NBA Players Use Chalk Powder? (REAL Answer)

You may have seen the iconic powder toss of LeBron James too many times.

But have you ever wondered why NBA players use chalk powder in the first place?  

NBA players use chalk powder before games to improve their grip of the ball. Players do this since sweaty hands will impede with their ball control. They use talcum powder for this which the league provides.

Aside from chalk, there are other ways to improve your grip of the ball. Let’s dive right into this topic below.

Why do NBA players use powder?

Imagine this, you’re able to steal the ball and go for the game-winning shot. But because you have sweaty hands, you can’t grip the ball properly and the grabbed it from you.

Now this might be an imaginary scenario but one that players don’t want to go through.

That’s why having a non-sweaty hand capable of gripping the ball is a must have when you’re playing. That’s where powder comes in.

NBA players would rub chalk powder on their hands usually before games to improve their grip.

Although it doesn’t completely eliminate the sweat, it’s better than having nothing at all.

But you might be wondering if they reapply the chalk powder during games.

In most cases, they won’t reapply chalk as they would just use towels to wipe their hands instead. 

What type of powder do basketball players use?

Basketball players usually use talcum powder to improve their grip before games. Nowadays, there are some products specifically designed for sports.

But it’s not necessary to buy and use those expensive chalk powders unless the benefits are better than regular ones.  

NBA players with famous powder rituals

Michael Jordan was one of the first players to popularize the powder toss. He would do it a lot of times during home games to prank the commentators.

This is because the powder would be available for players to use in front of the commentator’s table. Jordan would then purposefully toss and tap his hands around while applying powder.

The commentators would go along the joke bringing umbrellas, face masks and even gas masks during Jordan’s powder toss.

LeBron James' pregame ritual
LeBron James’ pregame ritual by Keith Allison

But probably the most iconic powder toss would be that of LeBron James. He has been doing it since his rookie years until now.

He would start by applying a generous amount of powder on both his hands and then tossing it up in the air. It’s a simple powder toss but it’s become an important pre-game ritual for LeBron.  

Other ways to make your hands more grippy

Applying chalk powder to your hands aren’t a permanent solution to improve your grip. So, here are some of the things you can do to improve your grip even more.

1. Exercise your hands

The best thing you can do to improve your grip is to exercise your hands regularly. There are many exercises specifically designed to improve your grip such as:

  • Towel wringing
  • Grip squeezing
  • Fingertip push-ups

2. Improve your ball handles

Another thing you can do so you don’t lose the ball easily is to work on your handles. Even if you don’t have hand as big as an NBA players’, you can focus on technique instead.

Look at how many NBA point guards dribble. The way they control the ball looks like they have magnets on their hands.

But that’s because they’ve practiced dribbling since they were kids.  

3. Lift weights

To improve your grip, you’ll also need to lift weights. You can try lifting plates manually using just your hands.

Then, try to hold them upward, sideward, and downward. Doing this will help you increase your grip strength.

Final Thoughts

NBA players may seem to do a lot of unnecessary things for show.

But some of them such as using powder on their hands actually serve a purpose.

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