These Are The Unwritten Rules Of The NBA

Basketball | 8/31/19

The transition from the college ranks to the NBA can be startling for many players. Guys go from college students to multimillionaires overnight. All of the young players’ teammates have been through that situation before, though, and are careful to make sure the rookies handle it properly.

There are a million rules in the league. Some are about how new players should behave. Some are about how players should deal with other players and some are guide books for referees. These are the unwritten, but very real rules in the NBA.

Don’t Talk About Other Players’ Contracts

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Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

While NBA players are always locked in competition against one another, they also belong to a special kind of brotherhood. It may bother an up-and-coming star that a stiff 6-11 Center got a $70 million deal, but those exorbitant contacts also speak to the health of the league.

Guys in the NBA belong to a union and they know that any player getting paid eventually helps their chances of getting paid as well. That is why it’s incredibly uncommon to hear one player criticize another player’s deal.

Block Shots That Go Up After The Whistle

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Drew Hallowell/Getty Images
Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

NBA players are creatures of both habit and repetition. So when a play stops and the whistle blows, they will often throw up a jump shot anyway. Almost every time this happens a defensive player moves to block the shot.

There’s no definitive rhyme or reason to why they do this. It may be to stop the opposing player from getting into a rhythm. It may just be complete sour grapes. Regardless of the reason, it seems to happen all the time.

Guys From The Same College Root For Each Other

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Lance King/Getty Images
Lance King/Getty Images

NBA players come from all different colleges, cities, and countries. There are a few universities, though, that tend to send a ton of players to the pros. Fans would commonly think of places like Duke, Kentucky, UCLA, and North Carolina.

And players that hail from one of these universities tend to have a leg up on some of their peers. Veterans from these pro factories look out for younger players entering the league. It is always helpful to have advice on the peaks and valleys of stardom.

Don’t Wear A Rival’s Signature Shoe

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Matteo Marchi/Getty Images
Matteo Marchi/Getty Images

While all the players in the NBA make very nice money, only a select few get their own signature shoes. And some of these sneakers are incredibly cool. Players, though, have to be careful about what piece of footwear they rock.

You’d never catch a Golden State Warrior wearing LeBron James’ signature shoe. And you’d never catch a Los Angeles Laker wearing James Harden’s signature show. With so many brands out there, guys have a number of different options.

Make Sure You Practice Proper Hygiene

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Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images
Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

This rule is seemingly obvious, but players say you’d be surprised at the number of guys who don’t follow it. Players have to do an awful lot of running, sweating and these kinds of activities can lead to a pungent odor.

According to Markieff Morris, some players don’t even shower after a long practice. The Pistons’ Forward also revealed that one teammate once told him he doesn’t wear deodorant.

Rookies Need To Know Their Place

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Michael Reaves/Getty Images
Michael Reaves/Getty Images

With only 15 players on an active NBA roster, rookies can often come into the league with a lot of fanfare. The veteran players, however, are often quick to let these players know that respect is earned and not given.

A rookie in the league not only has to adapt to the NBA lifestyle, but they are also commonly tasked with performing deeds to make the older players happy. There is a silver lining, though, as you are only a rookie for one season.

Take Care Of Other Players Legs While They Are In The Air

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Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images
Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Each year in the league, star players succumb to injuries. A large number of these injuries occur to player’s legs which can often be exposed while players are in the air. Just a slight change in direction or an awkward landing can lead to a devastating ailment.

Players want to stay as aggressive as possible while defending the rim. But as was mentioned before, the NBA is a fraternity of the world’s best players and guys are generally careful to keep their peers safe.

Players Stepping Out Of Line Can Become Social Media Fodder

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Zhong Zhi/Getty Images
Zhong Zhi/Getty Images

Back in the ’90s and early 2000s, social media had no impact on the NBA game. Today, it can have an outsize role. Sometimes the best way for a veteran to handle a troublesome teammate is to put them on blast on Twitter or Instagram.

The typical NBA star can have anywhere from a couple hundred thousand to a couple of million followers. So when they make any kind of remark on their social feeds, it is sure to send a message to the offending player.

Backup Your Teammates In A Fight

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Robert Laberge/Getty Images
Robert Laberge/Getty Images

While not as common as in the NHL, fights can break out quickly in the NBA. Typically, these dust-ups begin with small scuffles between competing players. And when these scuffles happen, players are expected to have their teammate’s back.

Since the Ron Artest incident, the NBA has brutally punished players for fighting in games. While players want to make sure their teammate doesn’t get hurt, they also enter the fray to make sure the fight doesn’t escalate into something more significant.

Superstars Play Under A Different Set Of Rules

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Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images
Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images

The NBA can be an unforgiving terrain for the typical role player. It’s hard enough to play defense against some of the best players in the world. It makes it even harder when that player gets a helping hand from the officials.

The best players in the league like LeBron James, James Harden and Joel Embiid go to the line in bunches. It can feel like an impossible job to keep these guys from scoring and the refs give the average defenders very little help.

Don’t Be The First Guy To Leave The Gym

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Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

At any time, there are 450 active players in the NBA. And every single one of those players worked incredibly hard to get there. The veterans on any given team often want to make sure the hard work doesn’t stop once the players have made it to the league.

Some of the very best players in the NBA are still among the league’s hardest workers. Even after grueling practices, these guys stick around and throw up a number of shots. Being the first player to leave the gym after practice can be a bad look.

Slap Your Closest Teammates Five After A Free Throw Attempt

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Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

An NBA free throw can range from mostly insignificant to the absolute most important play in the game. Regardless of the importance of the shot, the player shooting the free throw will always tap hands with his teammates after the attempt.

It isn’t quite known when this practice started and it can often look to be a little over the top. At the end of the day though, almost any player taking free throws will always make sure to dap up their teammates.

Respect Your Teammate’s Privacy

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Harry How/Getty Images
Harry How/Getty Images

Today’s players have grown up with social media always being a part of their lives. That can lead to some younger players not quite understanding what is and what isn’t ok to share with the public.

D’Angelo Russell learned this lesson the hard way when he was a young player with the Lakers. The young Point Guard secretly recorded Nick Young discussing the women he was cheating on rap star Iggy Azalea with. This led to Russell being traded to the Nets where he became a star.

If You’re Up At The End Of The Game You Let The Clock Run Out

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Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Many NBA games end tightly with the final shot being very unimportant. But a lot of times that game was decided long before that happened. And when the other team doesn’t have much of a chance, the leading team doesn’t fire up a shot on their last possession.

The reason why teams don’t try to run up the score largely has to deal with respect. The teams will play each other will meet again and there is very little benefit to one team rubbing it in.

Squash The Beef By The End Of The Game

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Stacy Revere/Getty Images
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

NBA games are incredibly tense affairs and feelings can get heated between the members of both teams. There will be endless amounts of trash talk and then they’ll be all kinds of pushing and shoving. But by the end of the game, the respect should still be there.

Once the buzzer goes off, though, cooler heads almost always often prevail. Deep down, one guy may dislike another but handshakes and hugs abound after the game.

Don’t Go For The Family Jewels

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Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

This one should be obvious, but recent history shows that its something that not every player adheres to. Basketball players often make moves that leave their body and particularly their groin regions, open for a quick shot.

Almost no players take the opportunity to take that shot, but the Golden State Warriors Draymond Green has done it more than once. The Power Forward was suspended for a game in the 2016 finals after taking a swipe at LeBron James.

Refs Let Players Get Away With Trash Talk

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Sean Gardner/Getty Images
Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Trash talk is apart of the game at almost every level and it happens regardless of whether the game is happening in a gym or one a playground. It certainly doesn’t stop in the pros where players jaw at each other nonstop.

The NBA rule book says that technical fouls should be assessed once the talk goes to a certain level. This rule, however, is largely annoyed by officials and the players tend to get away with yakking.

Don’t Get A Rigged Triple Double

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Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Triple Doubles used to be more uncommon in the NBA. Then Russell Westbrook averaged a triple-double over the course of an entire NBA season. While less rare, they are still special and players still really want to get them.

But the feat can happen naturally, or players can rig the game to get one. Ricky Davis memorably missed a shot on purpose in a 2010 game so that he could get the final rebound needed for the feat.

Be Courteous To The People Who Work In The Building

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Victor Decolongon/Getty Images
Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

NBA players make an incredible amount of money. Like, literally, lots and lots of money. But that doesn’t mean they should big-time anyone who isn’t as fortunate as they are.

Basketball teams are big operations that employ a whole lot of people. And veterans always remind young players that they need to treat these people with respect and dignity. Whether it be a custodian, a public relations person or a massage therapist, everyone who works in the building needs to be treated kindly.

When Its A Big Game, Let Them Play

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Stacy Revere/Getty Images
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Nothing can ruin an important game quite like too many whistles. While fans want games to be called fairly and accurately, they also don’t want to see a million different stoppages of play.

The refs seem to understand this feeling, especially when it comes to either an important game or a compelling matchup between two powerhouse teams. You would think the league might have something to do with this as well, though they would never tell the TV audience that they are intentionally making games more exciting.