Why NBA Players Cover Their Mouths While Talking: A Mystery Solved

Have you ever noticed NBA players covering their mouths while talking on the court?

It’s a common sight, but why do they do it?

As always with our posts, we begin with a quick answer which summarizes the premise of the article topic.

NBA players typically cover their mouths as they speak in order to prevent opponents from interpreting the tactical messages they are conveying to their team mates. Lip reading is a clever way for opposing players to understand what sort of strategy or transition a team is about to employ, so covering their mouth stops this from happening.

Anyway, let’s delve deeper into the question as there are a number of different reasons for this specific behavior.

Why NBA players cover their mouths as they speak

First and foremost…

1. To prevent lip reading

why NBA players cover their mouths while talking - preventing lip reading which could reveal tactics

One theory is that players cover their mouths to prevent opponents from lip reading their play calls or trash talk.

Lip reading can be a valuable defensive tool, so by covering their mouths, players can protect their team’s strategy and give themselves a competitive edge.

Tactics are such an important part of modern basketball that players take as much precaution as possible to not give their opponents even the slightest edge whilst they’re out competing on the court.

Can you imagine a situation where a player states which play his team mates should rehearse and an opponent overhears that exact conversation?

The defending team would probably stand a better chance at devising a counter move to deal with the impending choreographed threat as they’ll have listened in to the information beforehand.

Covering their mouths thereby eliminates the risk of this happening, as the hand which blocks the mouth removes any chance of a player being able to make sense of the words being spoken by an opponent to his/her team mates.

2. To show respect

why NBA players cover their mouths while talking - respecting opponents

Another reason players may cover their mouths is out of respect for their opponents.

In the heat of the game, players may exchange words with each other, but covering their mouths can be a way to show that they are not openly disrespecting their opponents.

This can also be seen as a sign of sportsmanship.

3. To avoid getting fined

The NBA has strict rules against players using explicit language on the court, and offenders can be hit with hefty fines.

By covering their mouths, players can avoid being caught on camera using inappropriate language, and thus avoid getting fined.

Brooklyn Nets point guard Kyrie Irving previously got fined a sum of $50,000 for swearing at fans in an NBA defeat against the Boston Celtics.

And another recent incident where an NBA player was retroactively fined for inappropriate comments directed towards a referee happened when the Memphis Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant was fined to the tune of $35,000.

Here’s how this event played out:

“Morant was given a technical and then ejected with 1:22 remaining in the fourth quarter. Following the ejection, Morant went and dapped up Timberwolves star Anthony Edwards who was shooting technical free throws, as well as several Memphis players before exiting the court. 

You can tell by Morant’s reaction that he wasn’t expecting the ejection, as he smiled, laughed and clapped before leaving the court. But whatever Morant said to the official, he clearly deemed it was enough to toss him from the game.”

Source – CBS Sports

You should also have a read of another one of our articles on a similar topic, as it goes into much greater depth on why basketball players argue with match officials.

It’s quite an interesting habit!

4. To hide emotions

why NBA players cover their mouths while talking - hiding emotions

Covering their mouths can also be a way for players to hide their emotions from their opponents.

In a high-stakes game, showing frustration or anger can give opponents an advantage.

By covering their mouths, players can keep a poker face and not reveal their true feelings.

Do they put mics on NBA players?

The answer to this question is both yes and no.

You see, according to the NBA all broadcasters are allowed to mic NBA players using a Q5X QT-5100 PlayerMic® that gets fitted within a pouch that rests somewhere inside the jersey.

Basketball uniforms are specifically designed to accommodate these tiny radio microphone devices, however the player probably does have a marginal say on whether they want their speech to be recorded during games.

Final thoughts

There are likely many other reasons why NBA players cover their mouths while talking on the court, and it may vary from player to player.

One example of this is stopping their mouthguard from falling out as they speak.

Basketball players wear mouthpieces for protective purposes and talking whilst it’s inside may lead to situations where it creeps out during speech.

Ultimately, whatever the reason, it’s clear that mouth covering is a common sight in the NBA and the phenomenon definitely adds another layer of intrigue to the game.

If you’ve liked reading this post detailing certain peculiarities about NBA players, then definitely take a look at a similar article on why players in the NBA have skinny legs or our post on why NBA players look upwards during matches.

About Samuel Waihenya

Samuel is an avid fan of basketball and has been following the sport for over 10 years. He now intends to dedicate his time to produce great content for his own little basketball blog that aims to help its readership with whatever basketball-related topic they can think of. Have a read through Samuel Waihenya's author bio page here.