From pre-game fashions to on-court styles to what shoes they’re wearing in-game, the NBA isn’t just the most-visible and most well-known basketball league, but the NBA also has cultural influence on and off-the-court. The NBA is definitely the most-stylish league of the four major professional sports leagues, but one on-court styling that won’t ever become cool are basketball goggles.
We’re not talking about players that put on goggles for a short period of time after being poked in the eye, but players that wore googles, sport spectacles or protective face masks even when they no longer had to. So much so that these players have become known for their eyewear than without. And we’re not talking about players wearing goggles when celebrating a championship (to protect their eyes from the alcohol), this is a list of players where their protective eyewear are part of their signature style.
11. Hakeem Olajuwon We know Hakeem mostly without goggles, but in 1993, Hakeem sustained a fractured right orbit stemming from an elbow in the face from Bill Cartwright. Olajuwon had to sit out almost two months and when he returned he was wearing goggles.
10. Wendall Carter Jr. The only current player that sports sports goggles in today’s NBA so we had to mention him. Carter plays for the lowly Orlando Magic, so you might not be aware that the former Duke product wears the glasses every game. Wendall’s glasses didn’t get much attention not until LeBron James picked them up during the game and put them on.
LeBron really put on Wendell Carter Jr.’s goggles after this play 😂🥽 pic.twitter.com/hpUz6XlLh3
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) December 13, 2021
9. Buck Williams: Buck Williams didn’t play with goggles for much of his career until he elbowed by the Dallas Mavericks’ James Donaldson in the 1990 NBA Playoffs. From there, the blue-collar Portland Trailblazer forward would only take the goggles off to shoot free-throws during the next eight years of his career.
8. Antoine Carr spent over a decade in the league without goggles. The “Big Dwag” only started to wear his signature protective sunglasses after he suffered a lacerated eyeball when he played alongside the Karl Malone-John Stockton Utah Jazz. Even though he wore those sunglasses for a few more seasons, Carr’s unique eyewear was certainly a new take on the usual basketball goggles.
7. Bo Outlaw Charles “Bo” Outlaw wore some Oakley-styled glasses and became synonymous with the high energy role player.
6. Thurl Bailey: Bailey played in the golden era of the sports goggles. Coming out of North Carolina State under the late great Head Coach Jim Valvano (read this recent interview from Betway), Bailey wore goggles during his entire playing professional basketball – the vast majority of which was spent with the Utah Jazz before playing for the Minnesota Timberwolves for a couple seasons.
5. Kurt Rambis Probably the most infamous on the list, Rambis’ were less goggles but thick-rimmed glasses with a lanyard making for a very uncool look.
4. Rip Hamilton Not goggles or glasses, but Richard Hamilton went the full Monty by wearing a protective face shield game in and game out. Hard to believe that it was comfortable but after Rip broke his nose thrice in two seasons, he started wearing the face mask — which became a signature look — the rest of his career.
3. Horace Grant While most every other player that ends up wearing protective eye wear does so because of an in-game injury, Horace Grant started wearing his prescription goggles becase he got Laskik eye surgery after divulging that he was “legally blind.” Read his answer in this Reddit AMA
Horace Grant: I got them because I was legally blind. I wore ’em because of that for a few years. After a few years I got Lasik surgery, but I kept wearing them without the prescription lenses because I had grandparents and parents come up to me and thank me for wearing them. Their kids and grandkids would get made fun of by wearing protective eyewear playing sports, so I kept wearing them to help make it cool to wear goggles for the kids.
2. James Worthy Lots of Los Angeles Lakers on this list, right? Not sure what was in the water in LA, but James Worthy started wearing goggles after suffering a scratched cornea during a game in 1985. Worthy would never take them off and ended up wearing goggles the majority of their career.
1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the player that comes to mind when you talk about NBA players wearing goggles. Playing 20 seasons in the NBA, Kareem started wearing goggles after being poked in the eye during a game in 1975. That’s six years after getting into the league meaning that Abdul-Jabbar wore goggles for 14 seasons.