The number of professional athletes consuming CBD products has risen significantly in recent times. Athletes who use CBD believe it may help them recover and be in the right frame of mind for games. The National Basketball Association (NBA) has not been left behind on the call for the legalization of the use of CBD among its athletes. This article will look at how NBA players use CBD and whether it can be helpful to their performance.

What You Need to Know About CBD

Before delving into the perceived benefits of CBD in the NBA, it is important to understand what CBD is. CBD, short for cannabidiol, is one of the cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. CBD can be extracted from either marijuana or hemp plants but is more pronounced in the hemp plant than the marijuana plant. Marijuana has higher levels of THC, the cannabinoid responsible for the high feeling. The hemp plant typically contains less than a 0.3% concentration of THC.

The use of CBD has been legalized across many states in the United States. It is believed by many that the compound could provide several benefits to users. However, research to ascertain these perceived benefits are yet to be completed. As such, not enough hard evidence has been gathered yet to definitively support the claim that CBD is beneficial.

The Use of CBD in the NBA

Despite the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) removing CBD from the list of banned substances for athletes, it remains banned by the NBA. Since 1999, the NBA has enforced a blanket ban on the use of cannabis. Players undergo four random drug tests every year, and those who test positive for any banned substance must comply with treatment and subsequent increased testing frequency. The tests are conducted during the NBA season, and any test that exceeds the 15 ng/ml threshold is declared positive so the player may get suspended. It is still, however, not clear whether CBD is banned by the NBA.

CBD, when used as an isolate or in products containing less than 0.3% levels of THC, is legal across most states, and it is unlikely that players will find themselves in violation of the law for using CBD products. It is hoped that as more research is done on the cannabinoid, the NBA will relax its rules regarding CBD’s use by NBA players.

The BIG3 league, a basketball league founded by artist Ice Cube and entertainer Jeff Kwatinetz, already allows the use of CBD products by its players. It is the first professional sports league to legalize the use of CBD products whether in-competition or off-season. High-profile basketball players such as Al Harrington and Lamar Odom have publicly acknowledged using CBD products for several reasons. The league, which is in its third season, is even sponsored by a CBD company.

Former NBA commissioner David Stern has called for CBD to be removed from the league’s list of banned substances. He also called for the association to allow the use of medical marijuana by the players. Stern said that he believes CBD products could be the best alternative to pain medications used by NBA players which often result in opioid addiction.

NBA players and coaches who have called for the legalization of CBD use by players argue that it does not violate the World Anti-Doping Code. The code states that any substance that has the potential of enhancing an athlete’s performance, compromising their health, or generally being a violation of the spirit of the sport is outlawed. Celtics legend and NBA analyst Paul Pierce is among the list of high-profile people within the NBA who have endorsed the use of CBD in the NBA. Former NBA player Matt Barnes has also discussed routinely using CBD products.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has said that the association is open to learning about CBD and, if scientifically-backed research on its benefits to players is made available, allowing its use in the NBA.

Potential Benefits of CBD for NBA players

Each NBA team plays a total of 82 regular season games. This is a very tight schedule that demands a high level of physical and emotional well-being. The off-court training, running up and down the court during games, and the occasional collision can all result in injuries to the players. Body aches, bruises, pain, sprains, and strains are a common occurrence among NBA players. They need a fitness regimen that can help them recover quickly and be in their best condition for games. They need to stay in shape.

It is believed by some that CBD products could be the solution they have been looking for. Some of the conditions for which basketball players use CBD include the following:


The body already produces its own phytocannabinoids in the endocannabinoid system, which are similar to CBD and bind to the CB1 and CB2 receptors to maintain homeostasis. CB1 receptors are more common in the central nervous system while CB2 receptors are mostly found in the immune system. These cannabinoids help in reducing inflammation by binding to CB2 receptors and producing an anti-inflammatory effect. CBD can act as an additional source of cannabinoids for the body. While the FDA hasn’t yet approved CBD for these purposes, research is underway to determine if it might be able to aid inflammation.


It is very important for NBA players to have plenty of rest between training sessions and games since rest helps the body repair itself and recover. Those who have been advocating for the use of CBD in the NBA argue that it can help players rest better because of its possible calming effects. While the FDA hasn’t yet approved CBD for these purposes, research is underway to determine if it might be able to speed recovery.

Weight Maintenance

Basketball is a very physical sport, so players always need to be fit. However, there are those who struggle with eating disorders or tend to overeat. Some studies have explored the hypothesis that CBD can help with weight management by suppressing the appetite and preventing players from overindulging. However, conclusive research is yet to be conducted.

Mental Focus

Whether in training or a game situation, NBA players need to fully focus to not only be able to give optimal performance, but also to avoid injuries. However, the demanding nature of the game can lead to mental challenges such as anxiety and depression which can affect player focus. Even though research on the benefits of CBD to mental health are still in the initial stages, many people believe that CBD could help players deal with issues such as anxiety.

Anti-doping Concerns for NBA Players Arising From the Use of CBD

Most anti-doping tests focus on identifying THC levels in the system. As a result, CBD can go undetected during a drug test. However, the use of CBD products by NBA players should be approached with caution. CBD could become contaminated with banned substances, or the labeling on the product may indicate lower amounts of THC and other cannabinoids than are actually in the product. Consumption of such contaminated or mislabeled CBD products could result in a failed drug test.

Before starting the consumption of CBD products, it is advisable for NBA players to consult health professionals, nutritionists, and the anti-doping regulatory body to be on the safe side. Engaging health professionals and nutritionists will help players determine what CBD dosage they need to take for optimal results. They should also carefully research CBD products before making a purchase to ensure they don’t contain more than the allowable levels of banned substances.

Even as CBD continues to grow in popularity among NBA players, many are understandably wary about finding themselves on the wrong side of the guidelines. Dozens of NBA players have already tested positive for banned substances. This has not only affected their careers but their social standing as well, so they would not want to unnecessarily jeopardize themselves further. Until the association reviews its standing on the use of CBD, it is better to tread cautiously.


Research is being conducted to investigate the perceived health benefits of CBD. There is a likelihood that the NBA, and other professional sports associations, will review their stance concerning the use of CBD as it grows in popularity. If conclusive, positive scientific research is provided, the league will likely choose to allow its use. Even though CBD is not on the list of banned substances for both WADA and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, it is still prohibited by the NBA so players need to remain cautious. 

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