Heat's LeBron James switches to clear mask after NBA nixes black version
Heat forward LeBron James wore a clear mask to cover his broken nose when Miami defeated Orlando 112-98 on Saturday, after he previously sported a black, carbon fiber version when the Heat beat the Knicks on Thursday.
The four-time MVP made the color switch in response to a request from the NBA league office, which prefers that players wear see-through masks.
"It's not a league rule, but it's a league request," James said on Saturday, according to the Sun-Sentinel. "I didn't agree with their reasons, but I'll do it. ... I'm good with the NBA. We're good. I'm not against the NBA. ... For reasons they told me, it didn't make sense to me. But hey I'm just a player and I will abide."
James posted 20 points (on 8-for-12 shooting), nine rebounds, seven assists and four steals against the Magic.
The nose injury, which occurred when James took a blow to the face from Serge Ibaka while dunking, kept him on the sidelines when Miami beat Chicago on Monday. James showed no ill effects from the injury or his black mask, as he finished with a game-high 31 points (on 13-for-19 shooting), four rebounds and four assists in 37 minutes against the Knicks.
The Associated Press reported this week that James practiced in a mask, but that he found it to be uncomfortable. Over the last week, the Heat forward joked that he planned to wear a mask like Bane, the villain in Batman, or some other comic book character.
''I've been talking to Marvel Comics for the last couple of days, and DC Comics, to try to come up with one of the greatest masks of all time,'' James said. ''So we'll see what happens.''
James supplemented his black mask, which had a reflective and textured design, with a black headband that matched Miami's black alternate uniforms. Still, function was the first priority, even as his face protection blended in smoothly with his beard.
''It lessens the impact,'' James explained, according to the AP. ''You can still feel it, because the nose is still tender. But it definitely lessens the pain.''
Back in 2005, James wore a clear mask after breaking a bone in his cheek during his second season with the Cavaliers.
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant also wore both black and clear masks during the 2011-12 season, after he suffered a broken nose while taking a blow from Heat guard Dwyane Wade during the 2012 All-Star Game. The Lakers' guard eventually autographed his clear mask and auctioned it off to raise more than $67,000 for charity.