On Thursday, NBA star LeBron James looked more like Batman than a basketball player —
sporting a black, carbon fiber facemask to protect his recently broken nose. (Via Instagram / LeBron James)
But for Saturday's game, James swapped out the facemask for a more traditional clear one per NBA request. (Via Sports Illustrated)
But why? A black mask isn't against league rules and, on the surface, it didn't appear to give LeBron a competitive advantage. But, in fact, no one seems to know exactly why. Not even LeBron.
He told media after the game, "It's not a league rule, but it's the league's request that you don't wear the black one. For the reasons that they told me, it didn't make sense to me. But hey, I'm just a player in this league and I will abide by this request -- I'm not even going to say rule, but request -- by the NBA." (Via ESPN)
LeBron declined to go into further details about his meeting with the league and the NBA hasn't come out about the official reason for the mask-swap request.
But a writer for Bleacher Report is one of few with a theory, suggesting it might have something to do with opponents being able to read James' eyes. "The reason the league prefers the 'clear' is so that opponents can see a player's eyes. They have set rules about goggles, which came into play with (Dwyane) Wade in New York in 2011."
That's referring to a 2011 Heat - Knicks game where Wade wore tinted sunglasses to help with his post game migraines. The leagued banned those afterwards, saying the tint was too dark and defenders couldn't see his eyes, thus giving him a competitive advantage. (Via CBS Sports)
And, as the Cleveland Plain Dealer points out, the NBA has asked players to switch masks before like last year when Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving wore a black one after breaking a bone in his face. That, however, wasn't as highly publicized.
James says part of the reason he picked the black mask is because it went with the Heat's black, throwback uniforms they wore Thursday. (Via NESN)
A clear-masked Lebron scored 20 points and grabbed 9 rebounds in Saturday's game against the Magic. It looks like, for now, the black mask has now been put to rest for good.
Sorry Chris Bosh. (Via Instagram / Chris Bosh)