The league's ban was precipitated by a superstar—LeBron James. He had to wear a mask in the next game against the Knicks to protect himself. To preserve the viewing enjoyment of the spectators, the NBA also prohibited James from wearing a black mask throughout the game. Thus, the world's most popular sport invented by Americans is now being played with one hand tied behind your back.
Masks have been used in sports since the early 1900s. A baseball player might wear a mask to protect his face when he hits home runs. A boxer might wear a mask to protect his punches. Until 2007, basketball players didn't wear masks because they thought it took away from the "grace and beauty" of the game.
That all changed when LeBron James entered the league. From that point on, every other player wanted to be like Lebron and use a mask to protect themselves. In today's NBA, you will rarely see a player without a mask on. Some players wear them all the time, others only use them during big games or when they're hurt. But always within sight of the fans, some guy in a mask is always able to put up some crazy stats. It's amazing how many things people will pay money to see.
As well-known as Lebron is now, at first he wasn't even that good. When he first came into the league, everyone hated him.
Many NBA stars have used black masks during games, however the NBA eventually decided to prohibit players from wearing black masks, forcing many NBA players to wear transparent masks.
In fact, several players have been fined for wearing masks during play. The first player penalized for doing so was Mookie Blaylock of the Portland Trail Blazers in 1998. He was called for a flagrant foul 2 for throwing down his mask after making a shot. Since then, all players (with one exception) have been banned from wearing masks during play.
The only current player allowed to wear a mask is Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks. His wife, Ann, died in a car accident in 1995 at the age of 36 years old. Since then, he wears a mask to honor her memory.
Nowitzki is the only player who has been permitted to wear a mask since the rule was introduced in 1998. Before that time, several other players wore masks during games, including Michael Jordan and David Robinson.
Black masks were originally designed by Dr. Robert Funk to help athletes breathe more easily when diving into water. They are now used as fashion accessories by basketball players.
NBA players wear masks to protect their faces from inadvertent impacts and nudges that might worsen an underlying facial problem. In a league as rough as the NBA, it's all too easy to get smacked in the face when fighting for rebounds underneath the basket or driving to the basket. Worse yet is if a player is hit in the face while he's on the ground; that's when they need a face mask the most.
There are two types of masks used by NBA players: protective masks and mascot masks. Both are designed to protect the player's face from injury. Masks can also help players avoid getting ejected from a game for violating rules regarding hands-on-heads gestures during play. A mask does not alter a player's ability to handle a ball or shoot free throws.
Protective masks are worn by players who need extra protection against blows to the head. These masks are available in different sizes and shapes depending on which part of the player's face needs the most protection. For example, a player who suffers from nosebleeds may be given a mask with a hole cut out of its center so that blood cannot gush onto the floor during games.
Mascot masks are worn by players who represent the team with whom they play.
LeBron James has been advised that he must wear a transparent protective face mask after the NBA determined that the black version he wore against the New York Knicks violated the league's standards. Because the black version fit him better, the 29-year-old disputed the decision to make him swap masks. "It was very hard," James said about having to give up his new favorite piece of equipment. "But I understand why they did it and I respect their opinion."
The decision came just over a week after James announced that he would be wearing a mask during all games this season in an effort to protect himself from the coronavirus. The four-time MVP had previously worn a mask during some games last season when concerns about the COVID-19 virus began to rise.
James said he was willing to put himself at risk for the team by playing through pain or illness. He also noted that many of his teammates were going to great lengths to keep themselves healthy, including testing positive for the coronavirus.
"We all have different opinions on what we want to do with our lives," James said. "Some people believe that if you don't do anything then you're wasting your time here on earth. Some people believe that you should live your life to the fullest and not worry about what happens after you die.