The world of basketball has many interesting and unanswered questions. One of them is why do NBA players wear masks. If yes, then we have the answers for you. Being a contact sport, the potential for face injuries is quite high. But there are many more reasons NBA players flaunt a mask.
If you are looking to find all things related to why do basketball players wear masks, you have landed at the right page. In this article, you will be provided with every information and detail you need to know about wearing masks in professional NBA matches. Additionally, you will also see a buying guide if you are looking for a mask yourself.
- 1 What is the history of wearing masks during NBA basketball matches?
- 2 Face Masks – an Added Advantage?
- 3 Reasons for wearing a mask
- 4 Who are some basketball players that have rocked the mask?
- 5 Buyer’s Guide
- 6 Frequently Asked Questions
- 7 Conclusion
What is the history of wearing masks during NBA basketball matches?
If you want to know why do NBA players wear masks, it is a good idea to study the origin of the practice. Once you understand the history of the basketball mask, you will be able to determine its value to the NBA players.
In the summer of 1990, the center of Detroit Pistons, Bill Laimbeer, was hit on the face by his teammate. Once the examination reports came in, it stated that Laimbeer would have to leave the game for a month. However, the team could not accept this since the Pistons were due for a match and his services were gravely required.
As an alternative, the team managed to end up with Gerald McHale, an orthotics from Detroit. Once he learned about the problem, he manufactured a mask that was tailored to fit Laimbeer’s face temporarily to cover up the injured portion of his face. The molded mask greatly pleased the team and Laimbeer himself.
As the time passed by, more and more professional basketball players started picking up masks to reduce the downtime of their injuries. Several famous NBA names like Tracy McGrady, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James enjoy using the mask occasionally. Considering the fact that professional basketball matches are filled with full-forced contacts, a lot of NBA players starting opting for masks to protect their faces. However, the officials soon brought forward some regulations regarding the masks.
Face Masks – an Added Advantage?
If you are an avid fan of LeBron James, you must know that he used to rock the court out with his black mask back in 2014. However, the officials asked him to replace the black mask with a transparent one. Technically speaking, there is very little, if any, advantage that comes with wearing a mask. In most of the cases, if the mask is not a perfect fit, it can obstruct the peripheral vision of the player wearing the mask and become a problem.
However, as highlighted by LeBron’s case, the mask does create a dark shadow around the eyes which can be a problem for the opponent players to read the eyes and guard the player with the mask. Since that day, basketball masks were manufactured with full transparency only.
For professional basketball players, wearing a mask is of great value especially when one considers the following reasons.
Reasons for wearing a mask
Masks serve a variety of purposes for basketball players. Let us take a look at a few of them and find out to what extent they serve to solve the problems.
Protection against an Injury
In the simplest terms, basketball players wear protective face masks to protect their faces from many potential injuries. Though basketball isn’t as contact intensive as other games like hockey or football, the players do end up getting badly hurt from time to time. Most common injuries include dislocated shoulders, knees, or muscle pulls. Very little attention is paid to face injuries even though they happen more often than you would think.
These kinds of injuries are not registered until they actually happen. Sustaining a broken nose, facial fracture, or a dislocated jaw is not an uncommon incident for basketball players. A face mask ensures that players stay protected from injuries and can, thus, play more freely without worrying about being hit in the face or suffering from a broken nose that could potentially limit their game.
To play while nursing a face injury
At times, basketball players also wear masks if they have already suffered an injury and do not want to get hurt again. Since such injuries tend to be a part of the game no matter what, there is no way of ensuring that a player won’t get hurt in the same area again unless they wear a mask.
To make a statement on the Court
Lastly, basketball players wear the mask because, let us face it, it makes them look cool. But more than that, it really makes a statement when they are on the court.
During the 1980s, professional basketball players with face injuries were left with two options – stay on the bench and wait for the time to pass and let the wounds heal; the second was to wear a one-size-fits-all mask that was either too tight or loose and risk an even worse injury.
However, today, these masks are more like a badge of honor, especially among young and upcoming players. It signifies that you have worked hard, did not miss out a single game, and tough enough to withstand the pain of the injury.
It distinguishes the players from the crowd and makes them look intimidating to the opponent. Players like Kobe Bryant wore their black masks in 2012 for this exact reason. At first he went with a clear one but quickly switched to a black one which made him look much more intimidating and clearly distinguished him from the others.
Who are some basketball players that have rocked the mask?
Here are some notable players who have worn masks at some point in their careers:
As mentioned above, LeBron James wore a black carbon-filter mask, but was soon replaced with a transparent one after the NBA requested him to do so. Even so, he managed to score 32 points on 13-of-19 shooting against New York Knicks on February 27th.
With a mask or not, there is no doubt that Kobe is going to score! But with a mask on, he shot up eight rebounds and 38 points against Sacramento Kings on 2nd March, 2012.
After Chris Paul was elbowed on the nose by Danny Green, San Antonio Spurs guard, on March 9th, 2012, Paul wore a face protection mask for several weeks to further protect his face from the injury.
Thanks to Richard Hamilton, basketball masks today are a thing of their own. Despite breaking his nose gravely during the NBA season from 2003 to 2004, Hamilton went on to lead Detroit Pistons’ championship team by scoring an average of 17.6 points per game. From then on, Hamilton wore a mask for the rest of his career.
After Kyrie Irving broke and injured his jaw, the mask affected him significantly. The point guard of Cavaliers managed to put on a show by scoring his career-high of 41 points, five assists and five rebounds against the Knicks in 2012.
After taking an accidental blow from Jake Voskuhl, former NBA player, in 2006 when he played for Houston Rockets, McGrady needed to wear a protective mask.
While it was for a short time span, Alonzo Mourning did wear a basketball mask in 1998 to protect his cheekbone that was fractured.
While being a member of the Dallas Mavericks, Jason Terry went on to play with a protective mask for the entire 2009-2010 season.
Most NBA players don’t have a problem purchasing a mask that is custom made for them. But this can be an expensive deal that not all players can undertake, especially the younger ones. That is why most players end up getting a generic mask.
Generic Masks vs Custom Masks
If you happen to get injured on your face, getting a generic mask can be in your best interest. They are way cheaper and readily available than their custom-made counterparts. Most people, especially high school athletes report no problem or discomfort wearing a generic mask during their games. You simply have to get the right size for yourself. There are also a lot of good options in the market to choose from that are affordable and should fit your needs.
Custom masks on the other hand are ideal for the best fit and visibility. The only downside with them is that it can take some time for them before they are finished. Firstly, you would have to have your face dimensions measured by the Orthotist. Thereafter, you would have to wait for some time before the product is finished. This delay can mean missing out on a few games which is the real reason why anyone would want to get a face mask in the first place.
Strength and Durability
When you’re out in the market for a generic mask, ensure that it is strong and durable. You wouldn’t want the mask being dented by hands, elbows, and the basketball itself. Additionally, it should be durable enough to last you through many games. If your mask is strong enough, you can play confidently knowing that your mask won’t fail you.
Regardless of which mask you get, it is going to affect your vision in some way or another. Most masks nowadays are made of a clear, transparent plastic and have wide eye openings to ensure that your vision isn’t obstructed much.
Nevertheless, you are always going to feel and see the mask on your face and your peripheral vision is going to be disrupted to a certain degree. This cannot be avoided. However, you would want to get a mask that minimizes these issues and ensures that you are able to see as much as possible.
This is one of the primary factors when considering a mask. Any add on, such as a mask, should ideally be so comfortable that you forget that it is even there. Though it’s probably not going to happen, there are some masks that are much more comfortable than the others. Factors such as how well they mold to your face, padding for impact, and air holes for ventilation – all come together to determine how comfortable the mask is going to feel.
Stability and Security
Your mask needs to stay on your face at all costs. If it doesn’t, it can’t protect you well. You also don’t want your mask to move around on your face once it is aligned. Such things can be very comfortable and make you conscious of the mask and take your focus off your game. A mask that straps securely and holds in place for the duration of the game is ideal.
Useful Tips and Resources
Though there are various quality products in the market to choose from that provide proper ventilation and good vision, there are other things to consider as well. For instance, if you are going to play an intense match, there is going to be some fogging of the mask. If this becomes a problem, you may want to get an anti-fogging mask to solve the issue.
Also, some masks may not have padding on the inside. To get some internal support, you can look for silicon padding kits that can help you get more comfort and keep you from sustaining additional injuries.
Frequently Asked Questions
In this section, we answer some of the commonly asked questions regarding face masks for basketball players.
Q: What are the benefits of wearing masks in basketball?
A: In basketball, wearing a mask can protect the player from injuries, protect existing injuries, and even make the player look quite cool and intimidating. The overall effect of the mask on the game depends on the mask that is worn and the attitude of the player.
Q: What impact do masks have on the player’s game?
A: Wearing masks can both impede and improve player performance. At the same time it is important to note that the performance is not solely dependent on the mask itself and has much more to do with the player’s abilities. More often than not wearing the mask either keeps the performance the same or decreases it as it can lead to poor visibility and discomfort.
On the other hand, wearing a mask to get through one’s injuries and adversities and continuing to play the game gives the player a psychological confidence and allows them to step up their game.
Q: What are some other face protection devices?
A: A player may not always need a full face mask, depending on the where the injury is located on the face. For eye protection, for instance, there are many products such as goggles that can be used that are not as bulky as the face mask and are much more comfortable.
The goggles also tend to come in various range and sizes. These are also designed specifically to protect your eyes and the areas around it. Compared to face masks, goggles tend to stay in place much better and don’t easily come off. However, the disadvantage that they share with masks is that they do tend to obstruct your vision, especially peripheral vision, and have the capacity of impeding your game.
Q: What is a basketball face mask made of?
A: Most of the basketball face masks are made from strong, high impact plastic to provide protection from additional impacts while maintaining proper visibility. Some of the better options that are found in the market are crack and shatterproof and crafted to ensure that are not obtrusive. Many of them are also made of black carbon fiber which was worn by LeBron James.
Injuries are a part and parcel of contact sports such as basketball. But with preventive measures these can be avoided. For basketball players (or other athletes, in general), face masks is a must-have for you if you want an extra layer of protection during the game. Also, if you already have a cheekbone injury or broken nose, they can come in especially handy.
Face masks are practical and functional options that will give you safety, while making you look cool during the game as well. You have a lot of options to choose from, be they generic or custom-made. If you now know why do NBA players wear masks, do make sure that you share this article with your basketball enthusiast friends. If you have additional queries regarding this issue, do let us know in the comment section below. We would love to shed light on the issue.
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