LeBron James put on a black mask tonight, and played like a…caped crusader. pic.twitter.com/0SpoHsdZcU
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) February 28, 2014
LeBron James, who had broken his nose during a drive to the hoop against the Oklahoma City Thunder just over a week ago, returned to the court with the Miami Heat to face the New York Knicks in what was the first game of TNT’s Thursday Double Header. Like other notable NBA players, including Kobe Bryant, Kyrie Irving, and Rip Hamilton, James wore a protective mask during his return to the court.
Unlike those other players, though, LeBron did it in a carbon-fiber mask that drew comparisons to Batman. The mask, which became the focal point of the match once it became clear that the Heat were running away with the game (they would beat the Knicks 108-82), was a clear step forward from the one James had donned back in 2005.
Masked Man 2.0: LeBron James averaged 26.4 PPG in 16 games while wearing a protective mask during 2004-05 season. pic.twitter.com/lkYMnuNiw4
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) February 27, 2014
The mask even elicited some post-game shenanigans from LeBron’s teammates, with power forward Chris Bosh Gotham-ing it up after the game. Shane Battier, noted favorite of the basketball intelligensia for doing all the right things on the basketball court as well as his quick wit, told ESPN that, “I’d expect nothing less from him — fashion-forward, cutting-edge Renaissance man that LeBron is. I don’t think that it will inspire people to go out there and break their nose. But if you’re going to do it, it can look kind of cool. Only LeBron can make breaking your nose look cool.”
James finished the game with 33 points (on 13-19 shooting), 4 rebounds, and 4 assists. The game was so lopsided toward the end that TNT began to broadcast the Raptors/Wizards game instead, which reached triple-overtime and had a final score of 134-129. JR Smith, last season’s 6th Man of the Year and shooting guard for the New York Knicks, was also wearing a mask during the game to protect a fractured cheekbone.