Kobe Bryant and the 9 Best Masked Athletes of All Time

Sammy Sucu@oblivion08Senior Analyst IMarch 5, 2012

Kobe Bryant and the 9 Best Masked Athletes of All Time

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    There are athletes who wear a mask and fail and then there are athletes who wear masks and succeed. 

    Athletes have been using masks to protect their faces because of facial injury for quite some time now. Some athletes shield their face because they do not want the defense to see the look in their eyes. Other athletes wear a mask on their face because of heritage or because their face is too disfigured to be seen by the public.

    Regardless of the purpose of the mask, these ten athletes have found to a way to find success while donning a mask—regardless of how long they wear the mask for. 

Richard Hamilton

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    Richard Hamilton was only supposed to wear the mask for a short period of time, but instead, he became the mask. 

    In order to play in the 2004 Playoffs, Hamilton had to wear the mask because of facial reconstructive surgeries. If Hamilton did not wear the mask, he would have aggravated his nasal injuries and have to sit out for a extended period of time. 

    Ever since Hamilton put the mask on, he has not found the need to take it off. Hamilton has gone as far as calling the mask his "good luck charm."

    Hamilton has been a great player his entire career and he continued to succeed while wearing a mask.

LaDainian Tomlinson

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    Although LaDainian Tomlinson is not really wearing a mask, a helmet with the darkest tint of black is the closest a football player can get to wearing a mask. 

    L.T. has shielded his eyes away from defenses because he wants to make sure that no one knows what he is thinking or where he is planning on running.

    Even with a mask on, Tomlinson has never been known to turn the ball over, either. He always has a good grip on the ball and a good grip on where he needs to go next in order to keep a play moving. With the dark tint covering his face it is tough for anyone to contain him. 

    Tomlinson has been one of the best running backs in NFL history and he did with his face shielded from the world. 

Rey Mysterio

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    Rey Mysterio is the true definition of an underdog and true definition of the masked athlete.  

    Mysterio has been one of the most successful wrestlers in the WWE history. Always considered the underdog, Mysterio found a way to consistently win matches and become a popular figure in wrestling history.

    His mask is not used for protection, rather to respresent his Mexican wrestling heritage. Mysterio comes from a elite group of Luchadores, a professional Mexican wrestler group, and has continued the tradition throughout his entire career. Mysterio has refused to let anyone take his mask off because it will destroy his heritage. 

    Whether you love him or you hate him, Rey Mysterio has made the mask, and his Mexican heritage, a big part of professional wrestling. 

LeBron James

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    LeBron James had to wear a mask because of a foul to the face from Dikembe Mutombo during the 2005 season. Scoring around 25 points a game, going to and winning in his first All-Star appearance, 'Bron did not stop shining while wearing a mask.

    Although LeBron temporarily wore the mask while playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2005, it is still right to mention him with the best athletes to ever wear a mask. 

Kane

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    Through hell, fire, and brimstone, Kane has donned a mask that has struck fear in the eyes of his opposition. 

    Kane has worn different styles of masks, but the results have always been the same—triumph. Kane has consistently driven his opponents to the edge because of fear from his mask and what lies behind it.

    Once Kane finally took his mask off, he still continued to obliterate his opponents—but something did not seem right. When he finally put the mask back on, Kane decided to attack the WWE's biggest superstar—John Cena. Kane continued to dominate Cena and strike fear into him.

    Kane used the mask to his advantage, and it worked. No other athlete has ever used the mask to their advantage the way Kane has. 

Kobe Bryant

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    The Phantom of the Mamba. 

    Kobe Bryant was forced to wear a mask because of a broken nose caused by Dwyane Wade during the 2012 NBA All-Star game. Although Kobe has been diagnosed with a concussion and a fractured nose, he has found a way to keep playing at a high level. Kobe has scored over 30 points in the three games he played with the mask on.

    Against the Miami Heat, Kobe made sure to exact revenge on Wade for being the sole reason as to why the Black Mamba has to wear the mask. Striking fear into Wade, Kobe led his team to victory by scoring 33 points. 

    It is safe to say that whether Kobe can play at a high level regardless of what is on his face. 

Bill Laimbeer

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    Bill Laimbeer wore a mask because of the constant problems he had with getting hit in the face as a result of his physical play.

    Laimbeer was one of the toughest players in sports history.

    He would always get physical with his opponents and make sure that they would affect the chances at winning a game. As a result of his physical play, Laimbeer suffered injuries to his nose and face.

    Bill Laimbeer needed to wear the mask in order to protect himself, but his intense level of play never stopped. 

Alonzo Mourning

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    Alonzo Mourning was one of the better centers in the NBA during the "era of the center." Alonzo had a strong need for the mask because of the high level of physical play in the 1998 season. 

    Alonzo Mourning's time with the mask was a brief one, but putting him on this list is completely necessary.  

Brandon Williams

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    Dunununununununununu..BATMAN! 

    Seeing as Williams only played 18 games, he may not have the talent to defeat Kobe Bryant in a one-on-one match, but, his mask is ten times better than Kobe's. 

    Brandon Williams never made the Hall of Fame, but, if there was a mask hall of fame, it would not only include Williams' mask, it would likely be named after him. 

Zydrunas Ilgauskas

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    During the 2004 NBA season, Zydrunas Ilgauskas was forced to wear a mask because of an injury to his nose. 

    The NBA must have run out of regular masks, so they decided to ask Hannibal Lecter to put a mask together for Ilgauskas to play with. Remember how we decided that Brandon Williams had the best mask in NBA history?

    Ilgauskas definitely takes the cake for the worst mask of all time. 

    Although I never had the honor to defend Ilgauskas, I would have been definitely had a harder time defending him that eerily disturbing mask on.