Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving wore a black protective mask and then proceeded to ball out at Madison Square Garden on Saturday, Dec. 15, dropping a career-high 41 points against the New York Knicks in a 103-102 loss.
His performance almost helped knock off the Knicks at home for the first time this season and nearly gave the Cavs their second straight upset win.
It was also the most points scored by a player while wearing a mask since Kobe Bryant donned the infamous accessory during the 2011-12 campaign.
Chris Paul also got into the action last season, joining that growing list of NBA superstars to wear the protective and allegedly restrictive accessory.
Irving's not the only Cavs player currently wearing one. Forward Tristan Thompson and center Tyler Zeller are also masked men, making the Cleveland trio one of a kind.
After Irving’s performance at MSG, there was clearly nothing restrictive about the mask he says makes him look like “the Dark Knight,” according to Fred Kerber of the New York Post (via Twitter):
Kerber (@FredKerber) December 16, 2012
Richard “Rip” Hamilton got so used to wearing one he decided to keep it around. Hamilton broke his nose twice during the 2003-04 season and donned the mask to protect himself. He led the Detroit Pistons in scoring on their NBA title run.
He had a superhero comparison for his mask as well.
"It's like my [Superman] cape. At first it was hot and sweaty and I didn't like it, but now it's like my cape,” Hamilton said, according to Todd Zuniga of 1Up.com.
Maybe the youngster should keep the mask handy. The 5-20 Cavaliers could certainly use some explosiveness on offense from their best player.
Whatever he does, the aggressiveness he showed while playing from behind the mask was a welcome sight for a Cavaliers squad that fails to consistently put up points on a nightly basis.
Without Irving, they have been even worse.
Seventeen of Irving's 41 points came in the fourth quarter, but the game came down to free throws by Anderson Varejao. The Cavs' big man drained the first but his second attempt rattled out and the Cavs lost by one despite the heroic efforts of their masked man.
With Irving in the lineup, Cleveland is 3-11 and 2-9 without him.
While he's wearing a mask, the Cavs are 0-1. That could change quickly if Irving keeps it on and its mysterious ways continue.