LeBron James led the Miami Heat to a comeback win over the San Antonio Spurs in Game 6, and he did it without his headband, a part of his wardrobe that he's been in love with for his entire NBA career.
For whatever reason, many people have an opinion on whether a player should wear a headband or not. There's a debate over whether it hinders vision and distracts players when they can see it out of the corner of their eyes.
However, if a player has grown up wearing a headband, there's no reason to think it would be a hindrance at the professional level. Once you're used to a headband, you're used to it.
Headbands are a personal preference, so criticism doesn't really make sense.
When it comes to LeBron, the headband is a part of his persona. Maybe it's his much-talked about receding hairline, but without that strap of cloth around his forehead, he looks strange, and suddenly there's a storyline.
Some players are defined by their accessories, whether it be Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's goggles or Allen Iverson's shooting sleeve. Over time, James has become routinely identified by that headband, although that wasn't always the case.
The most iconic picture of LeBron from his high school days was of him wearing a headband on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
That picture was taken when he was a junior in high school, a time when James' national popularity was beginning to soar.
However, if you go back a year to his sophomore season when he was 16 years old, the headband was not yet in play.
For more confirmation, the stat sheets from LeBron's high school days show him wearing a headband for his junior and senior seasons but not his freshman and sophomore years.
Moving forward, James was rarely spotted without a headband for the next 12 years, and when he was, he looked like a completely different person.
Perhaps one of the reasons for his sudden addition of the headband was his slowly-receding hairline.
Of course, there's also a chance that he looked up to guys like Allen Iverson and Paul Pierce, who were rocking headbands in the early 2000s.
Over the years, LeBron's headband rose with his hairline and even thickened a bit, but it never came off purposefully.
There might also be a slight advantage to rocking a strip of cloth around your head. When an opponent gives you a wallop and sends the headband flying, referees are more easily persuaded to call a foul.
At this point, it seems far too late for James to make any kind of drastic decisions with his appearance. He's already changed his number once, and removing an identifying accessory would be an equally drastic change.
Any change will have to wait at least until next season; LeBron's already said he's wearing the headband in Game 7.
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