LeBron James Debuts Clear Mask After NBA Tells Him to Ditch Black One

Ben Leibowitz@BenLeboCorrespondent IIIFebruary 28, 2014

Bleacher Report

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, NBA fans, but it sounds like the superhero-style black mask worn by Miami Heat superstar LeBron James is going into retirement.

UPDATE: Saturday, March 1 at 8 p.m. ET by Joe Flynn

The clear mask is here!

Bleacher Report

James took the court with the new mask for Saturday's game against the Orlando Magic, but he still doesn't seem to know exactly why he can't use the black mask, per ESPN's Michael Wallace:

I don't know if I expected it, but I'm not surprised. It's not a league rule, but it's the league's request that you don't wear the black one. For the reasons that they told me, it didn't make sense to me. But hey, I'm just a player in this league and I will abide by this request -- I'm not even going to say rule, but request -- by the NBA.

---End of update---

Update: Friday, Feb. 28 at 10:40 p.m. ET by Joe Flynn

It appears that James will acquiesce to the league's wishes and go with the clear mask, per corroboration from both Bleacher Report's Ethan Skolnick and ESPN's Michael Wallace:

You can't fight city hall, and you can't fight the commissioner's office.

---End of update---

Original Text

Bleacher Report's Ethan Skolnick broke the news via Twitter that LBJ might wear a clear mask against the Orlando Magic on March 1, per the NBA's preference.

In an email, Skolnick explained why the league prefers a clear mask as opposed to a black one: "The reason the league prefers the 'clear' is so that opponents can see a player's eyes. They have set rules about goggles, which came into play with (Dwyane) Wade in New York in 2011."

Defenders already have enough trouble stopping James. If they're unable to read his eyes as a means of guessing where he plans to attack, guarding him would become even more impossible.

Still, this change will be a bummer for the Internet world. Twitter exploded with various comparisons, GIFs and Photoshop creations as King James donned the Zorro-esque mask in a 108-82 win against the New York Knicks Thursday night.

The four-time MVP suffered a broken nose on Feb. 20 against the Oklahoma City Thunder when Serge Ibaka inadvertently whacked him as he went up for a dunk. He left the court, bloodied, and subsequently missed the Feb. 23 matchup against the Chicago Bulls—a 93-79 Miami win.

At 29 years old, James is still playing at an MVP-caliber level. He's averaging 27 points, seven rebounds and 6.4 assists per game while sporting a player efficiency rating of 29.59—second in the league behind OKC's Kevin Durant.

It's odd that the league hasn't decided to ban black masks outright, especially if it prefers players to wear the clear ones. Many may argue that this draws parallels to the NFL's infamous standing as the "No Fun League" among critical fans.

If this is truly the end for LeBron's Caped Crusader look, at least it was fun while it lasted.