Kyrie Irving does not like being a masked man, but Irving will continue to wear his clear mask as he recovers from a facial fracture. Boston.com detailed the Celtics recent game against the Nets, noting Irving only wore the mask when he absolutely had to.
Throughout the game at the Barclays Center, Irving was spotted mask-free at nearly every possible opportunity. He kept it off during pregame warmups, took it off in between plays, and kept it off again during warmups following halftime. Playing with a minor facial fracture, Irving was wearing the mask as a precautionary measure but that didn’t stop him from constantly ripping it off.
A frustrated Irving can be seen in the video below throwing off the mask in disgust.
Irving had worn a black mask, but has switched to a clear mask noting it offers him better visibility on the court.
“The difference with the black mask is that they’re not getting the ball, because I couldn’t see,” Irving told Boston.com. “I could only see what’s in front of me. That black mask, it just takes away the vision. So I was like, ‘Oh, basket.’”
Regardless of which mask Irving wears, it still hinders his vision, and Irving explained to ESPN it is choosing the lesser of two evils.
“It’s almost like having somewhat foggy blinders on,” Irving told ESPN. “When I take off the mask, I can see everything. And when I have the mask on, I’m really dialed into what’s in front of me. My peripherals are a little cut off, up and down. It’s something to get used to.”
This is not the first time Irving has worn a mask. According to the Boston Globe, Irving sustained a broken bone in his jaw in 2012, and started off wearing the black mask because enough time had not elapsed after his fitting for the clear mask. Wearing the black mask, Irving had himself a night at Madison Square Garden as he dropped 41 points, five rebounds and five assists on the Knicks. Check out the NBA’s dramatic rendition of the highlights below.
In recent years many players have donned a mask as they recovered from a facial injury, but it is a relatively new development that has allowed players to wear the mask rather than missing extended time. According to NBA.com, Detroit area orthotist Jerry McHale first designed a mask for Bill Laimbeer in 1990. Jeremy Murray, the designer of former NBA player Richard “Rip” Hamilton’s mask, explained the development to NBA.com.
That [Bill Laimbeer mask] was so successful that I think it really became an acceptable treatment. Prior to that, if you broke your nose, you could run, you could shoot, you could jump – you could do all the things you were doing before – but you couldn’t get hit so you’d still be kept out for several months. Obviously in the NBA that’s not [acceptable], or even high school and college.
The mask became a signature part of Hamilton’s attire, and he became so comfortable wearing it he wore the mask even after his face had healed. Based on Irving’s desire to throw the mask off any chance he gets, don’t expect him to wear it any longer than he has to, but Celtics fans can take comfort knowing he has a history of performing well even while wearing the mask.