Why Do NBA Players Wear Masks? Do They Have To?

You’ve surely seen at least one basketball mask game by now, Why Do some NBA Players Wear Masks?

But the main question is: Why do NBA players wear masks?

Let’s demystify the masks and goggles, who wears them and why.

Five Reasons Why Do NBA Players Wear Masks?

The number one reason NBA players wear masks is for protection. Wearing a face mask protects the player’s face from accidental hits.

For example, there is always a good chance something can go wrong in a rebounding battle or off the ball. There are other reasons why players decide to wear masks, though.

Here are the 5 most common reasons for wearing NBA masks on the court.

Playing With Face Injuries

Facial injuries are nothing new for players playing in one of the largest sports leagues in the world. That’s why basketball players wear masks — to protect themselves from further injury.

Common facial injuries include fractures of the cheekbone, orbital bone, cheekbone, or jawbone.

For Protection

Players who are injured but unable to play will wear masks to prevent further injury.

While some players donned masks without medical advice, they did so purely for their own protection – as dodging elbows, hands and knees is not an easy task when players are at full strength.

A Player’s Signature

All players try to be as unique as possible. For some basketball players, it’s a different hair color; for others, wristbands, arm/leg wraps, etc. And some people will wear masks on the court.

Protecting a Broken Nose

As you might think, breaking your nose while playing with NBA superstars is not an impossible task.

The player with the broken nose agreed to wear a mask to prevent injuries that kept them away from basketball for extended periods of time.

While masks may seem uncomfortable, they can help speed up the healing process of a broken nose or other facial injury.

make a statement in court

The face coverings worn by NBA players aren’t always just for protection. Some players wear it to make a statement on the pitch, i.e. to stand out from the crowd.

This works for fans, because they can’t help but react to such statements.

For example, let’s revisit the 2012 season when Kobe showed up wearing a custom black face mask.

No, that wasn’t Batman; instead, the Black Masked Mamba stole the show in 2012.

The Most Famous NBA Players Who Have Worn Masks

These are the names of some NBA superstars who had to wear masks.

Russel Westbrook

The 9-time NBA All-Star donned a mask for the first time (2015) during a game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Philadelphia 76ers.

Russell suffered a fractured cheekbone during the Oklahoma City Thunder’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers (March 2015). The reason was that his teammate Andre Robinson accidentally hit him in the face with a knee.

Fortunately, the mask didn’t stop Westbrook from scoring a career-high 49 points in one game.

Kobe Bryant

One of the NBA’s biggest legends, Kobe Bryant, had to wear a mask because of a broken nose.

In the NBA All-Star Game (2012), Bryant was hit in the face by Wade during the game, resulting in a broken nose. But even a nosebleed didn’t stop Bryant from leading the Western Conference to victory (152 points).

Bryant wore a mask against the Minnesota Timberwolves to prevent further injuries. However, the mask didn’t stop him from scoring 31 points and maintaining his high level of play.

LeBron James

One of the most decorated NBA players, LeBron had to wear a mask on two separate occasions in 2005 (Cavs) and 2014 (Heat).

During the Cleveland Cavaliers’ game against the Houston Rockets, Dikembe Mutombo fouled him so hard that he fractured a cheekbone and wore a see-through mask.

The real boom, however, came in 2014 when he showed up in a custom black mask for a game between the Miami Heat and the New York Knicks. The player had to wear a mask to avoid more serious injuries, as Ibaka’s blow to the face had broken his nose.

Kyrie Irving

Irving also wore a mask twice due to injuries. He first wore a mask after breaking his jaw in a Cleveland Cavaliers game against the Milwaukee Bucks (2012).

So, the Knicks saw a different Irving in an all-black mask — like he stepped out of an action movie. Interestingly, Irving scored his all-time high 41 points in a game despite the Cavaliers loss.

Then, in 2019, during a scrimmage with teammates on the Brooklyn Nets, Irving was hit in the face with an elbow, fractured his face.

Joel Embiid

76ers center Embiid and his teammate Fultz bumped their heads against the Knicks (2018).

However, Joel had to undergo surgery to repair an orbital fracture around his left eye socket. But his appearance coincided with the 2018 NBA playoffs, wearing a high-profile dynamic mask on his face.

Where Can You Buy Basketball Masks?

Basketball face masks can be easily purchased from a number of manufacturers. However, our research shows that the following face mask manufacturers are among the most reliable face mask manufacturers on the market today.

MUELLER Sports Medicine Face Guard

MUELLER masks protect against multiple facial injuries (nasal, maxillary, orbital and cheekbones). Plus, their masks are great for a variety of sports (football, baseball, etc.), not just basketball.

According to their customer reviews, the mask should fit well and keep you comfortable while you recover and play. So the level of comfort they provide depends on the material used — in this case, shatterproof medical-grade polycarbonate.

Additionally, the mask offers increased clarity and adjustable straps to eliminate shifting. In addition to the face shield, you also get XPE foam padding for added protection.

Qiancheng Nose Guard Face Shield

The QianCheng Nasal Guard/Mask is a slip-on protective device made of black silicone. This particular size (LX – view link) is larger, if you need a mask in another size we recommend you follow their steps before ordering.

The most reliable measurement is the width of the cheekbones. The protective face shield comes with a fully adjustable safety strap that prevents movement while on the move.

Why Do NBA Players Wear Goggles?

In addition to masks, NBA players also wear goggles as a protective accessory.

Generally speaking, basketball is a high-contact sport. As a result, eye injuries such as poke wounds are very frequent. There are also prescription goggles that give players who need them a wider field of vision, avoiding uncomfortable lenses.

And, when there’s a chance to drink champagne, players like to wear goggles. They wear them not only to keep the corks from hitting their eyes, but also to keep the champagne from getting in their eyes.

  • Champagne is known to cause severe eye irritation.

These are the names of some of the best players in the NBA who have worn goggles throughout their careers.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Abdul-Jabbar may be the first player to bring goggles to an NBA basketball court. In 1968, as a Cal player, Kareem scraped his cornea during a game, so he started wearing goggles just in case.

It happened again in 1974, against the Milwaukee Bucks, when Abdul-Jabbar decided not to risk permanent blindness, so the goggles became his trademark

Horace Grant

Horace, one of the heaviest basketball players, reached for his goggles not because of an injury but because he was nearsighted. Yet even after Lasik’s eye surgery, he decided to stick with prescription goggles.

Grant wears them because of their impact on young children across the globe. Most kids were teased for needing protective sports glasses, so Horace became their role model.

Tony Parker

After Parker found himself out of control one night in New York in 2012, he embraced wearing goggles. During the scuffle at the club, shards of glass from a shattered bottle penetrated his eye, causing an injury that required surgery.

The Suns Antonio point guard had Bollé design his stylish black-frame goggles to protect his eyesight. Once he got the goggles, Parker represented his country France in the Olympics (2012).

Amar’e Stoudemire

The former basketball star Stoudemire donned the goggles after tearing his iris during practice with the Phoenix Suns during the 2008-09 season.

After the injury, Amar thought he was blind, but soon, he regained his sight, and after a month of rest, he put on the goggles again. However, due to the discomfort they caused him, he stopped using them until his second eye injury.

That same season, El Thornton (Los Angeles Clippers) accidentally poked him in the eye, causing him to be seriously injured. Stoudemire ended up in a 22-hour surgery to reattach his retina to the eye. After that, he never raced without goggles.


Athletes turn to medical sports protective accessories such as face shields, nasal guards or (prescription) goggles for extra protection.

However, before purchasing any protective accessories, it is best to test different products until you find the right one, as some can cause real discomfort.


And, if there is a current injury, masks help the recovery process not be interrupted, thereby preventing basketball players from missing games or entire seasons.

Do masks impact the performance of players?

it depends. Custom masks work better than generic masks because they fit perfectly on the player’s face.

For example, Kyrie Irving (2017) had problems with peripheral vision while wearing a black mask. Meanwhile, Bryant and Westbrook have no problem scoring high scoring averages (30 per game) while wearing masks.

What are the benefits of wearing a mask?

The main benefit of NBA players wearing masks is to protect themselves. Face shields minimize impact and protect the entire face.

Leave a Comment