Why do Basketball Players Wear Masks?

When it comes to contact sports like football, basketball, or rugby, it is natural for players to be adorned with protective gear to prevent injuries. Everyone wears some of these accessories while others are more of an optional protection you can get.

Masks worn by basketball players are of the latter type. If you have noticed individual players wearing this mask while others choose not to then you are in the right place to find out the reasoning behind it.

When did the masks first make their appearance in basketball?

One incident in the basketball court introduced us to added protection during the game. In the offseason game of the summer of 1990, Bill Laimbeer from Detroit Pistons was hit in the face by a teammate. Perhaps the most important player of the team Pistons could not afford to lose him.

Luckily an orthotist named Gerald McHale invented an accessory that would save a lot of players from an off-time and prevent the need of off-time for many others. He decided to design a molded mask used to treat burn scars and made sure it fitted Bill Laimbeer well. The result was an injured player playing like he wasn’t injured in the first place.

From then onwards, several players wore these masks for various reasons. The most prominent amongst these people is Rip Hamilton, who is one of the rare few who wore the mask almost all the time. Rightfully so, considering he broke his nose twice in one season.

What is the purpose behind the mask?

The reason for wearing a basketball mask may vary from player to player, but there are three reasons for which they are typically worn.

Prevention of Injuries

Some players don’t pay a lot of attention to facial injuries, which is why these masks don’t intrigue them. On the other hand, certain players have experienced broken noses and jaws first-hand, and for them, these masks are a blessing.

For these players, precaution is essential, which is why they wear this added layer of protection against facial injuries, which will save them from a lot of potential trouble.

As A Curative Measure

Considering there are so many elbows involved in the game of basketball, it is difficult to steer clear for them. Although broken noses or jaws are not common injuries, players do succumb to it.

One of the most important functions of a protective mask is the protection it offers to your nose by keeping your nose bone in check. An example of the mask offering protection to players is that of Russell Westbrook.

He had fractured cheekbones, which is what he went through surgery for and started wearing a protective mask after. A lot of the times, players are eager to return to the court, and the process of recovering from injuries is made a lot quicker via the use of these masks.

Aesthetic Appeal of Masks

As odd as that sounds, a lot of players wear these masks for the aesthetic appeal that they offer. Since it separates you from the rest of the players, it gives you a sense of aesthetic superiority.

This feeling of uniqueness was most definitely felt by Kobe in 2012 when he switched from a clear face mask to a black mask for one night. After 2014 and the emergence of LeBron as the real dark knight, the NBA banned blackface masks.

The reason for that was that due to the black color of the mask, other players couldn’t see the eyes of the players when guarding. This gives them an unfair advantage when dribbling past or waiting for a pass.

Do you want a basketball mask for your games?

There is a big market for basketball masks, and it is flooded with various kinds of basketball masks. All of them, however, can be divided into two categories: custom-made basketball masks and generic basketball masks.

Choosing either is dependent on several factors. The reason out of the three mentioned above and your financial capabilities being the most important ones. Custom-made masks are most common amongst professional basketball players.

Since they are earning a lot due to their salaries every season and side earnings from brand endorsements and or investments, it is not difficult for them to afford custom-made masks.

Simply put, custom-made masks are manufactured after utilizing the measurement of a player and are built for only that player’s specific use. To have a custom mask manufactured you would have to pay quite a bit but you won’t be disappointed since the fitness and quality of these masks is worth it.

Generic masks, on the other hand, are best suited for players with a tight wallet. There are several generic models available in the market waiting for you to get your hands on them.

Contrary to custom-made masks costing you thousands of dollars, a generic mask will only cost a couple of hundred dollars. Although you might have some issues about its quality and fitting it is the best you can get on a budget.


The history of masks being worn in the basketball court is a very interesting one. With several basketball legends sporting these masks and the masks themselves being associated with some of their best games they have become quite intriguing for players and fans.

At the same time, certain types of masks that put their mark on basketball history have also been banned from the NBA due to them providing an unfair advantage to other players. The black mask which was sported by Kyrie when he dropped a 41 in a must-see game is an example of a banned accessory that has the names of legends associated with it.

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