Almost everyone thought the Miami Heat’s LeBron James looked good in black except the people who counted most, it turned out.
At the request of NBA league office, James agreed to switch from a black protective mask to a clear one tonight, when the Heat were scheduled to host the Orlando Magic at AmericanAirlines Arena. The reigning Most Valuable Player appealed the decision before he agreed to make the change earlier in the day.
“It’s not a league rule, but it’s a league request,” James told reporters before the game. “I didn’t agree with their reasons, but I’ll do it.”
The league stepped in on such matters before. It also instructed the Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant and the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Kyrie Irving to scrap similar versions that did not meet league requirements.
On Thursday night, James returned to action against the New York Knicks with a carbon fiber mask that arrived shortly before the game. He wore the device to protect a nose that was fractured in a game the previous week.
James preferred the tinted model because it was lighter in weight, less restrictive and a color match for the team’s throwback uniform. “Awesome,” he called it. The organization went so far as to sell t-shirts that pictured James in the mask, “a must-have for real LeBron fans!”
Teammate Chris Bosh was among those who said James looked like Batman, while Shane Battier preferred to think he resembled Kato in the Green Hornet television series.
“I’m more old school,” Battier said. “All he needed was the driver’s cap and he was Bruce Lee. I told LeBron that I expect nothing less than the fashion-forward, cutting-edge renaissance man that he is. I thought he looked pretty sweet.”
Unfortunately for the most visible player in the league, not everyone shared the majority opinion.
“For reasons they told me, it didn’t make sense to me,” James said. “But hey, I’m just a player and I will abide.”