NBA players generally don’t wear ski masks. However, some of these athletes wear protective masks while playing on the court. At times, NBA athletes would wear ski goggles instead of masks when celebrating their wins with champagne bottles in their locker rooms.
NBA players wear ski goggles to celebrate their victories with champagne. Inside locker rooms, many winning teams would pop champagne bottles. Therefore, the goggles help protect their eyes from a potential ballistic cork. Also, getting champagne in the eyes is not a good experience.
But where did this trend originate?
Many basketball enthusiasts thought that wearing ski goggles and popping champagne bottles inside locker rooms was a ‘thing’ that has been happening in the NBA for decades. However, it wasn’t only until 2013 when Walter Ray Allen, a retired NBA player, brought a white, red, and gold Oakley model to the Miami Heat locker room.
Here, Allen started shaking and popping a champagne bottle to celebrate the Heat’s win. Some NBA players, such as Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, and Dwayne Wade, didn’t believe in wearing the ski goggles for protecting themselves against alcoholic beverages and ballistic corks.
Keep in mind that locker rooms aren’t the broadest areas in basketball arenas. Thus, failure to wear ski goggles or any kind of eye protection while popping champagne bottles is a recipe for hurt and disaster.
Today, the trend has grown considerably to the point that brands are now making ski-slash-champagne goggles for winning athletes.
Why do NBA Players Wear Masks?
Some NBA players look like they’re about to fight crime while playing basketball. The masks these athletes don aren’t for mere aesthetics as the protective eyewear serve a multitude of safety purposes.
Remember, basketball is a fast-paced sport. Therefore, that fast-paced action can invite different harm to playing athletes. Accidental elbows and shoves can be a common occurrence in the court. So, if player A accidentally elbows the right part of the head of player B, player B might be down and out for the rest of the game.
Remember the adage, ‘It’s better to be safe than sorry.’ Many NBA players take this saying to heart as they wear their protective, albeit sometimes silly-looking masks.
Most face masks for basketball have a hard plastic construction. This material is sufficiently lightweight but offers enough protection to cushion the blows of accidental elbows and other potential accidents in the court involving bodily harm to the face.
Before NBA players wore masks, the professional basketball league was rife with busted noses and orbital bones. If players had these injuries, they had two options: (1) sit it out and heal (which will make them miss a portion of the game) or (2) wear a face shield that can closely resemble Michael Myers from the old Halloween slasher film.
Many players would choose option two over option one as the latter choice would make athletes miss out on portions or even entire games if they’re not careful.
Who are the NBA Players That Wear Masks?
1. Kobe Bryant
The ‘Black Mamba’ himself can be seen donning a transparent mask from time to time. Perhaps the only thing missing from this aesthetic is if he wore a black mask instead of a transparent one. In turn, Kobe Bryant can look like a superhero, especially when his considerable basketball skills carried the Lakers throughout many games.
2. Kyrie Irving
Kyrie Irving, the 6-foot 2-inch point guard of three teams, including the Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston Celtics, and Brooklyn Nets, wore a transparent plastic face mask twice during his professional NBA career.
The first time Irving wore a mask was when he was able to acquire a career-high 41 points in 2016. A year later, Irving wore the mask a second time. Although he wasn’t able to score more than his previous record this time, he was able to prevent further injury from his broken nose.
3. J.R. Smith
Earl Smith III aka J.R. Smith was the shooting guard and small forward of different teams, such as the Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Lakers. In 2014, this NBA player had a fractured left cheekbone. Therefore, if he wanted to continue playing, he needed to wear a protective mask.
Unfortunately, the pain didn’t go away with the mask, leading Smith to score quite poorly during that match. However, he would soon make a comeback after recovering from his injury by scoring 19 points in a game against the New Orleans Hornets.
4. Alexey Shved
If there’s any player that has the closest semblance to Michael Myers while wearing a protective basketball mask, it’s Alexey Shved. This NBA player, who played for four teams during his reasonably short NBA career, to help protect his face from potential physical injuries.
However, the mask he wore was translucent white with black straps surrounding his face. At times, Shved would also wear a gleaming expression, which does not look inviting to some fans.
5. Richard Hamilton
This shooting guard for the Chicago Bulls, Detroit Pistons, and Washington Wizards helped popularized the protective basketball mask. Although the mask didn’t aesthetically pair well with his facial features, Richard Hamilton still wore the protective equipment enough times to make him known for it.
Many NBA players don’t wear ski masks but wear special ski goggles to protect their eyes from celebratory champagne. Aside from these distinct eye protection, some players also like to wear protective basketball masks while playing to safeguard their faces from possible harm.