When LeBron James took the court wearing a black mask to protect his broken nose, the Internet nearly exploded. It looked so badass that before the game was over, there were already photoshopped images of LBJ as Zorro and Batman floating around.
Unfortunately—or fortunately. if the hype surrounding the mask annoyed you—it was a one-shot deal for "The King" as the NBA forced him to ditch the black mask for something a little more see-through. And how did LeBron respond? He dropped a career- and franchise-high 61 points on Charlotte in only his third game wearing a mask.
As common as injuries are in the NBA, many players elect to play through pain and use accessories that protect them from further injury. So if you thought they were there just to make players look "cool," you aren't totally wrong, just partially right.
To get some insight, we asked the Bulls about the weirdest injuries in their careers and if the accessories they wear are for added protection or just to get more attention.
Weirdest injury: I punctured the bursa sac in my right elbow last year and it was in a spot where the doctors couldn't sew it up, so there was a high risk of it getting infected. I kept playing with it and it eventually got infected and I had to have surgery, but it just came from a bang on my elbow. It was the most bizarre thing.
On accessories: I wore an arm sleeve because of my elbow surgery but I recently stopped wearing it.
Weirdest Injury: I haven't had a weird injury, but a twisted ankle is the toughest injury I've had to play through. For big guys it's the toughest because it feels like you have no foot. You're trying to move and chase guys around, and because you're in the post, you need your feet because it's so physical down there.
On accessories: I wear knee pads because diving on the court, I've banged my knees pretty bad on the wood. I also saw how Derrick Rose wore knee pads so I just started wearing them. And over the years, my elbows have just been getting banged up, so now I just wear sleeves. Plus they help keep you warm, especially when you're on the bench.
Weirdest injury: You know, I really haven't gotten hurt playing basketball as much as I have this year. That's the craziest part. I've never really missed games due to injury or anything like that. So they're all weird to me because I'm not used to it. But the turf toe was bad. I couldn't move.
On accessories: I wear knee pads because I find myself diving on the floor a lot, or if I bump knees with somebody, it hurts. And I think it looks kind of cool. To tell you the truth, I started wearing knee pads because Derrick wore them with the long socks, so I was like, 'Yeah, I'm gonna wear that, too.'
Weirdest injury: The weirdest for me was probably a hamstring. I remember tearing it when I was in Utah four times in the same year because I couldn't feel it. So I went back out there thinking I was OK and tore it, sat out for four weeks, went back out there and tore it again. It was just a weird injury.
On accessories: I wear the leg sleeves to stay warm and the elbow one, I got hit one time and it swelled up a little bit. So I wore it for protection and just got used to it. Now I just keep it on.
Bryan Crawford is a RedEye special contributor.
BUSY WEEKEND AT THE UC
Bulls vs. Memphis, 6 p.m. Friday, CSN
Bulls vs. Miami, noon Sunday, ABC
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