The biggest story of the All-Star game -- yes, even bigger than LeBron James passing up a game-winning shot -- was that Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant suffered a broken nose and concussion after a weirdly hard foul by Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat. The Lakers can't afford to miss their top offensive threat for any amount of time, especially with such a thin roster. Luckily for the team, doctors abided by the NBA's new concussion policy and cleared him to play hours before Wednesday night's home game against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
However, Kobe could only play if he protected his nose from more damage. So, like many players before him, he wore a mask, footage of which you can watch above courtesy of our friends at the Yahoo! Sports Minute. Except, because Kobe is who he is — a maniacally competitive guy who pretty much demands to be taken seriously — the entire look turned out to be hilarious.
As with Bryant's legendarily disastrous all-white fashion shoot, anything that makes him look ridiculous, or in any way not tough, becomes about 50 times more hilarious than it would with any other player. Naturally, basketball fans reacted with jokes, from the Twitter account @KobeMask to a few inspired photoshops of Kobe as the masked rapper MF Doom.
The experience wasn't quite so enjoyable for Bryant, who told reporters after the game about the discomfort. From Mike Bresnahan for the Los Angeles Times:
"It just felt like it started sweating immediately inside." [...] "It felt like I had a sauna on my face. ... I was drinking my own sweat."
Thank you, Kobe, for that delightful image. The good news for him, apart from that he's now one day closer to playing without the mask, is that it didn't seem to hurt his performance at all. Bryant finished with a terrific line of 31 points on 11-of-23 shooting, eight assists and seven rebounds in the Lakers' 104-85 win. (Whether or not he should have played with his injuries in the fourth quarter of a blowout is another question.)
Given the healing time for a broken nose, we can expect Kobe to play with the mask for at least a few more games. I think it's fair to say we'll have more comedy on the way soon.
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