LeBron James ditches black mask


MIAMI --  LeBron James complied with the NBA's request to ditch his black mask for a clearer version to protect his broken nose for the Miami Heat's game Saturday night against the Orlando Magic, though he said the league's explanation "didn't make sense" to him.

"I don't know if I expected it, but I'm not surprised," James said Saturday during his pregame session with media. "It's not a league rule, but it's the league's request that you don't wear the black one. For the reasons that they told me, it didn't make sense to me. But hey, I'm just a player in this league and I will abide by this request -- I'm not even going to say rule, but request -- by the NBA."

James declined to reveal the specific details of the league's request. But Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said commissioner Adam Silver spoke with Heat CEO Nick Arison on Friday to resolve the issue.

"I don't want to get into it," James said. "I'm good with the NBA. We're good. I am not against the NBA. They had a request and I fulfilled it. Let's just leave it at that. As long as (the mask) is transparent. As long as they can see my face, my opponents."

Spoelstra said James selected from a variety of league-approved masks to wear for the next several weeks. Spoelstra did not indicate the specific style or color of the new masks James considered.

"We've had numerous ones made, so he will have his pick and will choose one that is authorized also by the league," Spoelstra told ESPN.com after the Heat's shootaround. "We did talk to the league (Friday). So stay tuned for what mask you'll see tonight."

James had worn a black carbon-fiber mask during Thursday's win against the New York Knicks, and the design quickly drew comparisons on social media to masks worn by superhero characters from Batman to dramatic villains such as Hannibal Lecter.

James acknowledged after Thursday's game that he did not seek league approval for the design. But an NBA spokesman initially communicated in an email to ESPN.com during the Heat's game against the Knicks that the league did not foresee any issues with the mask James wore.

That sentiment apparently changed by Friday, when the league contacted the Heat to request that James wear a clearer version of the mask in future games. A source close to James told ESPN.com on Friday night that the four-time league MVP would appeal the NBA's decision.

But the two sides have agreed to compromise on a look that would be comfortable for James and also would fall in line with more traditional versions of protective masks that have been worn by other players throughout the league.

Heat teammates have joked about the mask James wore Thursday, and some even took photos with it to post on social media.

Heat center Chris Bosh said Saturday that the ordeal with the mask is just the latest in a number of issues involving James that have drawn a stunning amount of attention. But Bosh also said the Heat have grown accustomed to the scrutiny and spotlight in the four years since James arrived in Miami.

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