MIAMI - The only thing scarier than LeBron James driving on you for a dunk is LeBron James driving on you for a dunk in a black plastic Hannibal Lecter mask.
James, who broke his nose in a game against Oklahoma City last week, wowed fans and teammates alike when he showed up for Thursday night's game against the Knicks wearing a menacing black carbon fiber mask.
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"Only LeBron can make breaking your nose look cool,'' the Heat's Shane Battier said after the game.
James scored a very cool 31 points, shooting 13-for-19, in leading the Heat to a 108-82 win over the nosediving Knicks.
James practiced this week with the standard-issue clear protective mask that has been worn by many athletes, including the Knicks' J.R. Smith, who currently is wearing a mask because of a fracture in his cheek. James said he liked the idea of wearing a black mask because the Heat was wearing throwback black uniforms.
"It went with the uniform,'' he said. "I was able to get a carbon fiber one which is actually lighter. It came in today, so I went with it.''
The mask caused a big stir on Twitter, with comparisons made to Zorro, Bane, Batman, Hannibal Lecter and even the Phantom of the Opera. Though the mask covers only the top half of LeBron's face, his black beard created the overall effect of a full-face mask.
All week Battier predicted that James would come up with something unique.
"I told him I expected nothing less from him, being the fashion forward, cutting edge, Renaissance man LeBron is,'' he said. "I don't think it will inspire people to go out and break their nose. But it looked kinda cool.''
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra also was a fan.
"I like the look of it. It looked menacing,'' he said. "The most important thing was his aggressiveness tonight. He wasn't going to let an injury or mask take away from his assertiveness . . . He didn't let up. It was great to see.''
James said he doesn't have a red mask or a white mask to go with his other uniforms, although he is not ruling out wearing something different in the future. He added, "I expect I will be getting a few emails from mask makers.''