The year 2020 has made humanity as a whole much more comfortable with face masks. But Kawhi Leonard wasn’t just wearing a face mask on Wednesday night.
Leonard had missed the Clippers’ previous two games after colliding with teammate Serge Ibaka and sustaining a mouth laceration that required eight stitches. During his comeback against the Trail Blazers, Leonard wore a full face mask to prevent damage from any subsequent contact.
“M-, it’s hard to breathe in that mask,” Leonard told the media after the game. “They started calling me Leatherface and things.”
The mask didn’t slow Leonard down. He lost 28 points on 9 of 17 shots to lead Los Angeles (4-1) to a 128-105 victory over Portland (2-2). Leonard added seven assists and three steals in the win.
Leonard isn’t the first NBA player to pull out the transparent mask. Richard Hamilton wore one for much of his career. Kyrie Irving has had a mask phase not too long in the past. It remains the NBA’s best defense strategy after mouth or nose injuries.
While not an unprecedented event, such masks normally bring out a lot of jokes on social media. Leonard’s mask was no exception.
Kawhi said his Clippers teammates called him Leatherface with his mask on 😅
He also joked that Serge was on the shopping block after nudging him in the face 😂 pic.twitter.com/uJauwtDNb6
– NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) December 31, 2020
Kawhi’s mask is like what’s left over when you cut out masks for COVID
– Clipperholics (@ClipperholicsFS) December 31, 2020
Kawhi put on the hannibal lecturer mask.
– Adam Auslund (@followAdamA) December 31, 2020
I know Kawhi’s teammates grilled him about this “mask” 😂😭
– Compound King 🤴🏾 (@ _malikw019) December 31, 2020