Euro 2024: Kylian Mbappé, LeBron James and more iconic masks in sports

Euro 2024: Kylian Mbappé, LeBron James and more iconic masks in sports

Updated Jun. 18, 2024 7:37 p.m. ET

Kylian Mbappé is always a marked man. At the European Championship, he's set to be known as the masked man.

The France superstar broke his nose in his team's opening game of Euro 2024, a 1-0 win over Austria on Monday, and is likely to be fitted with a carbon-fiber mask if he is to play again in the tournament.

[Related: Mbappé likely to sit out vs. Netherlands as he progresses from broken nose]

Mbappé wouldn't be the first superstar soccer player or athlete needing to wear a mask, as Mbappé himself points out. Below we've listed some of the most notable athletes to have worn a mask while playing, with some names that might surprise you.


Let's take a look.

Editor's note: The team in parentheses references where they were playing at the time of wearing the mask.

LeBron James (former Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat player)

"King James" has actually had to wear a mask twice in his career, first doing so in 2005 for the Cavaliers and then again in 2014 with the Heat. The former was due to a hard foul to the face from Dikembe Mutombo, while the latter came from Serge Ibaka — resulting in a broken nose. He didn't seem to suffer much from it in 2014, scoring 31 points in 37 minutes on 13-of-19 shooting in his first game back (wearing a black mask) — and then recorded his career-high of 61 points right after (in a clear mask). 

Harry Kane (former Tottenham player)

England's all-time goal-scorer broke his nose in 2016 and was forced to miss the following Europa League match against Fiorentina. While it took some adjusting at first, he'd end up scoring against Arsenal in the London derby — putting the Spurs up 2-1. He'd celebrate by taking the mask off and throwing it on the ground before being mobbed by his teammates. 

Kobe Bryant (former Los Angeles Lakers player)

After being hit by fellow Hall of Fame inductee Dwyane Wade at the 2012 NBA All-Star game, the "Black Mamba" ripped three straight 30-point games with a mask on soon after being diagnosed with a concussion and fractured nose. One of those games included a matchup with Wade's Heat team, where he scored 33 points and led the Lakers to victory. In total he played 11 games with the mask and averaged 31.1 points per game in that span. 

Robert Lewandowski (former Bayern Munich player)

In 2015, Poland's all-time leading goal-scorer suffered a broken jaw and nose when he collided with a goalkeeper in the DFB Pokal semifinal against Borussia Dortmund. Less than two weeks later, he and Munich had a highly-anticpated clash with Barcelona in the Champions League semifinal. He wore a mask in both legs against the Spanish titans, and even scored in the second match. 

Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers)

In 2018, the 76ers superstar suffered an orbital bone fracture after colliding with then-teammate MarKelle Fultz. He made his return in the first round of the playoffs against the Heat, averaging 21.4 points per game and 12.6 rebounds per game in a 4-1 series win for Philadelphia. Four years later, the mask would return after Embiid endured a facial fracture in the first round of the playoffs. He returned in the following round against none other than the Heat, and put up 19.8 points per game and 9.8 rebounds per game in a 4-2 series loss.

Son Heung-min (South Korea)

The South Korean phenom broke his eye socket in a Champions League match for his club Tottenham just three weeks before the 2022 World Cup. He underwent surgery shortly after, which spurred him to wear a mask for all of South Korea's games in Qatar. Son was quoted saying, "It's more comfortable than I was expecting." He went on to lead them to a Round of 16 appearance before being bounced by Brazil, highlighted by a win against powerhouse Portugal in a make-or-break situation against Portugal in the final group stage match.


Kyrie Irving (former Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston Celtics player)

Like James and Embiid, Kyrie Irving has worn a mask on two different occasions. In the 2012-13 season, he broke his jaw while on the Cavaliers — most notably scoring 41 points against the Knicks in his first game back. Five seasons later with the Celtics, he suffered a facial fracture on November 10th and was forced to play in a mask for the rest of the month as well as part of December. He averaged 26.9 points per game along with 5.1 assists per game during that November portion with the mask. 

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (former Chelsea player)

Aubameyang's story is a shocking one. He was playing for Barcelona in the second half of the 2021-22 season when burglars robbed his home while he and his family were inside. The attackers broke his jaw which forced him to wear a protective mask when he joined Chelsea the following year. He'd make 21 appearances for them (all competitions), scoring a total of three goals in that span. 



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