Kyrie Irving returns tonight against Nets - with clear mask

According to ESPN's Chris Forsberg, it looks like Kyrie Irving is back in the game. He is scheduled to play tonight against the Brooklyn Nets, but the masked man is back. He needs the mask to protect his face after suffering a fracture below his eye after getting accidentally elbowed by teammate, Aron Baynes.

As he prepares to wear a protective mask for the third time in his NBA career, Boston Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving is very much aware of the "Masked Kyrie" phenomenon that's flourished on social media.

"He don't need to get me a fruit basket, man. He was trying to go for the block on Kemba Walker. And I should have just sent him to the big and gotten out of the play," Irving said. "It's more or less onus on my end. Just getting out of the way. I shouldn't be down there anyway."

Added Irving: "At first I was in a daze a little bit. It was such a surprising hit. It happened so unexpectedly. I haven't been hit like that in a while to where my nose starts bleeding and I kind of -- getting hit by Aron Baynes, it's nothing pretty. But it's part of the game. When stuff happens like that, that's the last hope -- you don't want to get a concussion and be down a little longer than expected. But obviously we took the precautions. I did all my tests to make sure I wasn't having headaches or anything like that, or any linger effects. Good thing it was isolated right here on my face. My maxilla right there, they told me about that."

Kyrie has gone through this before. On December 15, 2012, he donned a protective black facial mask in a game against the New York Knicks, only one day after suffering a facial fracture. He scored 41 points to go with five rebounds and five assists. And he came away with a few nicknames, (per the Boston Globe's Nik DeCosta-Klipa):

Irving’s 41 points on 15-for-25 shooting (as well as five rebounds and five assists) weren’t enough to get the then-fledgling, LeBron-less Cavaliers squad past a playoffs-bound Knicks team. But his 17 points in the fourth quarter made it very close.

The unique look also spawned a number of super hero-inspired nicknames, from Zorro to The Dark Night. The NBA also released a dramatically-scored slow-motion video of his career game with the mask titled, “Kyrie Irving: Phantom of the Garden.”

According to, Irving wore the black plastic mask because the clear material preferred by the NBA needs 18 hours to dry after being fitted.

So look for a spectacular game from Kyrie tonight. The Phantom of the Garden is in Brooklyn and he will be looking to keep the winning streak alive. The clear mask seems a bit tame, though.

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Photo via David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images