The Phantom of The Process: Joel Embiid And The History of Masked NBA Superstars

The first round of the 2018 NBA playoffs have just tipped off and it’s going to be a little while until we see the sport’s must eccentric superstar. Joel Embiid, the 24-year-old 7-footer from the University of Kansas, has taken the sports world by storm with his play and his tweets.

Unfortunately, Embiid, who helped the Philadelphia 76ers win 52 games, earning the third seed in the Eastern Conference, will have to miss the start of their playoff series against the sixth seed Miami Heat. According to, Embiid suffered an orbital bone fracture after colliding with his rookie teammate Markelle Fultz.

“[Embiid] will not play Game One,” said Sixers coach Brett Brown. “From that point going forward, we’ll figure some stuff out but unless something remarkable happens, I don’t plan on him playing in Game One.”

Embed lead the Sixers with 22.9 points per game and 11 rebounds per game, helping Philadelphia clinch its first playoff birth since 2012. During the team’s last regular season game, he sat the bench wearing a face mask.

Embed tweeted a photo of himself wearing a dark protective face mask, saying: “No one cared who I was until I put on the Mask… The Phantom of The Process.”

“I want to play but right now I feel like I’m not ready yet,” Embiid added. “It’s getting there. I’ve got to keep working every day. With the way it’s been progressing, I’m hopeful I’ll be back soon.”

Across the country, four out of five urgent care centers provide fracture care and Embed had to have surgery to address the orbital fracture in his left eye.

As far as wearing a face mask during play, Embiid wouldn’t be the first NBA superstar player to do that by a long shot.

Kyrie Irving wore a mask twice after breaking his jaw during the 2013 season and suffering a facial fracture in 2017. In the game after Irving broke his jaw, the young point guard scored a then-career-high 41 points.

Other all-star players who donned face masks during NBA play include Russell Westbrook, LeBron James, Chris Paul, Tracey McGrady, Kobe Bryant, and, the most notable mask-wearing player in sports history, Richard Hamilton, who wore the mask for 10 seasons.

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