76ers Star Center Joel Embiid Makes His Masked Return to the NBA Playoffs

Allison DeGrushe - Author

May 10 2022, Published 12:05 p.m. ET

At last, "The Phantom of the Process" has returned.

After missing the first two games of the Philadelphia 76ers second-round playoff series against the Miami Heat, Joel Embiid returned for Game 3. In his return to the Sixers' starting lineup, the five-time NBA All-Star finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds.

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While many focus on how the NBA star's return certainly motivated his teammates to play their absolute best, we can't help but zone in on his new facial accessory: Why does Joel Embiid wear a mask? Here's everything we know.

Joel Embiid at the Sportsperson of the Year Show in 2017.
Source: Getty Images
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Why does Joel Embiid wear a mask?

During Game 6 of the 76ers first-round playoff series against the Toronto Raptors, the 28-year-old superstar sustained an injury while defending Raptors power forward Pascal Siakam.

A few days later, ESPN learned that Joel would be out indefinitely with a "right orbital fracture and mild concussion." Additionally, the outlet reported that Joel had already been "playing through a torn ligament in his right (shooting) thumb."

On May 6, NBA insider Shams Charania tweeted that the MVP finalist cleared the concussion protocol and did "everything possible to be available" for Game 3 against the Heat. Luckily, he returned to the floor that night, sporting a protective mask to prevent further damage to his already shattered orbital bone.

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Following the 76ers Game 3 victory, Tyrese Maxey praised his teammate for his ability to power through the pain.

"I was so happy to see [No.] 21 hanging up in the locker room, with his mask ... he's a solider man. Thumb, mask, concussion, broken face, you know, it makes him look even uglier now, but he's resilient," he said, per NBC Sports. "He's the MVP for a reason. The attention that he demands is great for us, it just is a testimony to his will and his wanting to win."

This isn't the first time Joel has donned a mask — in March 2018, Joel collided with former teammate Markelle Fultz's shoulder and sustained a left orbital fracture. The injury required surgery, and he officially returned for Game 3 of the 76ers first-round playoff series against the Heat. There, he wore a mask and deemed himself "The Phantom of the Process."

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