Nobody knew who Cody Zeller was until he put on the mask.
Well, that's not entirely true. The Heat center was the No. 4 overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, after all, so there was a time when he was a highly touted prospect.
However, in recent years, Zeller had fallen by the wayside. He has been with three different teams in the last three seasons and saw himself slip out of the rotation with the Hornets and Trail Blazers in 2021 and 2022 respectively.
At that time, it looked like Zeller's career might be over. But the Heat signed him in February to add some much-needed size to their bench. He has occupied a role as a reserve big ever since.
So, yes, NBA fans do know who Zeller is. But why does the veteran wear a mask? That has been something that has mystified fans who aren't familiar with the 6-11 center's game-day look, complete with a Heat uniform, balding hairstyle and mask.
Here's what to know about Zeller's mask and how long he has been wearing it as he tries to help the Heat beat the Nuggets in the 2023 NBA Finals.
Why does Cody Zeller wear a mask?
Zeller is wearing a mask as a result of a broken nose he suffered in the Heat's March 11 game against the Magic. The injury occurred when he took an inadvertent elbow to the face from Jalen Suggs when the second-year guy guard drove to the hoop.
Suggs first injured when he collided with Cody Zeller last weekend. Zeller broke his nose on this play.— Law Murray 🥷🏾 (@LawMurrayTheNU) March 17, 2023
Not sure if anything happened since, but Suggs finished that game vs Heat then played last two Magic games. Now he's out due to concussion. pic.twitter.com/MT369N5X3L
Zeller also received stitches under eye his as a result of the collision, per the Heat.
Zeller missed six games and 17 days of action in the wake of the injury. Upon his return, he opted to wear the mask — which he had previously worn in 2021 after suffering a broken nose that required surgery while playing for the Trail Blazers — to further protect himself.
The mask that Zeller currently wears is the second he has had custom-made during his career. The first came after, you guessed it, a broken nose from his days in Charlotte.
"They did facial laser mapping, a scan of my face," Zeller said of his first mask, per The Sun Sentinel. "I didn’t like that one as much."
So, how did they make his second mask?
“This one was a plaster cast over your whole face, and just had tiny little tubes in your nose," he explained. "Could barely breathe (with the tubes inserted during the plastering process). And this one fits a lot better than the laser one."
Certainly, that doesn't sound pleasant. But then again, suffering another broken nose wouldn't be pleasant either. So, it makes sense that Zeller opted to endure that process to protect himself on the court.