Statistical Analysis. Humor. Knicks.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Anthony Mason

One of the most endearing players to ever put on a Knicks uniform died of heart failure today.

Anthony George Douglas Mason was born on December 14, 1966 and enjoyed a 13 year NBA career with seven teams but he will be best remembered for his run with the Knicks.  Mason was the classic bootstrap success story. Toiling away in Turkey and the CBA before getting a chance with Denver and the Nets.

Mason joined the Knicks during the 91-92 season, at the start of Pat Riley’s run as coach.  I was 16 when I first watched him as a Knick.  I remember my dad commenting how ugly his shooting was.  And Dad was right, it wasn’t pretty.  Not at all. But when I started to notice how well he rebounded and how he locked down everyone thrown at him, I stopped carrying on about that stroke.  I mean if I could stand Bill Cartwright’s shooting, I could deal with this right?

Mason clearly cared about getting the most out of his talent.  I’d never seen a person that chiseled play basketball.  I was blown away to see how well he could handle the ball.  Mason won me over. In time, he won my dad.  And before anyone really knew it had happened, Mason had won all of New York.

There was Mason breaking ankles on the courts of NYC in Diamond D’s video for best kept secret.

Remember how having works of art cut into your hair was a thing back in the 90s? That was Mason too.

At about this time, he stopped being Mason and he became simply “Mase”.  He really was the guy who best captured what the mid 90s Knicks were all about: nothing pretty just a ton of hard work.  He was the anchor of those famous 4th quarter defensive lock downs.  He was the smiling, sweat drenched face after the big wins.  He became 6th man of the year. He lead the NBA in minutes played. He was the dream come true for every person who was ever told they couldn’t make it, but they kept working anyway.  He was our Mase.

And then he wasn’t.

Before the start of the 96-97 season, Mase was moved to the Hornets for Larry Johnson. Johnson being the only person imaginable having the talent, likability, and results to replace Mase.

And while I am sure he left New York kicking and screaming, he did what Mase does. He went to his new team, had the best season of his career, and eventually made his only All-Star team.  I was happy for his selection but I always wished he could have had that moment as a Knick. I wish he had the ball during game five of 1993 playoffs.  He would have made that basket if he had to carry Pippen on his back to do it.

You’ll never convince me otherwise because Mason just found a way.  Mason had heart.  And it is exactly that heart that makes this such a sad day for me. It is sad that he has passed.  It is sad that he passed so young.  But what is so tragic, is that it was his heart that failed him.  There is an irony to that which is sad beyond comprehension.

Thank you, Mase for giving us everything your heart had to give.  I hope you were able to watch that game last night.  I hope the last game you saw was a Knick win.

Rest in Peace Mase.

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18 comments on “Anthony Mason

  1. d-mar

    Thomas B. -thanks for the beautiful eulogy, I just got a little teary eyed reading it.

    Those were the days…

  2. JD & The Rim Shot

    RIP to Mason and Spock.

    If the old adage of celebrity deaths cumming in threes is true, I shudder to think who’s next.

  3. hoolahoop

    It’s always weird when someone you know dies. We went to the same high school and had a common coach (at different times).
    He used to try to play tough guy, sometime trying to keep a stern face, but I remember talking to him in the knicks locker room and mentioning how tough coach Wolk was, and he gave me that big white smile.
    RIP Mase.

    Slept good and I woke up.
    Everyday on this side of the earth is a good one.

  4. JK47

    Mase was, along with John Starks, the heart and soul of the underdog 90’s Knicks– guys who rose up from the scrap heap and made a mark in the league by playing with max effort and passion. Mase was a bowling ball of a man, probably the physically strongest Knick of all time. He had a goofy free throw shooting motion but he made a respectable amount of them go in the basket. He was a beast on defense against fours and damn tough against fives as well. The Knicks haven’t had a player as tough as Mase in a very, very long time. I loved the guy. RIP Mase.

  5. BigBlueAL

    R.I.P. Mase, you embodied what Riley’s Knicks were all about and you will always have a special place in the heart of Knicks fans.

  6. llcoolbp

    RIP Mase. My second favorite Knick (after john Starks, thus my avatar) during the 90’s era that defined my Knick fandom for life. First Spock now Mase. Double gut punch.

  7. Z-man

    Mase was a bowling ball of a man, probably the physically strongest Knick of all time.

    …cough, cough, Willis Reed, cough, cough….

  8. Thomas B. Post author

    Thanks for the kind words everyone. The news got to me this morning and I just had to say something about him and what it meant to me to watch him play. Mase was amazing.

  9. Donnie Walsh

    Because of one shot by Larry Johnson, the Mason trade gets a pass, but honestly, that was a terrible trade. Johnson was pretty bad for the Knicks and Mase got better. He played 3000+ minutes for years in a row. He was durable, great on defense, could handle the ball. The 1997-2001 Knicks could have really used him. A lot more than they could have used LJ.

  10. Thomas B. Post author

    Mase did have a better post trade career than LJ, but I wonder if Mase would have fit in with the other changes on the team. Johnson played well with Camby. If you had Mase with Camby, were would you get any consistent post scoring? I’m not saying you are wrong, but I have a hard time seeing Mase fit with Houston, Spree, and Camby. Where do put on that line-up? Spree played a lot of minutes at 3. Mase at the 4 with Camby at the five? I guess it could have worked. We will never know.

  11. Brian Cronin

    Mase did have a better post trade career than LJ, but I wonder if Mase would have fit in with the other changes on the team. Johnson played well with Camby. If you had Mase with Camby, were would you get any consistent post scoring? I’m not saying you are wrong, but I have a hard time seeing Mase fit with Houston, Spree, and Camby. Where do put on that line-up? Spree played a lot of minutes at 3. Mase at the 4 with Camby at the five? I guess it could have worked. We will never know.

    I remember thinking about it way too much at the time. The Knicks would have been better in 1996-97 had they kept Mason, but they would have been fucked in 1997-98 if they didn’t have LJ.

  12. Brian Cronin

    Minny could have easily given up, but they’re still trying to win for some reason. But now they’re down 3 with 30 seconds left. Blech.

  13. Donnie Walsh

    The Knicks would have been better in 1996-97 had they kept Mason, but they would have been fucked in 1997-98 if they didn’t have LJ.

    The ’97-’98 Knicks were fucked when Ewing got hurt. The Knicks were destined to be pummeled by Indiana (or the Bulls) that year with LJ or with Mason.

    We like to list the bad trades of the Layden/Thomas/Walsh/Jackson era, but Grunfeld had his doozies too, and the Mason trade rarely gets called out.

    Hindsight says: Mase should have died a Knick.

  14. Thomas B. Post author

    Even if you don’t trade Mason for LJ, you’d still probably lose Mason when Spree and Camby became available. I can’t see GS passing on Mason when dealing Spree. And I’m pretty sure Toronto would demand Mason over Oak.

    It seems that there is not a way to create a Ewing, Camby, Mason, Houston, Spree lineup.

  15. Donnie Walsh

    Maybe. But in the case of Sprewell, Golden State basically held a sealed auction: the Knicks, Heat, and Pacers all made their best offers at the same time and Golden State went with the Knicks’ package, even with Mills in it instead of Mason.

    With the Oakley trade, Toronto wanted a respected veteran to play alongside all the young talent they had. Not sure if Mase had the temperament they were looking for.

    But, yeah, I’m sure they would have found somebody to trade Mason for during that period of getting “younger and more athletic”. (LJ was, technically younger, but man, he was the oldest 25 year old that ever lived).

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