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.