Hearing about the death of a loved one is something you can never be prepared for and one of the toughest things to deal with in life. Even when you have an idea that things do not look good for someone you care about, when they pass on to the other side, the feeling of loss is still the same. Today, Knicks fans and basketball fans around the world are mourning the loss of one of our own guys, MR. New York himself, Anthony Mason. He was a basketball player, he was a Knick, but most of all he was one of us.


Anthony Mason hasn’t worn a New York Knicks jersey since 1996, yet you would never know it by the amount of people who still love him as if he was still lacing up his kicks for a big night in the Garden. Luckily I am old enough to have been a diehard Knicks fan in the early 1990’s as I still am today, so I have vivid memories of Anthony Mason and those teams he was on.

No disrespect to the rapper Mase, but Anthony Mason was the original Mase! He had the personality that allowed you to root for him as if he was your personal friend and knew him for years. He went to high school in Queens, so the city of New York was in him from the start. After playing high school basketball at Springfield Gardens in Queens and college basketball at Tennessee State University, Mason was selected in the third round of the 1988 NBA draft by the Portland Trail Blazers, who waived him shortly thereafter. Mason then played in Turkey and Venezuela before joining the then-New Jersey Nets and Denver Nuggets for short stints. He also played in the USBL and CBA. Mason found a permanent home with the Knicks in 1991 after receiving an invite to play on the organization’s summer league team.

Mason played for six teams but was best remembered for his five-year tenure with the Knicks. Mason’s bruising, physical play epitomized then-coach Pat Riley’s Knicks teams. The 6-foot-7 forward became a fan favorite for his physical play and also drew attention for the creative artwork and messages that he had carved in his hair cuts. All I can say is I am thankful those teams prior to him joining the Knicks didn’t see his potential and let him leave.

Mason’s stats weren’t eye-popping when he was with the Knicks, his role was deeper than that. His best year statistically was the 1995-1996 season when he averaged about 15 points per game and about 10 rebounds. Coincidentally that was his final season in New York. He went on to have his best career year as member of the Miami Heat in 2000-2001 when he averaged about 16 points and earned his one and only all star game selection.

His time in MSG however wasn’t about stats. It was about a player who knew his role and would outwork anyone he had to. He was one of the original “point forwards” similar to Lebron James nowadays with being a bigger player, but having a dribble and being able to see the floor the same way a point guard would. Mase was also an enforcer along with Charles Oakley and most players at that time were smart enough to know not to mess with either guy. If you had a problem with Patrick Ewing back then, odds are you were gonna have to try and get though Mase and Oakley first, and that just wasn’t going to happen.

Mason and those Knicks teams from the early and mid 90’s defined exactly what the city was about, and that’s why almost twenty years later we still love those guys like family. Mason and the likes of Oakley, Ewing, John Starks, Derek Harper all played the game the same way New Yorkers lived. They played gritty, hard, physical and with a mean streak, all the things needs to survive in the big apple. Mason was a guy you would see rocking a nice fur or shearling looking like a million bucks, but was the most down to earth guy you could ever meet and could just as easily see him chilling in a small pizza spot or coffee shop. He was part of a winning era with the Knicks, which as we have seen in the years since, doesn’t happen too often.

“Anthony was a multifaceted individual,” his longtime agent Don Cronson told ESPN.com’s Ian O’Connor. “There were many aspects to his personality, and some that people weren’t aware of. In the best sense of the term he was a momma’s boy. From the day I met him he was always thinking of his mom and taking care of her. As rough and tough as he was, Anthony was also a doting father, and I saw that many times”.

“Anthony willed himself into the NBA, and very few players can do that. Any NBA team could’ve had him for a nickel, and he turned out to be the perfect Pat Riley player. I think Pat saw a lot of himself in Anthony, and really they were the same guy. That’s why they butted heads as often as they did. They were both blue-collar guys and fighters. Anthony told me, ‘Pat Riley was the one who gave me my chance. He’s the one who saw something in me when nobody else did.'”

As we mourn today we should be thinking of our favorite memories of Mase and the work ethic and dedication he showed to us and the city. Once a Knick, always a Knick! Gone too soon, Rest In Peace, Anthony Mason. Our love and prayers go out to him and his family.

Joe Casey @IamJoeSports