NBA veteran Anthony Mason, known for his artistic hair cuts and a key component of the 1990’s New York Knicks, died early Saturday morning due to heart failure at 48-years-old.
Mason was in the midst of recuperating from a heart attack suffered several weeks ago due to congestive heart failure.
Though Mason committed 13 years to the NBA on six different teams, his most prolific years were with the Knicks from ’91 to ’96. On a team equipped with future Hall of Famers in Patrick Ewing and coach Pat Riley, Mason performed with the best of them despite his averages of 9.9 points and 7.7 rebounds.
His road to the lights wasn’t pretty. Drafted 53rd in the third round of the NBA Draft, Mason had brief stints with the minor league, New Jersey Nets, Denver Nuggets and a Turkish basketball team before perfecting his craft in the big city of New York.
At forward, he muscled his way into the league. His hustle, hard-nose defense and big-body playing style made him a defensive force under the rim at six-foot-seven. Combine that with his flamboyant personality and you have New York’s new fan- favorite for the ’90’s.
Most of Mason’s dirty work couldn’t be attributed to a stat sheet but his hair might have influenced players like Ron Artest and Russell Westbrook, who tried to emulate Mason’s style in later years. One could credit him to being a pioneer of some sort. Mason’s head became its own personality, bearing a different message with every barbershop visit.
It was hard to miss the lettering stamped across his hair. He had everything from the Knicks logo, which at one point outlined the left top-corner of his fade, to the words “In God’s Hands” styled in cursive on the side of his buzz- cut.
Though a big story within itself, Mason’s on the court hard-work ethics couldn’t be overshadowed by a couple of fancy designs.
In 1994 Mason aided the Knicks to their first finals appearance in almost 20 years. The following year, 1995-1996, he was awarded the Sixth Man of the Year Award and led the league in total minutes played. Mason then led the league in minutes played per game, 41.1, in the 1996-1997 season.
That same season Mason was dealt to the Charlotte Hornets to play in his best statistical year, recording four triple-doubles and averaging 11.4 rebounds to go along with 16.2 points per contest.
After four years in Charlotte, Mason was reunited with coach Pat Riley for one season in Miami for his last big run as a prominent NBA forward. He recorded averages of 16.1 points and 9.6 rebounds for the 2000-2001 season which resulted in his first and only All-Star Game appearance.
His lack of production in the playoffs pushed the Heat to waive his contract in the off-season only to be picked up and then waived by the Milwaukee Bucks two years later in 2003. Mason’s 13-year journey was over.
Mason’s career embodied the idea of hard- work and resilience. He showed that in 1997 when he made the All- NBA third team and All-Defensive second team.
Though you will never see his name as a Hall of Fame inductee or listed as one of the 50 greatest players, to the New York Knicks, Anthony Mason will always be more than good enough.