Today (12/13) is the late Anthony Mason’s 52nd birthday. Mase was one of the NBA’s most popular and respected players during his 13-year career.
A New York native, Mason was a prolific scorer and playmaker during his college career at Tennessee State University in Nashville. The 6-foot-7 lefthander averaged 27 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists a game in his senior season.
He was selected in the third round of the 1988 NBA draft by Portland Trailblazers, but was one their earliest cuts. He bounced around the next three years. He had short stints in New Jersey and Denver. He played abroad, and in the CBA.
During that time he transformed his game and his physical presence. Mason became a dominant rebounder and defender, and packed on 20 pounds of muscle, pushing himself up to 250 pounds.
In 1991, Knicks coach Pat Riley signed Mason. In Mason, Riley had someone who could add to his team’s philosophy of physical play, and he also liked Mason’s ball-handling skills. At TSU, Mason often led the Big Blue fast-break attack with his ability to rebound the ball and run the floor.
Riley also loved Mason’s fiercely competitive spirit and gave him an opportunity to show his abilities. Mason made the most of it. He would go on to become an NBA All-Star, win the prestigious Sixth Man of the Year award, and become one of the most respected competitors in the NBA, helping the Knicks become perennial title contenders.
Mason played 13 seasons total, leaving New York in 1996 to sign with the Charlotte Hornets. After three seasons in Charlotte, he was reunited with Riley in Miami for two seasons, before retiring following the 2003 season in Milwaukee. Mason passed away in February of 2015 at the age of 48.
Mase is gone, but his legacy of playing fierce determination and effort will live on with NBA fans.