Former NY Knicks player, All-Star Anthony Mason has passed away on Feb. 28, after multiple heart surgeries, and following a massive heart attack. Despite “doing better” after medical care, according to reports, Mason died at age 48.
Mason’s former team paid a tribute to the player, who helped the NY Knicks win the Eastern Conference in 1994 and reach the NBA Finals, where they lost to the Houston Rockets in seven games.
Ex-NBA star, Patrick Ewing, recalled playing with Mason in New York in the 1990’s.
“My heart is heavy after learning that we lost Anthony Mason…,” Ewing said in a statement. “We were teammates on the Knicks for five great seasons. Mase came to play every night and was always ready to go to battle with me every time we stepped on the court together. “I will remember him for his strength, determination and perseverance. My thoughts are with his family. May he rest in peace.”
Another Mason’s teammate Charles Oakley tweeted his condolences, following Mason’s passing.
Knicks president Phil Jackson, who coached against Mason during his time with the Chicago Bulls, also released a statement.
“As a competitor, there was none fiercer than Anthony Mason,” Jackson said. “Standing on the opposite end of the playing field, coaching in those great Chicago/New York battles, No. 14 in Orange and Blue always stood out. On behalf of the entire Knickerbocker community, our condolences go out to his family.”
John Starks, a teammate of Mason on the Knicks, and close friend said that Mason had to fight for everything in the NBA, and he will be remembered.
“He was a hard-nosed player. We came to the Knicks around the same time and he fought for everything he got in this league as well as growing up,” Starks had said.
Current Knicks coach Derek Fisher said Mason’s determination could serve as a guide.
“He embodied a lot of what we’re continuing to try to do here,” Fisher said.
Pat Riley, who coached Mason on the Knicks and the on the Miami Heat said he appreciated Mason’s intense, physical approach and kept him on the roster, beginning a run that would end with Mason leaving an indelible mark on the Knicks organization and its fan base.
“News like this is not only sad, but it’s tragic,” Riley said. “Anthony Mason was a very young man with a great family and friends. To lose him so quickly during his journey, especially to those of us that knew him, hurts.”
Mason’s agent during his time with the Knicks, Don Cronson has remained close with the player’s family since he got hospitalized.
“He played with an absolute ferocity. And he was the perfect Pat Riley player,” Cronson had said. “Pat Riley gave him a chance when no one else cared. They took him to the L.A. Summer League and the rest as they say, is history. John Starks is a similar story, another guy who just willed himself into the league. Others could have had them for a nickel.”
“Anthony was a multifaceted individual. 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,” Cronson said.
“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.'”
Mason played high school basketball in the New York City, attended the Tennessee State University, then basketball minor leagues, before coming into the NBA.
The 6-foot-7 defensive stalwart spent 13 seasons in the NBA with the New Jersey Nets, Denver Nuggets, NY Knicks, Charlotte Hornets, Miami Heat and Milwaukee Bucks. He won the Sixth Man of the Year for the 1994-95 Knicks, coached by Pat Riley. The 1993-94 team lost in the finals to the Houston Rockets.
Mason played in 882 NBA games (started in 559), for New Jersey Nets, Denver Nuggets, NY Knicks, Charlotte Hornets, Miami Heat and Milwaukee Bucks. Mason averaged career high 16.2 ppg, 5.7 apg and 11.4 rpg for Hornets during the 1996-97 season. He was named NBA All-Star in 2001.
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