Anthony Mason, popular for his intensity — and being the most physical player on Pat Riley’s tough Knicks teams — has died at the age of 48.
His son Anthony Mason Jr. has confirmed the passing, providing this statement (via the New York Post).
“First I want to thank all those who offered prayers and well-wishes for my Father, our family really appreciates it. Overnight New York City and the world lost a legend, a friend, a brother… but more than anything our father, Anthony Mason. As you all would expect our father – Big Mase – put up an incredible fight, dealing with a severe heart issues. I’m wishing this was something else I was writing, but Pops we’ve got to let you know we love you and know you’ll always be with us.”
Mason had suffered multiple heart attacks on Feb. 10 and had undergone several surgeries at the time, including one lasting nine hours, according to long-time Knicks reporter Peter Vecsey. Family members said recently he had been improving. However, he was still in the hospital and unable to speak.
Mason played 13 NBA seasons but is best remembered as a fan-favorite Knick from those mid-90s teams under Pat Riley. He was a self-made player who had gone undrafted but whose game became central to the Knicks identity. His intense defense, toughness, and physicality were a big part of the team during the Patrick Ewing era. He could defend either forward position well and at times was even was asked to defend the five. Mason was named the Sixth Man of the Year in 1995.
“As a competitor, there was none fiercer than Anthony Mason,” Knicks president Phil Jackson said in a statement. “Standing on the opposite end of the playing field, coaching in those great Chicago/New York battles, No. 14 in the Orange and Blue always stood out. On behalf of the entire Knickerbocker community, our condolences go out to his family. Rest in peace, Mase.”
Eventually when Riley left for Miami he recruited Mason to join him, and it was with the Heat Mason made the All-Star Game in 2001. During his career, Mason also played for the New Jersey Nets, Denver Nuggets, Charlotte Hornets, and Milwaukee Bucks.
Our thoughts go out to his family and friends.