The New York Knicks lost one of the most popular players in franchise history this past weekend, as Anthony Mason – who helped the Knicks reach the 1994 NBA Finals – died of congestive heart failure at the age of 48.
Mason, a native of Queens, played for the Knicks from 1991 to 1996, and later played for Charlotte (1996-2000), Miami (2000-01) and Milwaukee (2001-03). He was named Sixth Man of the Year in 1995 and was an All-Star in 2001.
Many former teammates and coaches have shared their memories of Mason in recent days, including John Starks, who appeared on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney on Monday. Starks had no idea that Mason was in poor health.
“Not at all,” Starks said. “Not at all. He was fine and just being his old self – joking around and having fun. You know how he is. He’s just one of those guys that when you’re around him, his personality is just going to take over you. That’s one of the memories that I have about him.”
Starks saw Mason just a few weeks ago at All-Star Weekend in New York. Needless to say, Starks and others were shocked by his passing.
Mason may have been an All-Star in Miami, but he will always be remembered for his time in New York. In 1993-94, he averaged 7.2 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists, helping the Knicks come within one game of an NBA title. While Mason’s numbers were solid, his true value was in bringing toughness and energy each and every night.
Quite simply, he was the heart of the team.
“He just fit right in with Coach Riley’s whole mentality,” Starks said. “He was an aggressive, talented, young player. Didn’t take (anything) off of anyone, not even our veteran guys like Oak and Patrick and X-Man. He knew that he belonged, and anybody that knew Anthony (knew) that he was a brash young man full of confidence in himself – and he’ll let you know. That’s what made him so special – his willingness just to do whatever it takes to win and push you to the next level. He wasn’t scared to let it be known if we wasn’t playing well or not (even though he was) a young player. He was a typical New Yorker, just one of those guys that’s going to speak his mind no matter what.”
In fact, that’s one of the reasons that squad was so embraced by the city – even though it came up short in the Finals.
“I think that was the case,” Starks said. “We just took on that energy of the team, and Mase exemplified that – being from New York and having that brash attitude, not playing second fiddle to nobody. And so, I think that’s what our mentality was. That’s what Coach Riley set out to have that mindset every time we took the court. And so, I think that’s why those teams in the ’90s, I think fans loved those teams because of the attitude that we had and our style was hard-nosed – just like New York City. It’s a blue collar city, and we was a blue-collar team.”