Former New York Knicks power forward Anthony Mason, who was a defensive force in the NBA from the 1990s into the early 21st century, died Saturday. He was 48.
He had been battling severe heart issues, according to a statement by his son, Anthony Mason Jr., to the New York Daily News.
The 6-foot-7 Mason won the NBA’s Sixth Man Award in 1995 with a Knicks team that was eliminated in the second round of the playoffs in one of its classic clashes with the Indiana Pacers. Mason also won all-defensive-team honors two years later with the Charlotte Hornets.
Knicks President Phil Jackson, who coached the Chicago Bulls teams against the ‘90s Knicks, said that “as a competitor, there was none fiercer than Anthony Mason.”
“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,” Jackson added.
Mason’s career averages — 10.9 points, 8.3 rebounds — don’t tell the full story of his game. A solid, muscular presence down low, Mason was there to play defense, and on coach Pat Riley’s bruising teams, he could shine.
Mason played for New York from 1991 to 1996, and then for the Hornets until 2000. He made his only All-Star team in 2001 as a member of the Miami Heat, after reuniting with Riley.
He was born Dec. 14, 1966, in Miami and went to high school in the New York City borough of Queens. Mason played college ball for Tennessee State University, where he was the school’s first All-Ohio Valley Conference selection.