Saturday, February 28, 2015

Saying Goodbye to Mase

By Charlie Scaturro

“Damn. We lost Mase.” Is all I could think this morning when I heard Anthony Mason had passed away at the age of 48.

For basketball fans in the 90’s Mason was the epitome of the physical, hardnosed style of play that is a distant memory in today’s NBA. But for anyone who grew up in New York City in the 90’s, Mason was a bit more than that. From his iconic haircuts to his fur coats to being featured in music videos and songs by the Beastie Boys, Mason WAS New York City in the mid-90’s.

The fact that he was a part of some of the best teams in Knicks franchise history only further ingrains Mase in New York City’s ethos. I remember when the Knicks won the Eastern Conference Finals and subsequently lost to the Houston Rockets in agonizing fashion in the summer of 1994 and for me, at 8 years old, it seemed like that was the most important thing that had happened to the city in my brief lifetime.

Whether Mase was standing shoulder to shoulder with Patrick Ewing and Charles Oakley in Madison Square Garden forming one of the most intimidating frontcourts in NBA history or he was serving as the de-facto bouncer at LL Cool J’s barbecues in Queens, he will always harken back to a time in this city’s history that would make any basketball fan or New Yorker smile.

Considering the fact that the Knicks have become the laughingstock of the NBA and New York City has changed so much since the 90’s, Mason was a throwback to a different era both on and off the court. In recent weeks we heard about Mason’s health troubles, but it wasn’t supposed to end like this.

Some time in the distant future (perhaps 2024 on the 30th anniversary of that Knicks team that reached the 1994 NBA Finals) the Knicks would bring back all of the players from that 1994 team to honor them on the court at halftime of a game.

Though much older than we remember them, Patrick Ewing, John Starks, Charles Oakley, Hubert Davis, Greg Anthony, Charles Smith, and maybe even Pat Riley would take the floor to raucous applause from the Garden faithful. And of course, in my mind’s eye of this fictitious celebration, Anthony Mason would be there drawing one of the loudest applauses of all.

Now, whenever that reunion does happen, they’ll have to carve out an awfully big placeholder for Mase.

About a year ago, I saw Anthony Mason walking down 38th street in Manhattan. From afar he was a hulking figure dressed in a full-length fur coat who appeared to be talking to himself. But as I got closer, I realized it was just Anthony Mason (all 6'7'’ of him), dressed in his usual winter coat, talking on a Bluetooth.

I smiled; it was just Mase being Mase.

Today, the Knicks lost an icon, New York City lost a piece of its history, and his sons lost their father.

R.I.P. Anthony Mason.

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