Anthony Mason, a longtime NBA player and former forward for the New York Knicks, died in Manhattan Saturday morning, the Knicks said. He was 48. Mason helped the team reach the NBA Finals with his physical play in 1994.
The cause of death was not reported, although Mason had multiple heart surgeries earlier this week and had been battling heart disease. Mason’s family released a statement Saturday morning, saying he “fought like a warrior to the very end,” ESPN reported.
Mason played for six teams in 13 NBA seasons, but the 6-foot 7-inch forward became a fan favorite during his five-year tenure with the Knicks. Mason became known for his unbridled, bruising play on the court and the designs he etched into his haircuts. He won the NBA’s Sixth Man Award in 1994-1995 while playing for the Knicks. He retired in 2003, according to ESPN.
“As a competitor, there was none fiercer than Anthony Mason,” Knicks president Phil Jackson, who previously coached against Mason as the head coach of the Chicago Bulls, said in a statement Saturday. "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."
Mason is survived by his two sons, Anthony Jr. and Antoine, who have budding basketball careers of their own, according to the New York Times. Anthony Jr. was a star forward for St. John’s and is playing professionally for a club in Cyprus. Antoine is a guard who finished second in NCAA Division I in scoring last year and now plays for Auburn University.
“Overnight New York City and the world lost a legend, a friend, a brother…but more than anything our father, Anthony Mason," Anthony Jr. said in a statement Saturday. "As you all would expect our father – Big Mase – put up an incredible fight, dealing with 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."