NBA power forward
, 1990 to present.
Weight: 260 pounds
Anthony Mason, after a monster senior season at Tennessee State (28 points, 10 rebounds), was drafted with the 53rd pick of the 1988 NBA Draft by the Portland Trail Blazers. The Blazers didn't offer Mason a contract, and he bounced around several leagues, teams, and countries before ending up as a valuable member of the New York Knicks bench.
Mason first went to Turkey, and played in the Turkish League in 1989. The New Jersey Nets signed him for the 1990 season, but he only managed to play garbage time minutes in 21 games. The Nets gave him his release at the end of training camp for the 1991 season. Mason then signed with Tulsa of the Continental Basketball Association. The Denver Nuggets picked him up out of the CBA, and signed him to two 10-day contracts, but also didn't find Mason worth keeping. Mason then went to the Long Island Surf of the USBL, before signing with the Knicks prior to the 1992 season.
With the Knicks, Mason was given playing time for the first time in his career, and responded. He was the first forward off the bench, backing up Charles Oakley. Mason averaged 7 points and 7 rebounds, and became a favorite with the crowd at Madison Square Garden. Mason was a big part of Pat Riley's defensive approach. He played tough, animalistic defense, usually on players several inches taller, and was also popular for an early-career habit of shaving messages and designs into his head.
Mason continued his excellent play throughout his Knick career, winning the Sixth Man of the Year Award, annually given to the league's best non-starter, in 1995. For the 1996 season, Don Nelson replaced Riley as the Knicks' coach, and inserted Mason into the starting lineup at small forward. Nelson also used Mason as a point forward, utilizing Mason's above-average ballhandling skills. However, Knicks' superstar Patrick Ewing was dissatisfied with Mason's increasing prominence in the offense, and the resulting internal dissension led to Nelson's firing in midseason. Mason, despite averaging 14.6 points and 9.3 rebounnds, was traded at the end of the season to the Charlotte Hornets for Larry Johnson.
Mason had his career season for the Hornets in 1997. Once again playing point forward, Mason averaged an impressive 16 points, 11 rebounds, and nearly 6 assists per game. However, the Hornets were swept in the playoffs by Mason's former team, the Knicks.
Mason missed the entire 1999 season with a ruptured biceps tendon in his right arm, but came back strong in 2000, averaging 12 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists. The Hornets traded him to the Miami Heat at the end of the season, where Mason was reunited with his former coach Pat Riley.
Mason was named to the All-Star team in 2001, and had one of his best scoring seasons, with 16 ppg. He helped to lead the Heat into the playoffs despite Miami's star player, Alonzo Mourning, missing almost the entire season with a kidney ailment. Ironically, Mason was once again swept out of the playoffs by his former teammates, this time by the Hornets.
As a cost-cutting measure, the Heat did not offer Mason a contract, and he instead signed with the Milwaukee Bucks for the 2002 season, as their starting power forward.
Anthony Mason is an extremely versatile player. He can defend both forward positions, as well as most centers. He plays ferocious defense, and his lack of height is not usually an issue. Mason is only an average rebounder for his position as a power forward, but as a small forward is an excellent rebounder. He has played both positions throughout his career. On offense, Mason can hurt you in many ways. He has an array of low-post moves, though sometimes has trouble scoring on taller opponents. He is capable of throwing down rim-rattling dunks. He is a 71% free-throw shooter for his career, with an unusual technique. Mason palms the ball in one hand and hesitates several seconds before releasing it. Mason is an exemplary passer for a big man, and can orchestrate an offense, if necessary. The major flaw in Mason's game is that he tries to run the offense more frequently than he should. He is predictable when handling the ball, because he has basically no jump shot to speak of. Opposing teams know he's either posting up or passing it off. This probably explains the playoff failures of Mason's teams.