Editor's Note: Anthony Mason's Haircut rocks the shit with this post on his namesake. Arichmix is up next with Charlie Ward.
Similar to John Starks, Anthony George Douglas Mason was an unknown coming out of college and languished in Europe and the CBA before getting a break in the NBA. After being cut by Portland, he spent some time in Jersey as well as a 3-game stint in Denver. But it wasn't until he signed with the Knicks before the '91-92 season (btw, one of the most underrated Knicks teams ever...took a vastly superior Bulls squad to the brink that year in the 2nd round) that the world was introduced to Anthony Mason.
Mase was an integral part of the punch-you-in-the-mouth defensive Knicks teams that defined the Pat Riley era. He was a beast of a player, listed at just 6'7 (yeah right, maybe with his shoes on) and 250 pounds. He had a hideous jump shot, though it occasionally fell, and also was one of the pioneers of the one-handed free throw - something Shaq no doubt adapted from him. But his baby-hook from 3-5 feet was straight butter, and it helped Mase score over taller defenders as well as pick up garbage points down low. Mase always took other teams by surprise by pretending like he was a dumb thug, then throwing a perfect backdoor pass to a cutting John Starks or Derek Harper for an easy layup. That was an aspect of his game that was seriously underrated - he was like a big point guard. Mase would then run down to the other end of the floor, punch you in the balls on defense, take the ball from you, run down to the other end, grab an offensive rebound and either a) dunk, or b) baby hook your ass, then he would bob his head or scream (I also credit Mase as one of the earlier innovators of the chest pound). Rinse and repeat. There's Anthony Mason in a nutshell.
Mase reacting after baby hooking someone's ass
Mase was never flashy on the court. He was around a 8.5 ppg/7.5 rpg guy in his time in NY. But, if Mase got starter minutes, his numbers would've generated to an average of almost 14 rebounds per game according to my calculations. Most importantly for Mase, he played every game, was never hurt and had the fire that many of the current Knicks (cough, Eddy Curry, cough) lack. And Mase did earn Sixth Man of the Year honors in his final season as a Knick, so he did get some recognition.
Mason played for three other teams after leaving (along with Brad Lohaus, it's pathetic that I know that) the Knicks in the Larry Johnson trade back in '96. He enjoyed a career season in Charlotte that year, in which he was selected to the All-NBA Third Team. Mason averaged a double-double (16-11) and an uncanny 5.7 dimes a game that season! But Mase wasn't even an All-Star, and only appeared in one All-Star game in his lone season with Miami when he was reunited with Riley. It did pain me to see him with the Heat in '01 but that team was a non-factor. The only time the Knicks and Mase met in the playoffs was in '97 when New York easily dispatched of the Hornets in a first-round sweep before being screwed out of the Eastern Conference Finals by David Stern and PJ Brown. His career averages are a solid 10.8 ppg and 8.3 rpg. Mase also averaged 2.3 elbows-in-your-mother-fucking-eye-socket per game.
Mason in Pop Culture
As a white pre-teen in suburban Connecticut, it wasn't exactly socially acceptable to have messages shaved in my head like Mase. But regardless, I begged my parents to no avail. After ignoring their orders and a failed attempt to shave "Muggsy" (my nickname at the time since I was like 4 feet tall) into my head during 5th grade summer camp in 1994, I decided the haircut artistry was best left to Mason. I tried all week to recall some of the specific messages he had in his head. His trademark was the "Mase" in cursive, which he apparently still rocks today. He may have at one time had "Chosen" or something similar. You could basically fit a whole paragraph on that dude's head.
Besides the haircut, Mason also had a big influence on New York based rappers.
Mase slammed his way through Bronx rapper Diamond D's "Best Kept Secret" from '92:
The song title is fitting because Mason was certainly one of the NBA's best kept secrets in the 90's. It is perhaps the best concept for a Music Video ever with Mason dunking on a playground the entire time.
Mase is also famously referenced in the Brooklyn-born Beastie Boys track "B Boys Makin' With the Freak Freak" from Ill Communication (my personal favorite album ever) which was released in 1994:
"Got fat bass lines like Russel Simmons steals money, got
Clientele you know I rock well,
And then you're on my dick because I'm D.F.L.
Yeah Mike cause playing the bass is my favorite shit,
I might be a hack on the stand up but I'm working at it
I got my hair cut correct like Anthony Mason
Then I ride the I.R.T. right up to Penn Station..."
(you can also check "Get it Together" on the same album for a John Starks reference...)
Anyways, one could argue that Anthony Mason was the biggest pop culture icon in Knicks history. He's certainly in the top three. Walt Frazier had his fashion, John Starks had "the Dunk" and his middle-finger incident in Miami, and Pat had his Angel of Death cameo in the Exorcist. Mase had his haircut, a music video, rap song references, a fugly baby hook and his right and left elbows. He may not have been a statistical monster and he may not have a place for his jersey to be hung at the Garden. But, Anthony Mason <pause for emotional ending> certainly has cemented a place in all of our hearts (9th place to be exact).