Anthony Mason, a bruising power forward who personified the gritty Knicks of the mid-’90s, died early Saturday morning. He was 48.
The homegrown product from Springfield Gardens High School in Queens suffered a massive Feb. 11 heart attack and never recovered.
Mason played 13 seasons in the NBA with six teams but is best remembered for his days as a huge fan favorite with the Knicks.
After playing abroad and in both the CBA and USBL, Mason had brief stints with the Nets and Denver before he was signed by Pat Riley — an admirer of his rugged style and playmaking ability.
Alongside Patrick Ewing and Charles Oakley, he helped give the Knicks of the early ’90s one of the most physically imposing front lines in NBA history.
“My heart is heavy after learning we lost Anthony Mason last night,” Ewing said. “We were teammates on the Knicks for five great seasons.
MY MAN MY MAN A. MASON R.I.P, WE GONNA MISS U BROTHER
— Charles Oakley (@CharlesOakley34) February 28, 2015
“Mase came to play every night and was always ready to go to battle with me every time we stepped on the court together. I will remember him for his strength, determination and perseverance. My thoughts are with is family. May he rest in peace.”
Mason’s son Anthony Jr. issued a statement thanking Mason’s many fans and friends for their prayers and good wishes.
“Overnight New York City and the world lost a legend, a friend, a brother… but more than anything our father, Anthony Mason,” said Anthony Jr.
“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.’”
Anthony Jr. played college ball for St. John’s, while another hoop-playing son, Antoine, is playing at Auburn after transferring from Niagara. Antoine averaged 25.6 points per game last season.
Mason never married Anthony Jr.’s mother Monica Bryant, who raised their child as the hoopster chased his NBA dream, or Antoine’s mother, Latifa Whitlock.
Mason was born Dec. 14, 1966, in Miami but raised as a city kid in Queens. He attended Tennessee State University, a small black college, and was drafted in the third round by the Portland Trail Blazers.
Mason and teammate John Starks were both classic examples of self-made players; each found an unlikely home in New York under Riley while emerging as key players on a Knicks team that reached the NBA Finals in 1994.
The following season, Mason was named Sixth Man of the Year.
Mason, however, often complained about his role in the offense and felt that the Knicks were relying too heavily on Ewing.
After losing to the Bulls in the second round in 1996, the Knicks shipped Mason to Charlotte in a deal for Larry Johnson.
Mason eventually landed in Milwaukee, and then was briefly reunited with Riley in Miami. It was with the Heat that Mason made his only All-Star Game in 2001.
“The beauty of Anthony Mason is that he worked himself into becoming an NBA player and an All Star,” former Knick Derek Harper told the Daily News.
Harper added: “I tried to reach out to him this week to tell him I love him. It’s incredibly sad.”
After retirement, Mason was often spotted at Knick games and practices.
He remained close to a handful of employees in the organization and was hoping to land a full-time job with the club.
“He was as tough as they come,” Oakley told the News.
Mason, in addition to his two sons, was survived by his 90-year-old mother Mary.