Anthony Mason, a longtime NBA player who helped the New York Knicks reach the 1994 NBA Finals, has died at the age of 48. A Knicks spokesperson confirmed to ESPN that Mason died early Saturday morning. The 13-year NBA veteran had been diagnosed with congestive heart failure earlier this month. "First I want to thank all those who offered prayers and well-wishes for my Father, our family really appreciates it," his son, Anthony Mason Jr., said in a statement Saturday. "Overnight, New York City and the world lost a legend, a friend, a brother … but more than anything our father, Anthony Mason. As you all would expect our father — Big Mase — put up an incredible fight, dealing with a severe heart issue. 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." The Knicks held a moment of silence for Mason before Saturday night's 103-98 win against the Toronto Raptors and aired a video tribute during the game.
Mason's other son, Antoine, is a senior basketball player at Auburn, which played at Texas A&M on Saturday. The Aggies held a moment of silence for the elder Mason. Antoine Mason had said earlier this week that his father was "getting better" following multiple heart surgeries.
Mason's family released a statement Saturday morning, saying that he "fought like a warrior to the very end." "We would like to thank everyone for their heartfelt thoughts and strong prayers," the statement said. "Anthony felt each and every one. He fought like a warrior to the very end. Please keep your prayers and thoughts with us through this very hard time — it is a great loss for us. We ask for our privacy during this time."
Mason played for six teams but was best remembered for his five-year tenure with the Knicks. Mason's bruising, physical play epitomized then-coach Pat Riley's Knicks teams. The 6-foot-7 forward became a fan favorite for his physical play and also drew attention for the creative artwork and messages he had carved in his haircuts.