By Joseph Staszewski
Anthony Mason Jr. was prepared for this and it shows.
While nothing could totally prep the former St. John’s University men’s basketball star for losing his famous father, Anthony Mason, to a heart attack at 48 in February, big Mase did get his son ready to pick up his mantel and continue his legacy when the time arrived by treating him like a man – even as a teenager.
“It helped me achieve that balance to be able to step into this place and be able to stand strong for my family and stand strong for my pops,” Mason Jr. said.
Events like the May 14 dedication of the Springfield Gardens gymnasium that bears his father’s name don’t really help with his healing process. They may temporarily ease the pain, but a piece of Mason Jr. will always be gone. Instead, those events remind Mason Jr. of the work ahead and the lives still being touched through his dad’s story of perseverance.
“This is long-lasting because it’s my father,” Mason Jr. said. “I carry his name. I carry his looks. I can look in the mirror every day and see him. The healing in my situation doesn’t stop. It’s a soothing feeling.”
He has shown how positive a force he can be as he has made his transition from ball player to businessman. Mason Jr. spoke with the current Springfield Gardens boys’ basketball team prior to the gym’s dedication and grabbed their attention with a simple message.
He told them: Do your best in everything from sports to school to family life. Your actions now affect your legacy and the one you leave for your kids. Also, never be satisfied with what you have. You can always do more.
“They were all ears,” Springfield Gardens boys’ basketball coach Angelo Buono said. “He related very well to them. He spoke the truth and spoke it straight, and the kids really responded to that.”
What’s next for Mason Jr. is continuing to be the face of his family and anything done in his dad’s memory. A scholarship fund is in the works. The charismatic 28-year-old appears more than ready for his new role. The star player on Norm Roberts’ St. John’s teams in the late 2000’s, Mason Jr. is no stranger to the spotlight.
That composure showed when Mason Jr. consoled his younger brother Antoine, who began breaking down as he addressed the Springfield Gardens crowd. He also signed every autograph and took every selfie asked for after the ceremony.
“He’s not that much older than us,” Springfield Gardens junior guard Joel Boyce said. “He can relate to a lot of stuff. He tells me stuff about school and how to be a better student-athlete.”
Mason Jr. was just heeding some of the advice he gave the basketball players. People gravitate to athletes, looking to them to lead by example, so set the right one. Mason Jr. learned that lesson, and the generosity that inspired it came from his dad. Others will learn it from him now.