By Patrick Donachie
A crowd of Anthony Mason’s family and fans gathered at the corner of 147th Street and Rockaway Boulevard in South Jamaica Saturday to rename a part of 147th Street in honor of the New York Knicks forward who died last year.
City Councilmen Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica), I. Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans), state Sen. Leroy Comrie (D-Jamaica) and former Knicks star John Starks joined Mason’s mother and children for the unveiling of the new street sign.
“The tough thing is it’s not about anyone here. It’s about the guy up there, and he’s not here to say his piece,” Antoine Mason said in memory of his father. He told the crowd that his father was so determined to succeed when he played for Tennessee State University that he would sneak into the school’s gym overnight to practice.
“That’s the kind of person he is,” he said.
Starks, who played with the Knicks from 1990 to 1998 and with Mason from 1991 to 1996, said it was an honor to celebrate “something that’s going to live on forever.” He said he believed that Mason was proud to represent the whole of Queens.
“New York is a blue collar city, and everyday people are out there grinding to make a living, trying to survive, and he embodied that on the court,” he said. “You see a lot of New York inside Anthony Mason.”
Mason attended Springfield Gardens High School and helped lead the school to the 1983 PSAL boys’ basketball city title before playing for Tennessee State. His NBA career spanned 13 years, and he averaged 9.9 points and 7.7 rebounds per game during his time with the New York Knicks. Mason won the NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award in 1995 and was an All-Star with the Miami Heat in 2001.
He suffered a massive heart attack in February 2015 and underwent several surgeries, but died Feb. 28. His funeral was held at The Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral in Jamaica on March 13, 2015. Attendees at the service included Starks, Knicks stars Patrick Ewing and Charles Oakley and former Knicks head coach Pat Riley. Mason is survived by his sons, Antoine, who played basketball for Auburn University; Anthony Mason, Jr., who played for St. John’s University; as well as his children Aryana and Armon.
Richard Kelly, Jr. lived next door to where Mason grew up and recalled that he received wider attention after the Springfield Gardens victory.
“That’s when everyone knew who he was. And we had his back,” he said. “When he got drafted to the Knicks, the whole block got lit up.”
Kelly said Mason often contributed to the community without fanfare or attention. Kelly said Mason provided basketball rims for the yard in Public School 223, which was located half a block away from the renaming ceremony.
Chuck Vance, an assistant coach with Springfield Gardens High School, said Mason often would supply students and athletes at the school with uniforms and supplies.
“He didn’t make it a big thing,” Vance said. “The boxes would just show up one day.”
Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdona