I was first irritated when I first heard Anthony Mason was coming to play for the Miami Heat during the 2000 off season. He had a stellar three-year career in Charlotte averaging 13.5 points a game and 9 rebounds but I was pissed because we traded a talented Jamal Mashburn and the pre-UD heart and soul of the team, PJ Brown.
When Mason was brought in, there was a sense of championship again surrounding the Heat, especially with TIm Hardaway and Alonzo Mourning coming off Gold Medals in the Olympics. The Heat had a lineup most feared, with Zo, Brian Grant (who Pat Riley insisted was the "the missing piece") Mason, Eddie Jones and Tim Hardaway. The bench included three pointers from Dan Majerle and the defense of Bruce Bown. Mason was brought in just to compliment but once Zo went down with a kidney disease, everyone was expected to step up.
Mason took the challenge and thrived off it. During the 2000-01 season, Mason averaged 16 points a game and nearly 10 rebounds, and even got to be in the All-Star game. I remember watching Mase from game to game as Miami's consistent scorer the nights Jones' shot was off and Hardaway would show his age. While it was unfortunate that in the end, the Heat were swept by Mashburn and the Hornets, Mase turned doubt into determination during his one season in Miami.
Pat Riley was the coach who "discovered" how talented Mason was and coached an NBA Finals bound front court of Patrick Ewing, Charles Oakley and Mason. Riley believed in Mason again when bringing him down to Miami, where he turned this belief into his first and only All-Star appearance. Mason is one reason why Riley is one of the greatest coaches of all time, because even though there were disputes with Riley throughout the years, Mason considered Riley father-like. According to Peter Vecsey, one of Mason's last wish was to hear Riley's voice.
It's comforting 2 know wish of Mason, unable 2 speak, was granted. He wanted 2 hear f Riley. Pat called last week, I'm told. Did all talking— Peter Vecsey (@PeterVecsey1) February 28, 2015
So thank you Anthony Mason for your heart and fight for the Miami Heat during your lone season here. I was pissed when Mason came here, but like many others today, I praise him for who he was.
"News like this is not only sad, but it’s tragic," said Riley in a team statement released Saturday. "Anthony Mason was a very young man with a great family and friends. To lose him so quickly during his journey, especially to those of us that knew him, hurts. We had a great season in Miami experiencing Anthony as an All-Star with the HEAT, and I also had the privilege of coaching him for four years in New York, where he helped take us to the brink of a championship.
"There were so many great moments that we shared that I will never forget. Our prayers and sympathies are with his family. May god bless his soul."