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Anthony Mason, ex-NBA star and father of former NU standout, dies at 48

Anthony Mason, father of former Niagara University star Antoine, has died. He was 48.

Diagnosed with congestive heart failure in early February, the former NBA star with the New York Knicks underwent several surgeries throughout the month, but lost the battle on Saturday.

His son averaged 20 points per game for the Niagara Purple Eagles under both Joe Mihalich and Chris Casey in a four-year career that drew to a close last spring. Anthony was a regular spectator at his son’s NU games, offering encouragement and direction from courtside. With one year of eligibility remaining and his degree at NU complete, Antoine Mason transferred to Auburn to play in the Southeastern Conference under Bruce Pearl.

Antoine, who left the team Thursday to be with his father, posted this message on Instagram on Friday:

“The Bond Me & My Dad Have Can’t Be Broken EVER. Talk about someone who shows tough love and the most caring person in the world. #likefatherlikeson #FAM14 #Westillonourmission”

The News’ Jerry Sullivan wrote about the relation between Antoine and his father in a column published March 10, 2013:

“I didn’t play basketball until my junior year in high school,” Mason said Saturday afternoon at MassMutual Center. “So I had to learn the cerebral part of the game. It’s easy to run up and down the floor. That’s what’s missing in the NBA right now, the cerebral part of the game.”

That’s what he passed on to his son, Antoine. He wanted the kid to be tough, but smart – to have the intelligence and honesty to accept his shortcomings and fortitude to work hard and rise above them.

“That’s the way I was raised,” the elder Mason said. “My mother told me, ‘I’m going to be tough on you, because the world is not going to give you anything.’ I raised him the same way.

“So the thing I try to impart to my son is be cerebral and you’re already ahead of the game. The game becomes a lot easier when you use your mind.”

Mason’s life

Anthony George Douglas Mason was born on Dec. 14, 1966, in Miami. He was raised in Queens by his mother, Mary Mason, who worked as a switchboard operator in Manhattan’s garment district, according to a 1995 profile in Newsday.

After playing for his Springfield Gardens High School team in Queens, Mason attended Tennessee State University in Nashville, graduating in 1988. He was inducted into the school’s athletics Hall of Fame in 2010 and remains among the top five Tigers in career points (2,076), field goal attempts (1,648), and free throws made (452).

Mason was selected by the Portland Trail Blazers in the third round of the 1988 draft, but never played an NBA game with the franchise. He spent the first few years of his professional career bouncing between the Turkish Basketball League, Continental Basketball Association and U.S. Basketball League, before the Knicks discovered him playing for the CBA’s Tulsa Fast Breakers in 1991.

New York advanced past the first round of the playoffs in each of Mason’s five years with the team, including a run to the NBA Finals in 1994, where the Knicks fell to the Houston Rockets in seven games. He was named the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year after the 1994-95 season and led the league in minutes played the following year.

A left-hander with a passing touch uncommon in players his size, Mason became a fan-favorite in New York for his background and bruising play both offensively and defensively. The Knicks defense allowed the fewest points in the NBA in 1992-93 and 1993-94.

In July 1996, Mason and teammate Brad Lohaus were traded to the Charlotte Hornets for forward Larry Johnson. He played three seasons in Charlotte before finishing his career with the Miami Heat and Milwaukee Bucks.

In 2001, at 34 years and 2 months, Mason became the second- oldest player named to an NBA All-Star team, according to a New York Times account. It was the only time he was named to an All- Star team.

Over his career, Mason averaged 10.9 points, 8.3 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game. He played in 96 postseason games with four different franchises.

Mason remained a presence in New York after retiring. In 2007 he served as an unofficial coach to Knicks center Eddy Curry, the New York Post reported at the time.