Anthony Mason, the rugged power forward who was a defensive force in the NBA in the 1990s and beloved in New York, has died at age 48. The Knicks confirmed Mason's death, which was first reported by the New York Daily News. He had been battling heart problems. "We would like to thank everyone for their heartfelt thoughts and strong prayers. Anthony felt each and every one. He fought like a warrior to the very end," the Mason family said in a statement provided by the Knicks. Mason's career averages—10.9 points, 8.3 rebounds—don't tell the full story of his game.
A solid, muscular presence down low, Mason was there to play defense, and on coach Pat Riley's bruising teams, he could shine. Mason played for New York from 1991-1996, and then for the Hornets until 2000. (He made his only All-Star team in 2001 as a member of the Miami Heat, after reuniting with Riley.) Mason won a Sixth Man Award with the Knicks, but it was the toughness he provided alongside Charles Oakley while surrounding franchise center Patrick Ewing that made him beloved in New York. "MY MAN MY MAN A. MASON R.I.P, WE GONNA MISS U BROTHER," Oakley wrote on Twitter. (Read more New York Knicks stories.)