New York Knicks Star Dies at 48

By Eben Novy-Williams

(Bloomberg) — Anthony Mason, a mainstay on the defensive-minded New York Knicks team that finished one win from a National Basketball Association title in 1994, has died. He was 48.
The Knicks announced his death on the team’s website Saturday, calling him “an iconic member of the franchise during his five-year stint for the orange and blue.” The 6-foot-7, 250-pound forward known as “Mase” underwent surgery at a New York Hospital following a heart attack last month.
Mason, who played high school basketball in the city, starred on his hometown Knicks for five of his 13 NBA seasons and became known as a relentless defender.
He was an integral part of the 1993-1994 Pat Riley-coached team that included Patrick Ewing and John Starks. Mason’s haircuts, often featuring “Mase” or “Knicks” shaved into the side of his head, reflected his on-court flair.
New York rap trio Beastie Boys mentioned him in their 1994 song “B-Boys Makin’ With the Freak Freak,” singing “I got my hair cut correct like Anthony Mason, then I ride the IRT right up to Penn Station.” Mason also was featured in the group’s “Root Down” music video.
Anthony George Douglas Mason was born on Dec. 14, 1966, in Miami. He was raised in Queens, New York, by his mother, Mary Mason, who worked as a switchboard operator in Manhattan’s garment district, according to a 1995 profile in Newsday.
Tiger Stats
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.
Good Defense
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.
“As a competitor there was none fiercer than Anthony Mason,” Knicks President Phil Jackson said in a statement.
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.
New York Presence
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.
In 1996, Mason pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct for a scuffle with police in Manhattan, according to an account in Times. In 1998, he pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts of endangering the welfare of a child after prosecutors dropped sex abuse and statutory rape charges involving two teen-age girls, the Times reported.
His son, Anthony Mason Jr., played basketball at St. John’s University and another son, Antoine Mason, played for Auburn University, where he was the second leading scorer based on points per game as of February 2015.

Earl Lloyd Dies at 86

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Earl Lloyd, who became the first black player to appear in an N.B.A. game when he took the court for the Washington Capitols in October 1950, three and a half years after Jackie Robinson broke modern major league baseball’s color barrier, died on Thursday in Crossville, Tenn. He was 86.

His death was announced by West Virginia State University, where he played before joining the N.B.A.

When Lloyd made his N.B.A. debut, pro basketball was an afterthought on the national sports scene. Lloyd’s milestone appearance received little attention. But Lloyd and three other black players who appeared in N.B.A. lineups soon afterward were nonetheless pioneers, enduring racist jeers from spectators in some cities as well as segregated hotel and restaurant accommodations.

A rugged 6-foot-6, 220-pound forward, Lloyd played in the N.B.A. for nine seasons. He was a strong rebounder and was so tenacious on defense that he sometimes guarded the Minneapolis Lakers’ 6-foot-10 center, George Mikan, the league’s first superstar.

Lloyd was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003.CreditPaul Sancya/Associated Press

In 1955, Lloyd and Jim Tucker, also a forward, became the first two black players on an N.B.A. championship team, playing for the Syracuse Nationals.

Lloyd was named the Detroit Pistons’ head coach in 1971, becoming the fourth black head coach in N.B.A. history, after Boston’s Bill Russell, Seattle’s Lenny Wilkens and Golden State’s Al Attles.

He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., in 2003 for breaking the N.B.A. racial barrier.

Lloyd said he had never encountered racial animosity from teammates or opposing players, but he remembered taunts from spectators, particularly in St. Louis; Baltimore; Fort Wayne, Ind., where the Pistons were based until 1957; and Indianapolis, where the Pistons played their home games in the 1955 N.B.A. finals against Syracuse.

“Those fans in Indianapolis, they’d yell stuff like, ‘Go back to Africa,’ ” Lloyd told The Syracuse Herald American in 1992. “My philosophy was: If they weren’t calling you names, you weren’t doing nothing. If they’re calling you names, you were hurting them.”

Lloyd recalled how a hotel manager in Baltimore refused to give him a room during a Nationals trip in the early 1950s and how his coach, Al Cervi, protested loudly to no avail. Lloyd left the hotel to avoid trouble.

“I owe Earl a lot of thanks,” Cervi, who coached him for four seasons, told Ron Thomas in the book “They Cleared the Lane: The N.B.A.’s Black Pioneers.”

“He’s an unsung star. Anybody can score. Lloyd was an excellent defensive player. That was No. 1 on my roster.”

Earl Francis Lloyd was born on April 3, 1928, in Alexandria, Va., where his father worked in a coal yard and his mother was a domestic worker. After playing at a segregated high school, he starred for historically black West Virginia State.

When the N.B.A., going into its fifth season, prepared for its April 1950 draft, many club owners continued to resist signing a black player. Apart from the prejudices of the time, some owners feared that Abe Saperstein, the owner of the all-black, crowd-pleasing Harlem Globetrotters, would pull them from appearances in N.B.A. arenas if his roster were raided, depriving the financially hard-pressed league of a gate attraction.

But everything changed when the Boston Celtics’ owner, Walter Brown, selected Chuck Cooper, a black player from Duquesne, in the second round of the 1950 draft, and Ned Irish, running the Knicks, said he planned to purchase the rights to the highly regarded Sweetwater Clifton from the Globetrotters. The Capitols followed their leads, picking Lloyd in the ninth round.

On the evening of Oct. 31, 1950, Lloyd made his debut when the Capitols opened their season on the road against the Rochester Royals at Edgerton Park Arena. He scored 6 points and pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds.

Cooper, a forward, made his Celtics debut the next night, and Clifton, a forward and center, appeared in his first Knicks game three days after that. Both went on to have fine careers in the N.B.A.

A fourth black player, Hank DeZonie, played in five games with the Tri-Cities Blackhawks during the 1950-51 season.

Lloyd entered the Army after seven games with the Capitols, who went out of business in January 1951. He later played six seasons for Syracuse, complementing the high-scoring Dolph Schayes, then played two seasons for the Pistons. He retired after the 1959-60 season with career averages of 8.4 points and 6.4 rebounds per game.

Lloyd became the Pistons’ coach a few games into the 1971-72 season. They finished last in the Midwest Division, and he was fired after a 2-5 start the next season.

He later held an executive position with Chrysler, supervised youth leagues for the Detroit Police Department and counseled students in the city’s school system.

Lloyd, who retired to Crossville after living in Detroit, is survived by his wife, Charlita; his sons, Kenneth, Kevin and David; and four grandchildren.

In reflecting on his experience as the N.B.A.’s first black player, Lloyd said he had been “in the right place at the right time.”

“I don’t play it up or down,” he told Mr. Thomas, the author. “I just hope I conducted myself where I made it easier for others, and I think I did.”

Ten College Basketball Games to Watch in December 2014

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LOUISVILLE, KY – DECEMBER 29: Head coach Rick Pitino of the Louisville Cardinals talks with head coach John Calipari of the Kentucky Wildcats before the game at KFC Yum! Center on December 29, 2012 in Louisville, Kentucky. Louisville won 80-77. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images).

 

The college basketball season is finally in the swing of the things as the calendar turned to the last month of the year. The action began heating up in the last week of the month with tournament play in the Maui Invitational, 2K Sports Classic, Legends Classic and the Battle 4 Atlantis.

Other tournaments remain, as do many non-conference matchups before conference plays begins at the end of the month. Here are the 10 games not to miss this month.

Tuesday, Dec. 3: No. 14 Ohio State at No. 5 Louisville

The Buckeyes enter December with an unblemished 5-0 record that’s due in large part to the fact that the best team they played in November was Marquette, while Louisville has also coasted to a 5-0 start. This game is the first test for each team, as Ohio State tries to replace significant losses from last season while the Cardinals look to stay near the top of the national rankings.

Wednesday, Dec. 4: No. 4 Duke at No. 2 Wisconsin

This is the first of multiple games this month that could provide a potential preview of this season’s national championship game. Each team has been impressive early with a couple quality opponents on their schedule, and this one features possibly the nation’s two best centers in Duke’s Jahlil Okafor and Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky.

No. 8 Wichita State at No. 25 Utah

The Shockers passed their first test of the season with a 71-56 victory against Memphis last month but face a stiffer one on the Utes’ home floor. Utah is led by one of the nation’s best guards in Delon Wright. Utah is looking to prove itself after a loss to No. 16 San Diego State last month, despite jumping into the rankings early in the season.

Friday, Dec. 5: No. 6 Texas at No. 1 Kentucky

Here’s another potential national championship pairing as the Longhorns travel to Rupp Arena. Texas capped November with a 55-54 victory over No. 24 UConn, but a trip to face the nation’s best team will provide a true barometer of where Rick Barnes’ squad is at and the same goes for John Calipari’s Wildcats.

Saturday, Dec. 6: No. 9 Gonzaga at No. 3 Arizona

Teams can struggle putting together good non-conference schedules, but head coach Mark Few and the Bulldogs have an excellent one. They defeated both No. 22 Southern Methodist and St. John’s last month, and the next challenge is Arizona. The Wildcats were pushed to the brink in both of their games at the Maui Invitational, beating Kansas State by four and No. 15 San Diego State by two. Gonzaga may not just be the best team Arizona plays in the non-conference slate, but maybe all season due to a weak Pac-12.

Saturday, Dec. 13: No. 12 North Carolina at No. 1 Kentucky

Continuing the trend, the Tar Heels head to Lexington in another potential future championship scenario albeit more of a longshot than others. North Carolina is talented enough, but this game will test how the team has come together since the season began. As for Kentucky, the Wildcats look to claim possibly their third win over a ranked team in the non-conference.

Saturday, Dec. 20: Syracuse at No. 10 Villanova

Syracuse has struggled early on, beating Iowa by only three points and taking a 14-point loss from the Cal Golden Bears. Meanwhile, Villanova has flourished and picked up wins over No. 14 Virginia Commonwealth and No. 19 Michigan to win the Legends Classic last month. This game harkens back to the days of the old Big East as these rivals reconnect, and Jim Boeheim hopes to see improvement out of the Orange.

No. 12 North Carolina at No. 14 Ohio State

At this point of the month, there is a very real possibility each of these teams could be ranked in the Top 10 or not ranked at all. Either way, this one should be a close game and also a game that could determine a lot moving forward for each team depending on the result and its impact on the mentalities of the winner and loser.

Saturday, Dec. 27: No. 1 Kentucky at No. 5 Louisville

The schedule-makers saved the best for almost-last in the month of Decembers, pitting the rivals against each other roughly a month after the schools’ football coaches nearly fought one another. Don’t expect that to happen between John Calipari and Rick Pitino, but rather look out for the best game that might be played all year before any of the conference tournaments begin in March.

Tuesday, Dec. 30: No. 21 Maryland at No. 19 Michigan State

Big Ten play kicks off on the penultimate day of the year and each of these teams will travel intriguing storylines. Maryland, the newcomer to the Big Ten, has seen success early after being a doormat in the ACC the last few seasons, success highlighted by an upset of No. 13 Iowa State to win the CBE Classic. The Terrapins’ success resulted in their first ranking in five years. Michigan State’s year has gotten off to rocky start with losses to No. 4 Duke and No. 11 Kansas last month but expect Tom Izzo to have the Spartans ready to roll as soon as conference play begins.