Sunday, March 1, 2015

In Memoriam: Anthony Mason

NBA RAW: The Revolution Has Begun: Corey Rockafeler-NBA RAW -Anthony Mason-A hero for...

NBA RAW: The Revolution Has Begun: Corey Rockafeler-NBA RAW -Anthony Mason-A hero for...: There are some sports figures who exert a much larger impact than their statistics. These unique players transcend the moment. They embody...

Corey Rockafeler-NBA RAW -Anthony Mason-A hero for the ages

There are some sports figures who exert a much larger impact than their statistics. These unique players transcend the moment. They embody an approach and a style of play that creates an enduring bond with fans. Anthony George Douglas Mason, a multi-skilled, self-made NBA All Star best known for his unbridled ferocity and intensity was such a player. His untimely death at 48-years old, weeks after suffering a massive heart attack, leaves a gaping hole in the fragile psyches of legions of ardent New York Knick fans.

Long before Marshawn Lynch's " Beast Mode, "there was " Mase in Your Face." This nimble 6 -7 ,250 pound chiseled block of granite with shoulders broad enough to carry the hopes of championship-famished Knick fans became a instant hit in New York. Mase authored an unyielding take-no-prisoners, win-or die-trying style of play with the powerhouse Knick teams of the 90's. Knick fans are a tough, discerning, sophisticated bunch who recognize two things-heart and effort. Mason gave them an abundance of both. The Springfield Gardens,Queens High School star was one of them. Mason along with Patrick Ewing, and fellow bruiser- resident enforcer, Charles Oakley, formed one of the most physically imposing front lines in NBA history. Their forte' was in an in-your- face, not-in-my house type of defense crafted by coach Pat Riley. Together, along with another fan favorite, John Starks, they triggered  the most sustained success in franchise history making the post-season for 10 straight years( 5 with Mason). Their success culminated with a grueling 7-game loss to the Houston Rockets in the 1994-95 NBA Finals.

Mason was a lot more than just a bruiser. He was uniquely gifted. He had the handle of a point guard, the deft foot work of a dancer, and the uncanny passing ability to play point forward. But defense is where Mason carved out his niche. The self-proclaimed " the locksmith" due to his ability to "lock down" opposing scorers. Mason had breathtaking defensive versatility. He could guard 1 through 5. It earned him NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award in 1995( also leading the league in minutes played), 1996-97 All-NBA Third Team, NBA-All Defensive Second Team( both with Charlotte Hornets) and an  NBA All-Star trip in 2001( with the Miami Heat).

Part of Mason's every-man appeal was his circuitous path to the NBA.  He was drafted in 1988 in the third-round by the Portland Trailblazers from little known Tennessee State University. He was then cut . Mason's grit-and-grind show took him everywhere from Turkey, Venezuela, the CBA, USBL, two abbreviated  NBA stints( with the Nets and the Nuggets), until a fateful summer in 1991. Playing summer ball in the Catskills, new Knick coach Pat Riley caught a glimpse of Mason playing. Mason was like a man playing against boys. The rest as they say is history.

At the time coach Riley was better known for his viscerally entertaining, aesthetically pleasing brand of NBA ball called Showtime. Adorned with five rings and former cast that included Hall Of Fame talents like Kareem, Magic, and Worthy, Riley went against  the grain  in New York. He recast the Knicks into a rough and tumble ,bruising style of defense -first gladiators . He found a perfect center piece in Mason. The Knick post season wars with the Michael  Jordan led Bulls were legendary. These were grueling ,win-or die, heavyweight slug fests akin to the Ali- Frazier epic boxing battles. The Knicks may not have won any titles, but they electrified the city and were feared everywhere they played.

Mason would play five years for the Knicks before being shipped off in a trade with Charlotte for Larry Johnson. Statistically Mason would enjoy his best years  with the Hornets averaging 14 points, 9 boards, and nearly 5 dimes over three seasons. He would then be reunited  with Pat Riley for 1 year in Miami before spending his last two years with the Milwaukee Bucks. Mason  retired in 2003 with career stats of 10.9 points, 8.3 rebounds,m and 3.4 dimes.

Like many of us, Mason had his transgressions. But no one can ever dispute  he gave the game of basketball everything he had and then some. Anthony Mason was  my hero and a hero to millions of Knick fans worldwide. We loved you then Mase and and we will  always love you. God bless you brethren, You will forever be in our hearts. Mase in your face.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

NBA RAW: The Revolution Has Begun: Corey Rockafeler -NBA RAW -Stuart Scott : Lifetime...

NBA RAW: The Revolution Has Begun: Corey Rockafeler -NBA RAW -Stuart Scott : Lifetime...: Sometimes it takes  just a single name:Jordan,Pele,Montana,or DiMaggio to conjure up potent visceral images of winning and accomplishme...

Corey Rockafeler -NBA RAW -Stuart Scott : Lifetime MVP Award

Sometimes it takes  just a single name:Jordan,Pele,Montana,or DiMaggio to conjure up potent visceral images of winning and accomplishment. These icons and their iconic endeavors are seared into memory banks to be replayed on demand for years to come. But just as there are memorable professional sports athletes,there are also relevant non-athletes closely linked to sports who are  as memorable . ESPN sports anchor Stuart Scott is one of those individuals. Stuart is also one of my heroes. Since 1993- his first broadcast - he has been a nightly guest in  my home and someone I have had the good fortune to meet on several occasions.  Right as I was leaving church service today  my son Miles sent me a text message to inform me the Lord called Stuart home. My eyes immediately began  to tear. I  had to head to the nearest men's room for a private moment to cry and pray. Stuart Scott was not supposed to die. No, not now and not for a long time. Although, Scott has been battling a rare form of cancer since 2007, he had emerged stronger and his doctors were optimistic for a full recovery.   His  July 2014 speech at the ESPY awards where he received the Jimmy V award  was as indelible and brave as anything you will ever witness on live television.  "When you die, it doesn't mean you lose to cancer," Scott passionately stated. " You beat the cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner  in which you live."  He took a prideful moment to speak with a father's pure love and admiration for his two daughters Sydni  and Taelor. He then bought Sydni up on stage , "come on up and give dad a hug because I need one." There was not a dry eye in the house.

Stuart was as much as a game-changer  as the sports figures he spoke glowingly about. His infectious energy, inimitable spirit was contagious to all. He was like a multi-sensory Red Bull. Scott was a new generation sports broadcaster who gave a new generation of athletes their own voice. He emboldened their personal journeys with a sense of authenticity  style, and swag not previously seen  or heard. The players all related to Suart.  He was one of them. What athlete did not want to end up  on ESPN with Scott exhorting: " boo-yah, " , "as cool as the other side of the pillow," to " you ain't gotta go home, but you gotta get the heck out of here, " Scott became a cultural touchstone with his own hip sports lexicon. He was popular with sports fans from Brooklyn to Berlin.

It was no secret that battling cancer is mentally, physically, and emotionally exacting   We knew Stuart Scott was a warrior and he would emerge victorious. The Lord however had another plan for our brother.

The greatest compliment you can say about someone is they made your life better. Stuart Scott made a lot of lives better. Like Kobe, Iverson, or even Namath, Stuart Scott forever changed the landscape. Like all  great ones his impact will endure forever. Stuart Scott was a great broadcaster but most importantly he was a great person. I love you  my brother and may God bless you and welcome you in heaven.


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Corey Rockafeler NBA RAW -ICYMI

I.C.Y.M.I  ( In Case You Missed It). Welcome to our first NBA RAW I.C.Y.M.I

~ Looking at the 76ers- Knick game on Saturday, was a tad bit cringe-inducing. It was sort of like  watching the the tallest midget contest. At least the 76ers know they are in tankapoolza. What is the excuse for the Knicks? Oh yeah, Melo in ESPN magazine saying he wants to be known as a "taste-maker" and "more than just a basketball player." Interesting priorities. How about starting Melo with being know as a guy who is more than just a defensively-deficient, prodigious ball-dominant scorer who rarely makes his teammates better. I think that would be a better staring point after 10 years in the league huh!

~ Staying in New York, the staunchest defenders of the triangle all realize an inescapable truth- you have to have the right players for this triple-post offense ... like say a true post player.  That means Zenmiester and his acolyte coach , D. Fish are making a fatal mistake. They have neither the post presence, nor the high-hoops IQ players needed to make the triangle work. Memo-create a system that fits your players. After all that is what good coach's and GM's do.

~  Denver Nugget, center, Javale McGee comparing himself to up and coming superstar Anthony " the brow" Davis  of the New Orleans Pelicans is ... how can we put this delicately.... delusional.  With all due respect, Javale you are not even on the same planet with AD. Now if you were speaking in terms of height, my humble apologies.

~The Clippers were supposed to be contenders right? Blake, CP3, DeAndre....NOT.  The Clippers are not only playing soft, they have no perimeter defense-unless you still think 35-year old Matt Barnes is the answer. Offensively, they are still way to reliant on the ball-dominant CP3 to create with pick-and-rolls. Elite defensive teams know this will and take ball out of Paul's hands in the post-season. There is no one else to create of the bounce. Sorry Jamal Crawford. Get ready for another post-season flame out.

~ Barring another injury( well they seem happen every year) to Andrew Bogut, the Warriors will be the team to beat in the West along with the Spurs. They still need a viable back-up at the 5. But the second unit is fortified with Iggy, Harrison Barnes and David Lee. With the Splash brothers on the perimeter, Draymond as the stretch-4, Bogut in the paint, these boys can play on both sides of the ball. Watch out.

~Milwaukee may not be ready for prime-time, but they are assembling some great pieces and playing D. They have the 4th best D in the NBA allowing opposing teams only 97.7 points per 100 possessions. With a front line of the Greek Freak,Antetokounmpo, John Henson, and Larry Sanders all at near 7 feet tall with 7-4 wing spans, they can defend the perimeter, the interior, and embarrass all those dumb enough to think they can make ESPN highlights of the night.  Coach J Kidd has these boys playing hard. With another lottery piece,  and some battle-scarred veterans this team will be a contender in two years.

~ Get familiar with the name Emmanuel Mudiay. The soon to be top 3 pick is a franchise point guard with all the tools to be a superstar in the league. Instead of playing for Larry Brown at SMU, Mudiay is playing pro hoops in China for the Guandong Southern Tigers. He is a walking triple-double. Imagine  John Wall with a J, and Rubio's vision, and Rondo's D. This kid is REAL

Until next time...... See you when I see you.