The covering was pulled off the sign on the pole, and there it was. The crowd at the corner of Rockaway Boulevard and 147th Street in South Jamaica gazed up at the eternal tribute to a former standout Knicks forward.
The new green Queens street sign with the white lettering, just below the 147th Street sign, shared a memory in three words: “Anthony Mason Way.” It’s the block that stretches from Rockaway to 123rd Avenue, the block that includes the modest house where he and his mom, Mary, used to live for part of his teens and early 20s.
Saturday’s street co-naming, in front of now 92-year-old Mary, Mason’s four children, other family members, politicians, community members and former teammate John Starks, served as a symbol of something that has become Anthony Mason Jr.’s way.
The former St. John’s, D-League and European player came up with the idea for this honor and pulled the string to unveil the sign. And he will keep pulling strings to ensure his dad’s name and legacy live on after the 13-year NBA vet and one-time All-Star died at just 48 from complications of severe heart problems in February of last year.
“It’s very important,” Mason Jr. said. “You’ve got to do it because the person he was, the status of who he was, it’s forever . . . He’s a big role model for this community.”
Mason Sr., who bounced around until sticking with the Knicks for five seasons from 1991-96, won a PSAL title with Springfield Gardens. Mason Jr. pushed to get that court named after his dad last year. He also started the nonprofit “Family on Three” to teach kids how to excel, in honor of his dad. State senator Leroy Comrie, councilman Ruben Wills and other politicians helped make his street idea happen following a petition.
Wills, the primary sponsor of the co-naming, said the elder Mason, wasn’t “afraid, as most celebrities are, of people coming up and speaking to you . . . He went to the barber shop that many people in the community went to.”
Mason’s children spoke at the ceremony, from 29-year-old Anthony Jr. to Antoine, 24, Aryana, 15, and Armon, 12, who had “Lil Mase” shaved into his hair on one side and his dad’s No. 14 shaved on the other.
“I look up to him not only as his kid, but as a role model,” he told the crowd. “He was a great friend, most of all dad. He was always there every game, every practice.”
After the ceremony, Starks said Queens “meant everything” to Mason.
“Being close to him,” Starks said, “I know he’d be very proud today that the community is really showing him a lot of love.”