The Best of a Bad Situation: 10. Desmond Mason

(We’re counting down the best 20 Bucks since 1991 over the next few weeks. It’s something to do with the lockout sucking the life out of NBA fans. We continue with number 10. Desmond Mason. Dunks and dunks and dunks and dunks. Also, art. – Jeremy)

Initially, I didn’t like Desmond Mason. It wasn’t his fault. I was just filled with a lot of teen angst at the time, but didn’t have a lot to complain about. Therefore all my impotent rage was directed at everything and everyone associated with the trade that sent Kevin Ollie’s mustache out of Milwaukee (oh, and Ray Allen too).

But then Mason got on the court. And dunked. And dunked. And dunked. And dunked his way into my heart. Ultimately, isn’t it all about the highlights!!!

He didn’t win a lot. His stats are modest. His hook shot was weird. For someone with his length and athleticism, defense just wasn’t his thing. He wasn’t great. At his best, he was just good. Yet, he was still magnificent.

That might be a weird word choice since the typical word for most journeymen is unremarkable. When history looks back on Mason, he might be categorized as such. But believe me when I say that he got roars reserved for superstars. Whereas it might take Kevin Durant 40 points and an entire game to get people out of their seats, it only took Mason one second and 38 inches.

He had four go-to dunk moves that I had memorized by his second season. The first two are obvious. The baseline drive and the transition dunk where he curls to the basket just as the ball goes into the air. The third move was near the elbow. He’d jostle for position, spin outside, then quick cut to the basket for a big alley-oop. My favorite was a give-n-go. Mason would hand it off at the wing then jog around the perimeter. If the lane was open, there would be alley-oops all day. Off these four moves, Mason’s compiled an absurd list of poster victims: Shaquille O’Neal, Ben Wallace, Rasheed Wallace, Yao Ming, Lebron James, Chris Bosh, Dirk Nowitzki. The best poster came against his teammate, Michael Redd.

Mike James was pushing the break and saw Redd sprinting ahead on the opposite end. Mason was sprinting down the middle and slightly behind James. When the lob was thrown, Redd went up and Mason flushed it. He did his signature hang from the rim and spin, then did the rarely seen(from him) hop up-and-down celebration.

Even though his hops were otherworldly, the rest of his game was very down to earth (his highest PER is 15. 7, his first year in Milwaukee). I have trouble remembering other parts of his game because it was so mundane. His career is kind of like those advice books The Secret or Eat, Pray, Love where there are a bunch of inspirational quotes with a bunch of junk connecting it all (I realize in this metaphor that I am the girlfriend trying to convince you that this book is very much worth your time). Dunks are fun and all, but are ultimately meaningless if they aren’t supported by a stronger foundation of passing, rebounding and other skills. In 20 years, I don’t know if I’ll remember Mason at all which is sad. He was fun. He was a big reason to watch some mediocre teams.

Final unrelated tangent: Did you know Desmond Mason was an artist? I don’t mean this in some high-brow, “dunking is art,” kind of way. I mean it in the most literal, “he paints things,” kind of way. He’s really good, I think, but I’m not an art critic. It’s always nice to find something that breaks the athlete stereotypes. I was surprised initially by the discovery, but it makes total sense. He always seemed to be okay with not being a star. He was always on Sportcenter’s Top 10, but had no desire to be on it. It’s a lot easier to be that way when you’re talented in other areas.

Ian Segovia is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter, fan us up on Facebook.

Categories: 20 Bucks for 20 Years

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