Desmond Mason isn’t exactly a household name in the NBA. He played for a few teams in the 2000s and made the NBA All-Rookie Team his first year in addition to winning the Slam Dunk contest. In the three years Mason’s team went to the playoffs, he averaged just under 37 minutes per game, starting each.
The guard was a role player for Seattle and Milwaukee and posted solid numbers. Mason had a great NBA career. Although he didn’t make it past the first round of the playoffs, he racked up several big moments. But perhaps his greatest moment came after the NBA when Mason became a painter.
The NBA career of Desmond Mason
Mason was a first-round pick (17th overall) in 2000, moving to Seattle to join the Supersonics. In 2001, he won the Slam Dunk contest – the first Seattle player to do so. In 2002, 2003 and 2004, Mason reached the playoffs. First with the Supersonics, then twice with the Milwaukee Bucks (after being traded to Gary Payton).
For the rest of his career, Mason didn’t make a lot of headlines. He was eventually traded to the Supersonics (now located in Oklahoma City) and then signed a brief contract with the Sacramento Kings. Mason retired during the 2009-2010 season. But he’s been building a second career since retiring in 2009, one that’s garnering much more attention
Mason’s artistic career
Before entering the NBA Draft, Mason considered becoming an art teacher while studying the subject in college. The Sport of Philanthropy recently ran an article on Mason, covering his art style as well as some notable buyers. Mason started out as a realistic artist, striving to capture the exact likeness of his subjects. But after watching a Jackson Pollock biopic, he turned to Abstract Expressionism.
[[pull quote: “”I went out and bought a roll of canvas, paint and destroyed my lawn. I painted for three hours and that changed me. I went from realism in black and white to massive-scale abstract painting.”]]– quote courtesy of the New York Post
Celebrity Buyers and Art Exhibits
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One of Mason’s most notable buyers was George Clooney, who commissioned the Slam Dunk Champion to paint a tequila bottle. Along with Clooney, Mason also discussed art with all-time sports great Alex Rodriguez. Mason’s other pieces include hand-painted tequila and champagne bottles.
Mason isn’t just an NBA veteran and performer though; he is also a philanthropist. In Milwaukee (where he played with the Bucks) and elsewhere through the Desmond Mason Art Show. The art show offers Mason the opportunity to sell his art to those willing to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to benefit charity.
Receiving the United Nations Athlete for Peace award in 2016, Mason also inspired other athletes to show their artistic side. Lance Kendricks and Vernon Davis, two NFL standout players, also work with Athletes for Art, an organization that shines a light on the artistic streak of some of the world’s greatest athletes and the good they do.
Paving the way for other athletes
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Mason had his own share of on-court highlights, including a win and second-place finish in the annual Slam Dunk contest. Although he never made it past the first round of the playoffs, he was able to do things off the court that few other NBA players ever could. Mason’s story is about being true to yourself.
Vernon Davis’ Athletes for Art profile ends with this quote: “Playmaker. Game changer. Philanthropist. Leader. San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis confidently wears the Champion Sports Hero mantle on and off the field. Mason has never professionally donned a pair of soccer cleats, but the comparisons are stark. The trail he leaves for other athletes to follow will make the world a better place.