Desmond Mason might as well exist in an alternate universe – better yet, a fourth dimension; technically there, but ungrasped by man. His feats go unnoticed, his accomplishments unrecognized and his presence unfelt.
He is, when you think about it, one big fat “un” – unknown, unremarkable and unjustly under-appreciated.
His background is nothing spectacular; he went to four years of college when the rage was prep-to-pros and he hasn’t done anything particularly famous or sensational since joining the league nine years ago.
And so the mystery begins.
As anyone close to the game would support, the notion that Mason lives like a ghost is one that continues to perplex. Not in the sense that it’s unexpected (it’s not), but rather in the sense that it’s difficult to explain.
Digesting a personality so content being there but not really there isn’t an easy thing to do – especially when that person has the penchant for magnificence that Desmond Mason has always had, still has and will continue to have until his legs lose their spring.
To consider a relative journeyman with modest-to-half decent numbers “magnificent” may strike the majority as odd, but the word choice is appropriate. He isn’t great – he’s far from excellent – but he certainly isn’t bad. To the more appreciate eye however, none of this matters.
Desmond Mason is a horse with wings while the world yearns for Pegasus – his existence not nearly as fabled, but awesome nonetheless. He won’t lead the league in scoring, save your franchise from peril, assist you in battle against Amazons nor retire to the majestic peak of Mount Olympus, but he’ll happily fly around doing things that make you say “Yep, that was pretty cool” in a humble display of grace and beauty.
In a world dominated by flash and jazz, Desmond Mason carries both. You wouldn’t know it though, because of his uncanny ability to cover it up. In fact, the one thing he may do better than stream together highlight reels is hide the fact that he does anything at all.
His heaven-sent aerogame goes under-reported in the Oklahoma Cities of the world (same with the Seattles and Milwaukees, to name a few) but you’d suspect that he’d fuss accordingly if it was ever a problem.
No, the otherwise frightfully-dull Mason is content avoiding public discourse, just as he is floating back to Earth following his latest gullet-scorching jam. Like a helicopter carefully landing in the middle of a rainforest, he tactfully navigates down to the court amongst humiliated giants before recollecting and turning around to play his characteristic so-so defense. He loves this brief display of heroism, but certainly doesn’t mind that it goes unnoticed.
Desmond Mason is an unassuming mortal with traces of magic that run through his veins. The result, if occasionally spectacular, is quite often just that: mortal. And that’s how he likes it.
The list of reigning dunk champions (in its most modern form) is one that goes back until the year 2000. It includes marketed giants like Vince Carter and Dwight Howard, but the likes of Fred Jones and Gerald Green as well.
While the former pair has and will continue to lead lives in the limelight, the latter, known for little else than their crowns, will be remembered for nothing but.
Mason, despite being the inarguably better player than either Jones or Green, may not be remembered for anything at all. This, though perhaps welcomed, is painfully unfair.
If Desmond Mason were less talented he may qualify as “only a dunker”, but at least he’d be known for that. Instead his advanced ability leaves him no choice but to reach for that next plateau of basketball acceptance, falling ultimately short (ironic considering his ability to reach very high things) and thus stranding himself between two defined and easily-classified points. It’s a phantom-like purgatory in which he’s apparently content.
As a result, the 2001 Slam Dunk champion is relegated to “Oh yeah, I forgot about him” status whenever SportsCenter catches his glimpse. He smiles when he hears the slight (for it’s not a slight at all but the product of his carefully-constructed persona) and then heads back to work far from the eyes of those who are looking.
When all is said and done though, with his tangibility recognized and subtle nature exposed, we realize that Desmond Mason is neither ghost nor horse with wings, but rather a combination of both and he’ll just as subtly continue to impress in ways we’d appreciate if we only understood.