When talking about some of the strongest and toughest players to ever touch the NBA hardwood, you have to mention the likes of Anthony Mason and Xavier McDaniel. The two forwards built great careers in the NBA based on their strength and ability to bully matchups. So when the two shared the locker room for one season in New York back in 1991/1992, things got heated the first day of practice.
Herring tells the story of the 90's Knicks
The New York Knicks in the 1990s were a special kind of story. Although they never managed to win it all, two Finals appearances and numerous playoffs runs, mixed with a roster full of talented and unique personalities, made for countless amazing stories. Chris Herring recently released his book "Blood in the Garden," sharing all the behind-the-scenes of those Knicks teams.
"Mase" and "X" going at it from the jump
While promoting his book the other day on the No Dunks Podcast, Herring shared one of the book's first stories, which really set the tone for the rest of the read. Of course, it included Mason and McDaniel going at it on the first day of practice.
Things wouldn't go off to a flying start in Pat Riley's first season with the Knicks. The Knicks were preparing for the season in a practice facility in Charleston, South Carolina. It was annoyingly hot outside, and the atmosphere in the gym started to boil in every sense of the word.
Mason, McDaniel, and a rookie would find themselves in a box-out drill. If you don't have experience in basketball, it is basically shoving with no limits until you get a position and get the rebound—a very psychical drill. X was winning the exercise but tripping his opposition in the process.
Mason being the competitive beast he is, got sick of it and called out McDaniel, warning him he would "F him up!" if he continued to do so. But Xavier being the character he is, didn't care too much for it and continued with his tripping. Mason would flip and punch McDaniel squarely in the jaw, causing an all-out brawl 15 minutes into Riley's first practice. That moment perfectly summed up the identity of the Knicks for the rest of the decade.
McDaniel would only spend that one season in New York, averaging 13.7 ppg and 5.6 rpg, before going to the Celtics the following season. On the other hand, Mason spent a lot more time as a Knick, establishing his place in the league in his five seasons in New York before becoming a 1x All-Star later in his career. Those 1992 Knicks had a great season, but it wasn't enough to beat Jordan and the Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals, getting eliminated after six games.
Like we said before, this was Pat Riley's welcome to New York moment, and it couldn't have been a better representation of how the Knicks would look through the 90s'. Full of talent and trouble. But a lot of fun to watch. Those were some vastly different times for Knicks basketball.