Adam “MCA” Yauch, the legendary Beastie Boys member, passed away last month at the too-young age of 47. Back in 1995, the Beasties spent a day with then-Knicks forward Anthony Mason and sat down with SLAM for an interview afterward; in honor of MCA’s passing, we’re re-running this awesome 17-year-old story, originally published in SLAM 3 (January ’95). —Ed.
by Tony Gervino | @microtony
It’s Game Two of the 1994 Conference Semifinals and the Knicks… well, they’re doggin’ it at home against da Bulls. They need a spark, and my boy Starks, messed-up knee and all, is tryin’ to bring ‘em back to reality. But his legs are gone, and with no sky, his shot’s ’bout as lethal as any of the Nets centers.
Over on the Knicks bench, Anthony Mason looks like someone just shot his dog. He wants a piece of Pippen’s boys in the worst way, but because of some bad plays earlier in the game, coach Riley has him takin’ a load off.
Riley’s no fool, though. His team’s about as dead as David Koresh, gettin’ out-hustled by guys so wack they should be arrested (like Longley, like Wennington, like Myers). So when he puts Mase back in, the crowd straight bugs, looking for something, anything, to get hyped about.
They get it when Mase sweeps a board and breaks out solo, runnin’ hard. Just over the three-point line, the big man slams on the breaks, freaks the crossover not once, but twice, lookin’ like Tim (honest-to-God). And, as Kukoc stands around catchin’ flies, he pump fakes and hits Oak cutting to the hoop. Two nice.
The Knicks take the game, the series, the Pacers and, eventually, a chill against the Houston Rockets in the Finals. But that makes no difference: Mase did his job that night. And although it’s pretty common knowledge that Riley doesn’t like Mase’s attitude (there’s a thoroughly wack deal pending as of this writing), the Knicks are sorely in need of more dudes who don’t back down, but back up, if you catch the drift.
So it didn’t come as a shock a month later when we asked the Beastie Boys which Knick they’d most like to chill with, and their answer was unanimous: gotta be Mase. And believe this: The Beastie Boys are no fools, goin’ platinum with more style than Rodman or Madonna.
Forget about Licensed to Ill, the album that, unfortunately, brought frat-boy types into the hip-hop party mix (don’t worry, they’re almost gone). The real dope Beastie noyz began with the visionary Paul’s Boutique (which, pretty much, no one bought when it dropped) and followed through Check Your Head, an album blending hardcore and hip-hop, with the Beasties jammin’ on instruments. Their latest, Ill Communication, is just what it sounds like: an album of funk, fuzzy crazy ill shit. The fact that it shipped mad units and blew up n the charts proves that the Beasties are real. For real.
Plus, the Beasties straight-up know hoops. They walk it, talk it and play it (even though they’re small frys, ‘cept for DJ Hurricane). More than that, they’re down with the Knicks—from the good ol’ days of Willis, Bradley, Pearl and Clyde through the black hole of b-ball, inhabited by Truck, Camp and Toby and Ray-Ray and to the current rude boys, Oakley, Starks, Ewing and, hopefully, still, Mase.
We cruised south to Philly with Mase and his boys to catch up with the Beasties, who were busy rockin’ the Lollapalooza tour, both on stage–where they co-headlined—and off—where they set up their own hoop for some mad pickup action. The game that followed that day with Mase was not a thing of beauty; but it was good goof, and everybody who played and watched—a crew which include Phife from Tribe, a couple of funky Luscious Jacksons, and some dude from Ween—seemed to enjoy having the baddest of big men in their midst.
Afterward we shot the shit:
SLAM: If you could play one sport professionally, what would it be?
MIKE D: Basketball, definitely, but let me say that I recognize my shortcomings. (Everyone laughs.)
MCA: Yeah let’s make that clear, especially in a basketball-oriented magazine. I’m not recognizing what my skills are, and what they’re not.
SLAM: What about you Mase? Ever look up on stage and say I wish I could do that?
ANTHONY MASON: Yeah, but I’m not gonna say “I wish I wish.” I wish I could get up there and [wave good-bye] to Camp Riley. (Everyone laughs.) Then I could get as big as I wanted as long as I kept my mind right. There are times I picture myself up there, foolin’ around with my own shit or something.
SLAM: So the Beastie Boys grew up in New York?
D: Yeah. Well, me and Adam are from Manhattan and Yauch’s from Brooklyn.
SLAM: What’s your earliest Knicks memory?
D: I had MSG (the Knicks cable channel) in the early days. In ’72, I got it. We were like this pioneering family. We had cable early on. The box we got had 14 channels. And Earl the Pearl lived up the block from us. That was my earliest memory, watching those great Knicks teams dominate. I was around 6 when I got into them.
SLAM: Is it tough to follow them now that you’re in Los Angeles?
D: Nah, because we’re here for a lot of games. We went to every series in the Garden, except for the Finals when we were in Europe. We had to stay up until 2 in the morning, you know, glued to the TV and the games would come on satellite TV. We’d watch ‘em, night after night. We were playin’ in London during Game 7 of the Finals. We all went back to the hotel and chilled, all excited. We hooked up the conference room and everything.
SLAM: Mase, you grew up a big Knicks fan, right?
M: Not really, no. I didn’t even play basketball as a kid. I was into baseball heavy, a big Yankees fan. Graig Nettles, Thurman Munson, those guys, man…
SLAM: What position in baseball?
M: Right-handed pitcher, outfield, I probably would have stayed in baseball if I stayed in Jersey. Then I moved back to New York. Baseball wasn’t very popular in New York.
D: But you were in Queens (N.Y.) for awhile, right?
M: Yeah, I started off in Manhattan, then Jersey, then Queens from thirteen on up.
D: Which high school didya go to?
M: Springfield Gardens.
SLAM: So you didn’t die with those Knicks teams, like Ernie Grunfeld and Ray Williams and Campy Russell and…and…you know, Eric Fernsten.
M: No. Matter of fact, the first Knicks game I ever went to was when I went to Tennessee State. Truck Robinson went there so he invited me to a game. I saw Bernard King go off on the Indiana Pacers. That’s when I was like, “Hey, this is fun.”
SLAM: When did you start getting into basketball?
M: When I was a senior in high school I tried out. Coach said I shouldn’t have even made it, but he said I had a lot of potential if I kept working hard at my game.
SLAM: So D, who’s your all-time favorite Knick?
D: I don’t look at it and say “all-time.” When I first came up it was like DeBusschere, Bill Bradley, Frazier. Clyde in a way, ’cause he had the whole style thing workin’. But that was a different era. Then it was McAdoo. Then Bernard King. Then into Pat Ewing. Now into the whole squad.
D: So what’s up, why’s it always seem like the refs are biased against you guys?
M: I don’t know. ‘Cause we arrogant, we brag about our style and we ain’t ever gonna take a step back. You know, that won’t happen. Other teams use all kinds of cryin’ techniques, and you know, we’re not gonna do that. We’re not gonna kiss ass, and referees don’t like that, so we’re gonna get more attention than other teams.
D: Who talks the most booty trash?
M: There’s not much of that goin’ on because of that stupid new rule but I’d say I was up there last year.
D: Who are the top three?
M: Before the rule? Chuck Person’s probably number one. He could be losin’ by 30 he’d still be talkin’. After that, you know, I’d say it’s probably me and Starks. Because you know, guys like Jordan and those guys, they didn’t talk all that much.
SLAM: What about Gary Payton?
M: He don’t really talk. He’s more with the looks and the “Aaaargh!!” Wild man arrogance.
D: What about Reggie Miller?
M: He’s started talking lately. you can get him into talking now. He used to just play.
D: Does it work a lot in the games you think?
M: Yeah, it works for me.
SLAM: Who’s the easiest guy to intimidate?
M: There’s a lot of ‘em.
SLAM: Here’s a straight-up hoops question. What do you think the Knicks need for this season?
D: We need to insert Mason into the starting five at the power forward position… I wouldn’t name names but we need to ave another strong power forward that can dunk. That has some speed. Someone like—not that it would ever be feasible—but someone like Alonzo Morning like that who’s quick, who has got speed and size. But you never know, Charles Smith can step up.
MCA: Yo, and we need different dancers.
D: Yeah, we got to lose them. And the music too.
SLAM: What about the Nets music?
M: The Nets music is disgusting. It’s tired, man.
D: What about the Indiana Pacers dancers?
M: They cool.
SLAM: So when you’re in the huddle, are you checking things out, are you tuning Riley out a little bit?
M: I don’t know, you got that tape on… (smiles) You know, I’m looking around, seein’ what’s goin’ on. I mean, I’m concentrating but sometimes it’s “Hey ma!” You know…
SLAM: What about you guys? Are you checking out the crowd all the time?
MCA: We’ll be checkin’ tonight ’cause they’re throwing shit.
D: Yeah, we gotta check it out,’cause this crowd is crazy.
MCA: They’re throwing shit, like at the performers. At the monks. Like they do a blessing, they bless the stage. People started throwing shit at them.
D: You gotta keep heads-up play.
MCA: Gotta keep moving. Keep your feet goin’ all the time.
D: There are elements out there. They fuck with you and distract you from your game. You gotta keep your concentration at all times on-stage. But you know, it’s like people heckling players from the crowd.
SLAM: Do you hear shit Mase?
M: Yeah, a lotta times, like if you’re taking the ball out on the side of the court. Or fans behind the bench.
SLAM: Like that guy in Washington. What’s his name? Robin Fiker.
M: Most of what he says is stupid but after a while he said some things that, yo know, you just lose it. One time he said “Hey Riley, what is that, a Van Gundy suit?” I just lost it. I’d be tryin’ to listen and I’ll fall down laughing. I even saw (Knicks assistant coach Jeff) Van Gundy laughing.
D: Some times when we’re at the Garden, that guy with the gray hair… who sits right closest to the center…
M: Yeah, he’s always got a young girl with ‘im.
D: Yeah, every game she’s different.
MCA: The Ben Franklin dude.
D: He talks a bunch of shit.
SLAM: So what do you think of this guy’s game?
D: Hey, he took us out (laughs).