Heat

Heat’s Roger Mason Jr. honors late father with tribute on his jersey

 

With the help of the Heat franchise, Roger Mason Jr. was finally able to get the NBA to allow him to etch the suffix ‘Jr.’ on his jersey.

 
Miami Heat guard Roger Mason Jr. drives with the ball in the second quarter during the preseason game between the Atlanta Hawks and the MIami Heat at the AmericanAirlines Arena on Monday, Oct. 7, 2013
Miami Heat guard Roger Mason Jr. drives with the ball in the second quarter during the preseason game between the Atlanta Hawks and the MIami Heat at the AmericanAirlines Arena on Monday, Oct. 7, 2013
Hector Gabino / Staff photo

jgoodman@MiamiHerald.com

Roger Mason Jr. has honored his late father for years by always insisting his name include his father’s memory.

Back when Mason was in college, he asked the personal-address announcer during games to refer to him as “Mason Jr.” NBA rosters, boxscores and the league’s official statistical database all use Mason’s suffix junior. Pretty much the only place throughout Mason’s career where his suffix was not used was on the most important place of all.

Now, after a decade in the league, Mason will be recognized as “Mason Jr.” on his jersey.

“It took 11 years, but I finally have it on there,” Mason said.

And the veteran guard said the Heat deserves credit for making it happen.

When Mason first broke into the NBA, he said he was told that “Jr.” could not be put on his jersey, but the Heat, which knew Mason’s preference to use the suffix, approached him about the idea.

The Heat then lobbied the league to make it happen, according to Mason, who officially earned a place on the Heat’s opening-night roster Saturday.

Mason will wear his newly fashioned jersey on Tuesday in the Heat’s regular-season opener against the Chicago Bulls. He debuted his new jersey Friday in the Heat’ final preseason game.

“It was very thoughtful of this organization to come to me and ask me,” Mason said. “They know the story and they know my father died at a young age. … The league did it, and I appreciate the league doing it, and I appreciate this organization pushing for it.”

It’s a minor thing in the grand scheme of a team trying to win three championships in a row, but it’s more proof that the Heat’s family oriented dedication to its players is more than just lip service. Like Michael Beasley, Mason is playing with a non-guaranteed contract and can be released at any time.

Still, the team’s director of sports media relations, Rob Wilson, and the Heat’s equipment manager, Rob Pimental, put forth the extra effort to help Mason finally have a jersey that honors his father.

Mason was a child when his father died.

“He had kidney failure, and he got out of the hospital, but all of sudden he passed away,” Mason said.

Growing up became a little more difficult when his father passed, but Mason praises his mother for “holding it down.”

At the time of her husband’s death, Marsha Mason-Wonsley had four children younger than the age of 12. Mason said Sunday that having “Jr.” on his jersey this season will be a “big deal” to his family.

Mason is a highly respected player throughout the league whom Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said moved seamlessly into Miami’s offensive and defensive schemes during training camp. Dwyane Wade said Mason is a professional among professionals and “fits right into a culture that deserves him.”

Mason has played for seven teams during his 11-year career, including two separate stints with Washington and Chicago.

The Heat has always been impressed by his professionalism, but Mason’s ability as a shooter is what ultimately landed him a spot with the back-to-back defending champions.

He shot 41.5 percent from three-point range last season with the New Orleans Hornets. He will be one of several players competing this season to replace Mike Miller, who was released in the offseason to save money.

“I know last year Mike’s role on this team was a guy who had to stay ready and didn’t play a lot during the regular season, but kept himself prepared, and I’m willing to do the same thing,” Mason said.

Mason has validated his reputation as a shot-maker during practice. On Sunday, the Heat had a physical practice that included a lengthy session of five-on-five. On the scrimmage’s final play, Mason swished a three-pointer from the corner while playing alongside Wade, LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Shane Battier.

“For me coming in, wherever I’m needed I’ll be ready,” Mason said. “There will be nights, obviously, where I won’t play and we have guys who have proven it on the court and there will be nights when I’ll be needed. My job is to stay prepared and push everybody in practice and then when my number is called be ready to go out there and do my thing.”

In the meantime, Mason has helped mentor Beasley, who, like Mason, is playing with a non-guaranteed deal. Contracts are guaranteed for the remainder of the season on Jan.10.

Both Mason and Beasley are from Washington, D.C., which has a proud and close-knit basketball community.

Mason has worked with Beasley before practices this month to help him better understand the Heat’s strategic concepts.

Mason, who has known Beasley since Beasley was a child, said: “I’ve seen him growing up, and I’m proud of him, but he’s got a long way to go.

“I think [Spoelstra] knows my character, and I had that role last year with those young players in New Orleans.”

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