Former Oklahoma State and Oklahoma City Thunder forward
Residence: Oklahoma City
Desmond Mason is known to the sports world as a 10-year NBA veteran, a high riser, a dunk master. But in the two-plus years since he retired from basketball, he has made a name in an extremely different world.
Within the past year, the Waxahachie, Texas, native has done a show in Mexico and is planning a tour through Asia in 2013. Last weekend, he hosted his annual art show with 40 of his own original paintings. The invitation-only party benefitted Allied Arts and other charities in his adopted hometown of Oklahoma City.
I started doing this show eight years ago. I've done it in Seattle and Milwaukee and here on a few different occasions. This year, I think it's my best exhibit. It's called, “This is Me.” It's addressing what I'm really all about, life after basketball, what makes me tick.
I'm a little bit different. I want people to see that. I don't want people to box me in as an athlete.
I always felt that I was different. I hung around with different people. I was always very artsy, a little outside of the box. I would go get a rock and scrape on the concrete of the basketball court when there was nobody there after working out.
It was an outlet.
The neighborhood I grew up in, the things me and all my friends dealt with on a daily basis, to stay out of trouble, you had to have some type of outlet. It took me away from what was happening in every day life, just as sports did.
It was a great counterbalance to basketball. It's hard practices, it's rigorous, there's a lot of travel as I got older. (Art) gave me the ability to release all those emotions, all that tension, all that stress and strain that I had in my body and on my mind onto the canvas and just kind of let it go.
I told my agent when I was drafted, “At 35, whether I'm having a great career or not-so-great career, if I'm still playing the game, I'll retire.” And it happened at 33. But it happened on my terms.
When I was in Sacramento, I'm walking around with my son and spending time with my daughter. We're in a hotel trying to figure out if we're gonna stay there or not. I just kept hearing this song over and over and over. It was called “Moving Forward.” I literally called my wife and said, “I think I'm retiring from basketball.”
But I was ready. I'd been ready.
Basketball never defined me. It changed my life. But it never defined me. I was ready for a new challenge. I felt I could be successful. It was going to be some work, but at the end of the day, I was prepared for it.
The next season after I retired, we got an offer to go to Atlanta, and I told my agent, “No.” It was time to do something different.
I love what I'm doing, and I get to be home and be a dad.
I can't coach my own kid. I was too intense as a player. I'm strict enough as a dad. You don't want me to be a coach.
I'm pacing up and down the sidelines at the soccer games. I'm like, “I didn't even play soccer. My wife played soccer.” She's sitting there calm and I'm like, “Kick the ball. Run faster.” That's not good. She's only 7.
I'm going to be that guy getting into it with other parents.
Last year I had a show in Cabo San Lucas. Just the people that showed up — Alex Rodriguez was there, Tim Allen was there, Joe Buck came out, Rich Heise came out. I'm turning around looking at these guys, and they're bidding on my work, warring for this work. It was pretty neat.
I had the very fortunate opportunity to see A-Rod again. We got to talking about my work. He said, “You should do Art Basel in Miami.” Well, Art Basel, it's the Super Bowl. He was like, “No, you can do that. You can definitely do that.” To me, that was big.
One thing I've been telling people for a long time, they're like, “Oh, you're the basketball player turned artist” but I say, “No, no, it's the other way around.”
I want to be one of the best that's ever walked this planet.
I've got a long way to go, but if I can work myself into the NBA where nobody thought I could, I can definitely work myself into the painting world.