Some folks are naturally gifted at everything they do; NBA-player-turned- studio-artist Desmond Mason is one of them.
At just 36, he has already found great success in not one but two careers. An All-American in college who later averaged 12.1 points per game in the NBA, Mason, today, showcases his paintings and art all over the world.
He’s also a nice guy – friendly and easy to engage, especially when it comes to family and his passions. Mason loves to bring up his children (4 and 8) and their antics in conversation whenever he can. He also keeps every piece of art his daughter creates in a section of his studio – a paint-spackled space in downtown Oklahoma City, clearly the habitat of a working artist with his hands in many different projects.
Mason’s ties to Oklahoma are strong, but he grew up in Waxahatchie, Texas, a small town about 30 minutes south of Dallas.
“It’s a town where everybody eats at home on Sundays and hangs with their friends in the park,” Mason says.
Mason’s neighborhood was violent at times, the result of gangs and drugs. But his interests in athletics and the arts kept him going.
“I played every sport. I actually loved football the best. Basketball didn’t supersede anything,” Mason says. “As I continued to grow up, getting to the arts came through some other friends of mine – skateboarders and guys that did graffiti.”
Mason’s art interests changed in early high school as he leaned toward ceramics and pottery.
“I got in trouble for writing on my desk, on my books, so I was always kind of a doodler, but more than anything, I had an interest in ceramics before it evolved into painting,” he says.
Meanwhile, he became a standout basketball player, which led to his first move to Oklahoma in 1996 when he decided to play hoops for the Oklahoma State University Cowboys.
“On my first visit to Oklahoma State, I pretty much committed. [Stillwater] just reminded me of home,” Mason says. “The school has great tradition and history, but it was just the very humble people – from the students and faculty to the people that live there year-round. You never met anyone that you had an issue with.”
Mason appreciated that Stillwater was a small town – even smaller before T. Boone Pickens Stadium, he says, laughing – and he felt comfortable there.
“It was different, though, in that I was away from home. That was kind of what I wanted, but it wasn’t too far away [from Waxahatchie],” he says. “…It was weird being away from my family at first, but basketball and my teammates helped resolve that.”
Throughout his time playing for OSU (and picking up All-American honors), Mason majored in studio art.
“I actually, at first, wanted to be an accountant because I loved it in high school,” he says, “but after one semester, I was like, ‘This is kind of not for me,’ and I went back into art.”
He was also a bit of an anomaly in his classes.
“I was a double-outsider,” Mason recalls. “I showed up in art class in sweats and flip-flops and Oklahoma State stuff, and my classmates had piercings and mohawks. And then amongst my teammates, I was the ‘artsy’ guy. But it was fun because my teammates learned more about me as an artist; and also my classmates became more sports-oriented and came to the games to watch me play.”
His time in Stillwater changed his life in other ways. In college, he met his future wife, Andrea, who was also a student athlete at OSU.