Artistry above the hardwood has always helped define Desmond Mason.
As a budding basketball star at Waxahachie High School and Oklahoma State University, Mason was an artist of the slam dunk, floating through the air almost weightlessly until throwing down with a thunderous tenacity.
That same talent caught the eyes of the Seattle Supersonics brass enough for the team to take Mason 17th overall in the 2000 NBA draft. It also led to his winning of the NBA Slam Dunk contest one year later (and a runner-up finish in 2002).
His aerial assaults on the basketball court for the Runnin' Indians, Cowboys, Supersonics, Milwaukee Bucks, Oklahoma City Hornets and Thunder, and Sacramento Kings were masterpieces of athletic ability.
But this is not another story of Desmond Mason, the basketball player. No. This is a snippet of the artistic genius that was on display when Desmond "DT" Mason returned home to leave one final masterpiece on a portion of the same court that he used to dazzle adoring fans on as a Runnin' Indian from 1992-96.
As he lowered the scissor lift from high above the floor at Mike Turner Gymnasium on the campus of Waxahachie High School on Tuesday afternoon, Desmond discarded yet another can of spray paint into a plastic bin. He then walked to both sides of his masterpiece-in-progress to take a photo of its progress from several angles, all while talking about old times with his father and step-mother, Johnney and Nancy Mason.
Stand close enough, and you'd hear a faint hip-hop beat coming from his headphones. Ask what the plan is for the untouched square of hardwood that formerly laid in JW Williams Gymnasium, and he'd respond with "I don't even know yet, but I'll figure it out" and a smile.
Desmond was also quick to admit that taping the edges of the workspace and rolling on the Waxahachie-green paint Monday night was the most tedious part of the job. "This is the fun part," he said referring to the colorful work of spray painting hundreds of stars Tuesday.
I watched alongside Johnney and Nancy (and rarely in silence) as he repeated the process — up and down, and up and down, and up and down — for the better part of two hours. They spoke proudly of his accomplishments on the court and in life, their deep love for his kids and their plans for the school year, and laughed often.
For instance, the two recalled a time when Desmond fell into the stands during a high school came and was knocked unconscious during one of the few games Johnney had to miss because of work. By the time his father got to the gym, Desmond was already back on the court. "They wouldn't have allowed that nowadays," his father joked.
Much like his father and step-mom, Desmond never once passed on a chance to speak with someone, anyone, who stopped by to watch as he worked. He appeared genuinely happy to be home and back within the community, even if just for a couple of days.
He even took a young girl up on the lift while he painted a few white stars — with her mother's permission of course — and made sure to take a candid photo before coming down.
Desmond was once again a star inside a gymnasium in Waxahachie, only this time his tool of choice was a paint can and not a basketball.
The path to becoming a world-renowned artist for Desmond has been relatively well documented, especially after his 10-year NBA career concluded. He has painted on canvasses that range from massive walls to sneakers and jerseys to a Mercedes-Benz G-Class SUV. His commissioned art can be seen in private galleries across the globe, in the personal home of George Clooney or on the wall just inside the doors of the gymnasium at Waxahachie High.
Before he spray-painted the first star onto a hand-painted Indian green wall, Desmond Mason had already left a masterpiece of a basketball career in Waxahachie.
Tuesday was not about hoops, though. At least not for Desmond. It was his turn to leave a second work of art for the next generation of Indians and remind them that Waxahachie is "Where Stars are Born."
"I am so pleased with the happiness and joy this has already brought to my hometown’s new high school and honored for the life, love and laughter it will bring to the new generation of talented youth," wrote Desmond on his Instagram page. "Furthermore, I’m so humbled that I was able to implement a piece of the court I played my four years on. Thank you to the place that raised me and made me!"
Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith