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Stateside Podcast: Mason's 20 Years on the Pistons' mic

the detroit pistons arena
Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0
A file photo of the a Detroit Pistons home game.

Twenty years after beginning his job as the Detroit Pistons’ public address announcer, beloved Detroit radio personality John Mason joined Stateside to look back on his work.

From his “cartoon imagination” on the mic to the essential Mason in the Morning show on WJLB, Mason holds a special place in the hearts of listeners in Detroit. Mason was also the exuberant voice of the city's most recent claim to a national championship with the 2004 Pistons squad.

“First of all, I'm a realist, so I know I didn't have that beautiful, deep arena announcer's voice,” Mason said. “So, I knew I had to bring ‘finesse-fun,’ is what I call it.”

Shaping his style, Mason elected for a personalized approach.

“So as I study the players and read about them and watch them, that's how I was able to shape my introductions," he said. "I guess I almost went into cartoon form to try to make my introductions, so I kept it fun for each player.”

Mason, who was recently told he was the first African American PA announcer in the NBA, became well known in professional basketball for his delivery. In a recent Netflix documentary about the "Malice at the Palace" brawl, former players from the 2004-2005 Indiana Pacers team noted Mason's introduction amped them up before the game.

"They had the most dynamic announcer," said Jermaine O'Neal, during the "Untold" film, over a clip of Mason's over-the-top, lip-shaking, jabber-jawing "B-B-B-B-Ben Wall-ace!"

"I remember they did the Ben Wallace introduction and that got me hype," said Stephen Jackson. "Like, let's beat they a—."

Mason said this was “a compliment for the art I create.”

As Mason's star rose on the basketball court, Cleveland Cavaliers owner and Detroit businessman Dan Gilbert took notice. He tried to entice Mason to move back to his hometown of Cleveland and announce for the Cleveland squad. But Mason said he ultimately had to turn down the offer.

"It was the Pistons who took a chance on me," Mason said. "It was the Detroit Pistons organization that allowed me to be myself and allowed me to grow."

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Lucas is a senior at Michigan State University studying professional and public writing. He has previously worked as a co-director of editing for VIM, an MSU fashion magazine. An aspiring music journalist, Lucas dreams of getting paid to go to concerts. He is also a screenwriter. When he’s not working, he can be found walking around aimlessly, listening to either punk rock or Kacey Musgraves.
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