Growing up in the Chicagoland area in the 1990s, I had the privilege of watching the greatest basketball player of all time — “His Airness” Michael Jordan — work his magic and win six NBA championships.

The way that Jordan vanquished his opponents was akin to a superhero conquering his enemies and saving the city. Every superhero has to have an arch rival, and the New York Knicks were just that throughout the early 90s.

One of the core members of the “villainous” Knicks was forward Anthony Mason — who later played for the Charlotte Hornets (as pictured) — who played his role as the enemy of the Bulls quite well. He was a rough and tough player whose rugged style of play bordered on dirty, but he always was a competitor who gave his all. That kind of play may turn off fans of opposing teams, but it earned the respect of his peers throughout the league.

But when the buzzer sounds and the lights go out, the fantasy story of superhero versus villain goes away, and what we are left with is the reality and frailty of life.

I was saddened to learn of Mason’s passing at the age of 48 this weekend. Mason suffered a massive heart attack in early February and had been battling for his life ever since. The news of his attack — and now of his passing — shook the NBA world as current and former players and coaches offered up prayers for the former NBA great.

Forty-eight years old is much too young for anybody to leave us. I’m saddened for the family he left behind and I trust God has him in His hands now.