MILWAUKEE — Long before he ever picked up a basketball, Desmond Mason says he picked up a paintbrush.
"I always loved it, and I wanted to do something with it," Mason said. "I was studying to be a teacher when I was in college, an art teacher. Basketball showed up, and it worked out pretty well."
Mason played for the Milwaukee Bucks back in the early 2000s. Tuesday night he says he was out in the Deer District watching his former team make history.
"50 years, I didn’t know if I'd ever see a championship won in Milwaukee," Mason said. "But 50 years and that streak has been broken by a great young team."
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Now Mason will leave his mark in Milwaukee again, this time as an artist. The Milwaukee Bucks partnered with Jack Daniels to invite Mason and three local artists—Tia Richardson, Aisha Valentin, and Ruben Alcantar—to paint murals around the city. They each showcase Milwaukee's diversity and community.
Mason's is located at 1335 N. MLK Dr. The others are located at 818 S. 2nd St., 2377 Holton St., and 631 S. 6th St.
Mason's mural will include the Bucks logo and his mantra, "We are better together."
"I think the most important thing is unity, being together," Mason said. "It’s much easier to battle through some of these things if we're all on the same page."
Back when he was on the Bucks, Mason hosted three art shows here in Milwaukee. That's when he said he met an art critic from Chicago who in part helped give him the confidence to launch his art career. Mason was also involved in giving back to the Milwaukee community, and he said he tried to adopt a young foster child.
"When I think about that, I incorporate it in this, because it’s just a bigger picture, unification," Mason said. "Making sure we’re trying to help people do the right thing, have our hearts in the right place."
He hopes his art will make a difference in a city he says will always be special to him.
"There’s still some struggles in Milwaukee, there’s a lot of work to still be done on all sides," Mason said. "But yet, still, the goal is to put out messages like this, that allow people to, again, drive by, walk by, see it and go, you know, I'm going to do something good today."
The mural will officially unveil Thursday, July 22, at 11 a.m.