Tim BontempsESPN6 minutes to read
Willis Reed, legendary captain and star of the New York Knicks who led the franchise to just two championships and was the author of one of the defining moments in NBA history, has passed away. He was 80 years old.
“The Knicks organization is deeply saddened to announce the passing of our beloved leader Willis Reed,” Nix said in a statement released Tuesday afternoon. “While we mourn, we will always strive to uphold the standards he left behind — the unparalleled leadership, sacrifice and work ethic that embodied him as a champion among champions.
“His legacy will live on forever. We ask that everyone respect the family’s privacy during this difficult time.”
Reid, who had a strong physical presence in position throughout his 10 years in the NBA — all with the Knicks — was the NBA’s 196 Rookie of the Year and 1970’s Most Valuable Player, as well as a 7-time All-Star and selection All-NBA five times. He was also eventually named to the NBA’s 50th and 75th Anniversary Teams.
But his place in history was forever etched on May 8, 1970.
New York was scheduled to face Wilt Chamberlain and the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 7 of the NBA Finals that day at Madison Square Garden in hopes of winning their first-ever championship. But Reid – who missed Game 6 with a severe hip injury – was not expected to play.
But Reid stunned the all-losing crowd at the world’s most famous arena by emerging from the tunnel to the iconic call of “Here Comes Willis” by radio host Marv Albert.
Then Reid scored the first two baskets of the game – the only ones he scored in the end in 27 minutes of action. But the emotional lift he gave the Knicks—along with fellow Hall of Famer Walt “Clyde” Frazier scoring 36 points and 19 assists in the greatest game of his career—gave New York its first NBA title in what became known to history as the “Willis Game.” Reed”.
“Willis Reed was the best player on the team and a skilled leader,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. “My earliest and fondest memories of NBA basketball are watching Willis, who embodied the winning spirit that characterized the New York Knicks championship teams in the early 1970s.” in the current situation. “He played the game with remarkable passion and determination, and his inspirational comeback in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals remains one of the most iconic moments in all of sports.”
Reid was named Finals MVP for that series, and then, after the Knicks lost to the Lakers in five games in 1972, led New York to their second title. He earned his second Finals MVP award as the Knicks took revenge on the Lakers in five games in 1973.
Reed retired after the 1974 season after spending 10 years of his NBA career in New York, leading the franchise to only two championships and three of the four NBA Finals in which he played. “The Captain” for his leadership and commitment to teamwork.
Harvey Araton, author of When Heaven Was a Garden of Eden, a book about the Knicks in the 1970s, said those values were summed up for him when Reed left a copy of a video from Game 5 of that series — one Reed said to Araton, before watching it With him, he had never seen her before.
A few weeks later, an envelope showed up at my house with a note attached to the video. Willis says, “Thanks for the video. Our greatest victory.”
“That’s a hell of a thing, for a guy who was the MVP in the NBA Finals and was a Hall of Famer, to say that the team’s greatest victory was without him. That kind of summed up who he was. He was. It was totally about the team. And that manifested itself in so many ways. Just Those three words – our greatest victory – made an impression on me.
Reed’s No. 19 became the first to be retired by the Knicks in 1976, and was elected to the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame in 1982. He went on to be the head coach of the Knicks for just over a year, and later spent four years as head coach at Creighton University, before serving for more than He held the Nets’ front office, first as general manager and then senior vice president of basketball operations.
said ESPN’s Bobby Marks, who spent several years working for Reid when he was an executive with the then-New Jersey Nets. “And he would go out of his way, whether it was those pictures or the basketball, he would never turn anyone down. It’s a lasting memory I always think of, giving back to the less fortunate.”
After his playing career ended, Reid—who was elected to the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame in 1982—took over as the Knicks head coach for just over a year, and spent four years as the Knicks head coach. A head coach at Creighton University, before spending more than a decade working in the front office for the Nets, first as general manager and then senior vice president of basketball operations.
During that time, Marks, who had worked as an intern in the team’s public relations department for three months, was given an opportunity by Reid to stay with the franchise in the basketball operations department—a decision that led to Marks spending 20 years working for the Nets.
“I walked into Willis’ office and said, ‘I’m staying for another three months, you don’t have to pay me anything, absolutely nothing,’ but I want to learn how it goes,” Marks said. [Reed] He said, “Great, come in tomorrow and we’ll see what we can do.” And the next 3 months finally turned into 20 years.
“He took a chance on a 22-year-old who played football in college and didn’t have much basketball experience at all, and taught me the inner workings of how to build a team, how to run a team, and I owe him a debt of gratitude.”
Reid was born on June 25, 1942, in Dubach, Louisiana. After playing high school ball in Lilly, Louisiana, he starred at Grambling State University from 1960-64, including averaging over 26 points and 21 rebounds, before New York selected him in the second round of the 2018 NBA Draft. 1964.
He would go on to finish his career averaging 18.7 points and 12.9 rebounds per game.
“Devoted travel trailblazer. Freelance beer scholar. Passionate analyst. Hardcore twitter fanatic.”