The Post reports that Willis Reed, the man at the center of the Knicks’ recent NBA championship teams and the creator of one of New York sports’ most memorable moments, passed away on Tuesday. He was 80.
CBS News has uploaded a video to their official account with the headline New York Knicks star Willis Reed dies at age 80, and you really must watch it.
Reed played 10 seasons in the NBA, all with the Knicks, and was also their coach and general manager after retiring in 1974. This was long before Derek Jeter was even conceived. From 2004-2007, he managed the New Orleans Hornets, and from 2002-2004, he coached the New Jersey Nets.
Reed, the first player in Knicks history to have his jersey number honored, was selected as one of the NBA’s 50 greatest players of all time in 1996–97 and entered the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1982.
Reed, however, forever etched himself into the rafters of McWilliams Square Garden and NBA lore with his performance in Game 7 of the 1970 Finals.
Reed missed Game 6 in Los Angeles when the Lakers matched the run at three games each after he was injured late in Game 5 when he landed hard on a drive to the hoop. The Knicks went on to win the game without their leader, who had scored 37, 29, 38, and 23 points in the previous four games of the series.
After the final buzzer sounded at Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals, Willis Reeds left the court. Looking at It Through George Kalinsky’s Eyes Inductee Willis Reed of the New York Knicks, who also won two NBA titles with the team, passed away on March 22 at the age of 80. Photos by NBAE/Getty Images.
Reed had damaged his right thigh in that incident a few days prior, and no one, not even his teammates, was confident he would be ready to play when the series moved to the Garden for Game 7. The Knicks didn’t even have him for their pregame warmup.
Once we left the changing room years later, Bill Bradley, a forward on those championship teams, recalled not knowing whether Willis was going to come out or not.
In the ensuing 15 minutes, they received a resounding response. When Reed staggered out of the tunnel which would be known as the “Willis-Reed Tunnel” until it was removed during renovations 30 years later and onto the plaza, the garden went into an uproar.
During warming up, the Lakers were completely transfixed by Reed’s entrance. Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, and Elgin Baylor all looked over to where Reed had joined his squad after hearing the thunderous applause. In 1983, Willis Reed married Gale.
“I saw the whole Laker team standing around and staring at this man,” said Reed’s teammate Walt Frazier, who had 38 points and 19 assists that night. “They stopped doing what they were doing to check and see how Willis was doing. Something told me then, man, they’re very concerned. Maybe we have these guys.”
Reed, who had a cortisone injection before the game, said he always felt certain he would play, even after the treatment had worn off.
We all wanted it desperately, he added. If you reached out, you could have touched it. Just a game. As a teenager, this was my wildest hope. What I studied so hard for. Not only me but also everyone else in here. This group is the trainers. Management.
“If I didn’t go out there to try and be a part of it, to try and give everything I could – and I didn’t know what it was – then I would be failing them and failing myself permit. If I tried and failed, I wanted it.”
“I didn’t want to be a guy who didn’t come out and show he had the guts and determination to be there. That was the moment to try it.”
Reed, shooting from the top of the arc with his severely bandaged left thigh, made the opening basket. The next time he was on the court, he made another jump shot from 20 feet out, and the Knicks built a 29-point lead at the half on their way to a 113-99 victory and the franchise’s first NBA championship. Reed refused to elaborate further. He didn’t have any need for it.
In Game 5 of the 1973 Eastern Conference Finals, Willis Reed put back an offensive rebound. Photos by NBAE/Getty Images During Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals, Willis Reed sat down with Knicks head coach Red Holzman. Images by Getty 1974 New York Knicks team photo.
At that moment, I thought we were out of it, he admitted. After those two recordings were made, we knew for sure. After that, Clyde, [Dave] DeBusschere, and the rest of the guys took control, and I stopped scoring.
Born on June 25, 1942, in Hico, Louisiana (a town so small that Willis Reed Jr. reportedly observed, “They don’t even have a population”), Willis Reed Jr. spent his childhood on a farm in Bernice, Louisiana. While he was a student at Grambling State University, the Tigers won three consecutive Southwestern Athletic Conference crowns and the NAIA championship. He was drafted eighth overall by the New York Knicks (1964 NBA cellar dwellers) with the first pick of the second round.
Reed, at 6’9 and 235 pounds, played power forward for the Knicks for a number of seasons while Walt Bellamy manned the center position. The Knicks had not had a winning season since 1958-59 before Red Holzman took over as head coach in 1967-68. They concluded the season with a 43-39 record.
The deal sent Bellamy and Howard Komives to the Pistons in exchange for power forward Dave DeBusschere was made official on December 19, 1968, between the Knicks and Pistons. Reed was able to switch positions and play center after making this transaction.
“I feel like a new person since that trade,” Reed said at the time. “Middle is my position.”
Sadly, Willis Reed passed away at the age of eighty. The Knicks strengthened their defense and went on to win 54 games and a playoff berth that season, setting the groundwork for their championship run in the following year. In 1972–1973 they repeated as champions by sweeping the Lakers in five games. Reed won the Finals MVP award for a second straight year.
He averaged 18.7 points and 12.9 boards per game for his career and made seven All-Star teams. After the 1964–1965 season, he became the first player in Knicks history to be chosen Rookie of the Year. The following season, in 1969–1970, he became the first player in NBA history to be named Most Valuable Player.
Only 19 games were played by him in the 1973–74 season, and the next year he did not play at all, formally retiring. Reed took over for Holzman in 1977, and although coaching a seasoned squad, he still managed a 43-39 record. His coaching tenure lasted only 14 games until he was replaced.
In a 1970 matchup against the Celtics, Willis Reed played a key role. Photos by NBAE/Getty Images Author: Willis Reed, Year of Publication: 1970AP This is a photo of the Knicks from the 1972–1973 AP season.
Reed was an assistant coach for the Johnnies for a short time, then went on to serve as Creighton’s head coach for four seasons in the early 1980s. He also worked as an assistant with the Atlanta Hawks and the Sacramento Kings.
After taking over a faltering Nets team in late February 1988, he led them through the 1989–90 season before moving to the front office. When he was hired in 1993, he became the team’s general manager.
“Not a day goes by that someone doesn’t remind me of that game,” Reed said of that memorable night in 1970. “It was our moment.”
Conclusion-Willis Reed was an NBA player, coach, and general manager. After retiring in 1974, he coached and managed the Knicks. In 1982, he was inducted. Reed is best known for leading the Knicks to their first NBA title in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals despite a severe thigh injury. Reed, 80, died on March 21, 2023.