Pro Basketball Hall of Famer Willis Reed is a deity in the New York basketball scene. He played 10 seasons for the NBA’s Knicks and is responsible for one of the most-iconic moments in professional basketball history.
Sadly, we have to report to you that Mr. Reed has passed away at the age of 80 years old. Legendary New York media personality Peter Vecsey was the first to report this news before others followed suit.
A first-round pick of the Knicks out of Grambling State back in 1964, Reed earned seven All-Star appearances and two NBA titles during his time in the Big Apple.
He became the toast of New York City basketball and the broader NBA world during the 1970 Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers when Reed returned from a one-game absence due to a thigh injury.
Limping throughout pre-game warmups, it didn’t seem as if Reed had a chance to play in the decisive Game 7 inside Madison Square Garden. Once he was out there for the jump ball and scored the game’s first points, Willis Reed etched his name in the annals of basketball history.
He’d go on to help New York to a win over Wilt Chamberlain and the Lakers, growing his legend in the process.
“I saw the whole Laker team standing around staring at this man. They stopped doing what they were doing to look and see how Willis was. Something told me then man, they’re very concerned. We may have these guys,” Reed’s former teammate, Walt Frazier, said after the game.
It remains one of the most iconic moments in NBA history.
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Willis Reed was defined by more than just one play
Reed was not a one-trick pony during his time with the Knicks. A native of Louisiana, he earned All-Star appearances in each of his first seven NBA seasons. Reed’s best performance came back in 1968-69 when he averaged 21.1 points and 14.5 rebounds for a Knicks team that ultimately lost to the dynastic Boston Celtics in the NBA Playoffs.
- Willis Reed stats: 18.7 PPG, 12.9 RPG, 48% shooting
After leading New York to the 1970 championship, Reed once again earned NBA Finals MVP as it took out the very same Lakers in 1973. He averaged 16.4 points and 9.2 rebounds in that series.
After his playing career, Reed would serve as an assistant for St. John’s and as the Creighton head basketball coach. He took over as the New Jersey Nets head coach in February of 1988 and coached them through the following season.
At the time of his death, Reed had been married to Gale Kennedy since 1983. They have two children together. Our thoughts go out to Willis Reed’s family, his friends and the entire basketball community during these most difficult of times.
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