2nd Team C: Willis Reed
- Stats from 1964 to 1974:
- 18.7 PPG, 12.9 RPG, 1.8 APG, 0.6 STL, 1.1 BLK (Blocks were not an official stat until 1973-74 )
Many have tried, and failed, to make their own “Willis Reed moment,” including Paul Pierce in his notorious “Wheelchair Game” in the 2008 NBA Finals against the Lakers.[su_youtube_advanced url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o80WOuUr5bs”]
Heading into Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals against a formidable lineup featuring Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, and Jerry West, Reed, who missed Game 6, a 135-113 blowout loss to the Lakers, suffered a severe thigh injury and torn muscle in his leg, and was unlikely to play, let alone suit up, for the deciding game of the series.
Los Angeles had the momentum despite playing before a raucous Garden crowd, with center Wilt Chamberlain having eviscerated the Knicks for 45 points in Game 6, and with Reed out, New York was at a major disadvantage without their star center to halt him.
Then, lo and behold, Reed stormed from the locker room out onto the causeway leading to the Garden floor, and Knick fans went absolutely ballistic.[su_youtube_advanced url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SeITaf3e2Uo”]
Reed hit two quick buckets, and subsequently left the floor for Walt Frazier to put on a show to the tune of 36 points and 19 assists. While it was Frazier’s performance that dismantled the Lakers, it was Reed’s heroics that set the tone for a relatively easy 113-99 win, amounting to the Knicks’ first ever title.
With the Knicks, Reed, who had his number 19 retired, constructed a resume worthy of an all-time legend. In his ten year career with New York, Reed was a two-time champion and NBA Finals MVP (1970, 1973), seven-time NBA All-Star (1965-1971), an All-NBA First Team selection (1970), four-time All-NBA Second Team center (1967-1969, 1971), NBA Rookie of the Year (1965), an NBA All-Defensive First Team selection (1970), and a member of the 50th Anniversary All-Time Team, becoming the first NBA player to win the All-Star Game, regular season, and NBA Finals MVPs in a single season (1970).
With a newly acquired Dave DeBusschere coming to New York from Detroit in the 1968-69 season, Reed moved from power forward to his natural position at center, and would go on to anchor a Knicks squad that would lead the league in team defense in five of the next six seasons, leading them to two titles in that span.
After his Knick days, Reed, eventually inducted to the Basketball Hall of Fame, would manufacture a championship contender with the New Jersey Nets, where, as their general manager, vice president of basketball operations, and senior vice president of basketball operations, he drafted the likes of Derrick Coleman and Kenny Anderson, acquired Drazen Petrovic, and built a franchise around the Jason Kidd acquisition that landed New Jersey two consecutive NBA Finals appearances in 2002 and 2003.
Unlike Michael Jordan, who is struggling to make the Charlotte Hornets relevant as their owner and chairman despite his stellar playing days, Reed has cultivated a championship-caliber pedigree as both player and executive, even coaching the Knicks and Nets for a spell.