Knicks great Willis Reed, who authored one of the greatest moments in the city’s sporting history, has died. He was 80.
Just received word that Willis Reed, 80, passed this morning. He has suffered from congestive heart problems over the past year or so, and was going through rehab to walk. Loved everything about Willis! A man’s man!!
— Peter Vecsey (@PeterVecsey1) March 21, 2023
The Knicks drafted Reed out of Grambling State in 1964 and he spent all ten of his pro seasons in New York. Reed was named to seven All-Star teams and won two championships with the Knicks in 1970 and 1973. He was named MVP of the NBA Finals both times, but Reed is absolutely known more for his performance in 1970.
In Game 7, Reed famously took the court with a torn thigh muscle that kept him out of Game 6. The Knicks beat the Lakers 113-99 as a clearly hobbled Reed managed just four points and three rebounds in 27 minutes. Some added context, Reed finished the Finals with averages of 23 points and 10.5 rebounds.
This was more indicative of Willis Reed the player, the dominant New York center. He averaged 20 and 10 or better five times and only retired as young as he did because of mounting knee problems. His on-court accomplishments were further recognized when he was named one of the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players in 1996.
In retirement, Reed entered coaching. He spent a little over a year coaching the Knicks, from 1977-78, and went 49-47. Reed then went the college route and went 52-65 in four years at Creighton from 1981-85. His coaching career ended with a forgettable tenure with the then-New Jersey Nets, going 33-77 in less than two seasons.
But Willis Reed stayed on with the Nets as an executive and did a pretty good job. Former New Jersey staples Derrick Coleman and Kenny Anderson were Reed draftees. Years later, he engineered the trade for Jason Kidd, who led the Nets to two NBA Finals appearances.
In a way, Willis Reed was a complete basketball Hall of Famer. He played, coached, and served in a front office.
And yet, he’ll still be best known as a Knicks legend.
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