Willis Reed, New York Knicks legend and basketball Hall of Famer, died Tuesday at the age of 80, the franchise announced in a statement.
Known as “The Captain,” Reed led the Knicks to NBA championships in 1970 and 1973, the only titles in franchise history. He played the entirety of his 10-year career with the Knicks, earning seven all-star selections and the MVP award in the 1969-70 season.
Our Captain. pic.twitter.com/AbtA7FhLvW
— NY_KnicksPR (@NY_KnicksPR) March 21, 2023
“The Knicks organization is deeply saddened to announce the passing of our beloved Captain, Willis Reed,” the team said in a statement. (RELATED: New York Knicks’ Josh Hart Scores Points With Fans After Refusing To Blame Fatigue For Winning Streak Being Snapped)
“As we mourn, we will always strive to uphold the standard he left behind — the unmatched leadership, sacrifice and work ethic that personified him as a champion among champions. His is a legacy that will live forever. We ask everyone to please respect the family’s privacy during this difficult time.”
Reed’s most iconic moment came during Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers, the New York Post chronicled. Reed, whose career was limited by injuries, missed Game 6 of the series after he suffered a hard fall towards the end of Game 5. With the series tied at three games apiece, Reed was doubtful to play Game 7 in front of the home fans at Madison Square Garden.
Reed limped out of the tunnel after pregame warmups, to a rousing ovation from Knicks fans and much surprise from his teammates, according to the NY Post. He propelled the Knicks to the team’s first championship and won the finals MVP award for his performance in the series. He then won the finals MVP award again when the Knicks won the title a second time.
Reed became the first Knicks player to have his number retired in 1976 and was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1982. The NBA named Reed among the league’s 50 greatest players of all-time in the 1996-97 season.
He averaged 18.7 points and 12.9 rebounds per game as a center and power forward. The Knicks drafted him 10th overall in the 1964 NBA draft out of Grambling State University. He briefly coached the Knicks before leaving to coach Creighton from 1981-85.
He later coached the New Jersey Nets and eventually joined the franchise’s front office, where he helped the Nets become a championship contender.