NBA Hall of Famer and New York Knicks legend Willis Reed has passed away. He was 80
His passing was shared by the Knicks who issued an official statement on Twitter after confirming Reed's death with his family.
"The Knicks organization is deeply saddened to announce the passing of our beloved Captain, Willis Reed," the Knicks said in a statement read, "As we mourn, we will always strive to uphold the standards 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."
No cause of death was given.
Adam Silver, Commissioner of the NBA, also issued a statement paying tribute to Reed,
"Willis Reed was the ultimate team player and consummate leader. My earliest and fondest memories of NBA basketball are of watching Willis, who embodied the winning spirit that defined the New York Knicks championship teams in the early 1970s," Silver said in a statement. "He played the game with remarkable passion and determination, and his inspiring comeback in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals remains one of the most iconic moments in all of the sports."
Born in Dubach, Louisiana on June 25, 1942, Reed starred as a high school player before going to Grambling State University from 1960-64. In his senior campaign, he averaged over 26 points and 21 rebounds and was selected by the New York Knicks in the second round of the 1964 NBA draft.
Although “The Captain,” as he was affectionately called, was an undersized center at 6’9, his impact was immediately felt across the league, In his rookie season, he won the NBA's Rookie of the Year. In the 1969-70 season, he made history by becoming the first player to sweep the MVP awards for the regular season, All-Star Game and NBA Finals. It was also during this season that Reed had one of the most iconic moments in the history of professional sports.
On May 8, 1970, in game 7 of the NBA Finals, the Knicks took on Wilt Chamberlain and the Los Angeles Lakers at Madison Square Garden. In the previous game, Reed had missed it due to a severe thigh injury.
With no one sure if he would play, Reed stunned the at-capacity crowd as he appeared out from the tunnel with a standing ovation.
“And here comes Willis and the crowd is going wild,” said radio announcer Marv Albert.
After scoring on two consecutive jump shots, the emotion of the moment carried the New York Knicks to victory and their first championship in the franchise's history.
In 1973, the Knicks won the championship again with Reed leading the way, winning his second Finals MVP.
Willis spent his entire 10-year career as a New York Knick.Retiring in 1974 after battling several injuries, Reed averaged 18.7 points and 12.9 rebounds for his career. He was a 7-time All-Star and a five-time All-NBA selection.
His jersey number, No.19, was the first number retired by the Knicks in 1976. In 1982, he was elected to the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame.
Following his playing days, Reed was head coach of the Knicks for over a year and later spent four years as the head coach at the University of Creighton. In the NBA, he was an assistant coach with the Atlanta Hawks, the Sacramento Kings and the former New Jersey Nets. He broke ground as one of the first successful Black NBA executives, spending a decade in the Nets' front office as general manager and then as senior vice president of basketball operations, taking the Nets to Finals in 2002 and 2003.
Willis was named to the NBA's 50th-anniversary team in 1996 and to the 75th-anniversary team in 2021.
We at EBONY extend our prayers and deepest condolences to the family and friends of Willis Reed.