Who was Knicks’ legend Willis Reed? Stats, records and best moments in the NBA
As we remember the life and times of the late New York Knicks legend, Willis Reed, here’s a look at some of the more memorable moments of his outstanding career.
A player who went toe-to-toe with the likes of Wilt Chamberlain, the Knicks’ legendary player will be remembered for all time following his passing, but what were some of the best moments of his time in the NBA? Let’s find out!
Were the 1970 NBA Finals Willis Reed’s greatest moment?
As they prepared for Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals on May 8th, the New York Knicks did so with a degree of uncertainty. Captain and talisman, Willis Reed, had suffered an injury that ruled him out and with that the Knicks were now set to face the legendary Los Angeles Lakers without their biggest weapon. To be clear, in the first four games of the series Reed scored 37, 29, 38 and 23 points, respectively, while averaging 15 rebounds. It was in Game 5 that he suffered what appeared to be a tear in his thigh muscle and while the Knicks managed to survive the encounter, they were summarily put down in Game 6, meaning it was a case of ‘now or never’ in the last game of the series.
With Madison Square Garden packed on that fateful night, the Knicks weren’t sure their captain would even be able to play. Indeed, Bill Bradley would later recall that “We left the locker room for the warmups not knowing if Willis was going to come out or not.” Yet, come out is exactly what Reed did. At approximately 7:34 p.m. that night, the big man took to the court with an obvious limp and the crowd went wild. Gone were the looks of nervousness on his teammates’ and in their place were the cold hard looks of determination. From the opening tip, which Reed incredibly won over Wilt Chamberlain it was clear that the Knicks meant business. Though his points contribution was small, it was his presence that was key as New York led by as many as 29 points in the first half. In the end, the Knicks would win by a score of 113-119 to claim their first NBA title and with that Willis Reed became legend. As we know today, the famous sports journalist, Howard Cosell, would tell Reed post game on national television, “You exemplify the very best that the human spirit can offer.”
What about Willis Reed’s stats and records?
Though his list of accomplishments is extensive, perhaps it’s worth noting that the above-mentioned season of 1970 was quite simply unbelievable for Reed. Indeed, during that year the 6 ft 10 center became the first player in NBA history to be named the NBA All-Star Game MVP, the NBA regular season MVP and the NBA Finals MVP in the same season. Needless to say, that year would also see him voted on to the All-NBA First Team as well as the NBA All-Defensive First Team. The 1965 NBA Rookie of the Year would go on to play in 7 NBA All-Star Games, win two NBA Championships (1970 & 1973) in a career that spanned 650 games and saw him average 18.7 points and 12.9 rebounds per game.
What did Willis Reed do after his NBA playing career ended?
The unfortunate thing about Reed’s playing career, is that it was cut short by injuries such that he retired shortly after those legendary seasons in the early 70s. Following his time on the court, he coached extensively in the league with his first tenure coming with the Knicks in the 1977-78 season, though he would leave just 14 games into the following season with the team’s record standing at 29-47. During the 80s he would spend time on the sideline of Creighton University and St. John’s University, before returning to the NBA as an assistant coach with the Atlanta Hawks and Sacramento Kings. Of course, it was his time in management that he is perhaps best known for as he turned the New Jersey Nets into contenders under the stewardship of then head coach, Chuck Daly. To that end the Nets made the NBA Finals in both 2002 and 2003, though they failed to clinch the title. A true legend of the game both on and off the court, Willis Reed will always be remembered.