Some very sad news for the New York Knicks, the NBA and basketball fans around the world as Willis Reed, still the heart of the franchise, has passed away.
Reed was a big man by the standards of that day, was 6-10 and 235, which would make him a power forward today - maybe - but he had to battle Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bob Lanier and Dave Cowens, among others.
Then again, Reed was a profoundly tough player. Born in segregated north central Louisiana in 1942, Reed had to be tough. If you’ve ever read any of Bill Russell’s comments about his family’s experiences in Louisiana (they moved to California when young Bill was eight years old), you’ll have some idea of the world Reed faced.
His peak of toughness though came in Game 7 of the NBA Finals.
Reed had torn a muscle in his thigh and was not expected to play. The moment when he came out anyway is one of the most iconic moments in New Yorks sports history, right up there with Babe Ruth’s called shot and Lou Gehrig’s farewell speech.
The man could barely walk and came out to take on the greatest talent of all time in Wilt Chamberlain. After he hit his first two shots, the game was over. The emotions in the Garden were off the charts. There was no way the Knicks were going to lose, and they didn’t.
He will remain the face of the Knicks in the way that Magic Johnson is the face of the Lakers and Michael Jordan is the face of the Bulls.
Willis Reed, dead at 80.
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