Willis Reed was part of the first great era of NBA big men. He came along during the peak years of Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain. Nate Thurmond was also around and Wes Unseld and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar would come along soon.
But Reed more than held his own.
At 6-10 and 235, Reed is roughly the same size as Magic Johnson. Yet he was immensely strong and held his own against Chamberlain. He was not as fast or agile as Russell, but again held his own.
When Jabbar came along later, he scored with hook shots and midrange jumpers. And he always played with immense heart and effort.
In 1970, in Game 7 of the NBA Finals, Reed had torn a thigh muscle and was not expected to play. Yet he came out of the tunnel, stunning fans and scored the first two baskets of the game.
It sort of summed up his career nicely but not completely. Reed just had immense courage and competitive desire.
Sadly, he passed away earlier this year of heart failure. Reed was 80.