Legendary New York Knicks star Willis Reed has passed away at 80. News of Reed’s death was announced by the National Basketball Retired Players Association on Tuesday (March 20). Amid reports of his transition, the New York Knicks organization released a statement acknowledging his contributions to the franchise, for which he served as team captain during his illustrious 10-year career.
“The Knicks organization is deeply saddened to announce the passing of our beloved Captain, Willis Reed,” the 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.”
Reed is most known for his gutsy performance in Game 7 of the Knicks’ 1970 NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers, which has gone down in sports lore. After missing the previous game of the championship series with a thigh injury, the lumbering center hobbled out of the Madison Square Garden tunnel to lead the Knicks onto the court for the seventh and decisive game of the series. Scoring the first two baskets of the contest, Reed’s heroics spurred an inspiring performance by his teammates, who ousted the Lakers to win the 1970 finals, their first NBA title in franchise history.
Reed was named MVP of the NBA Finals, making him the first player in NBA history to be named MVP, Finals MVP and All-Star Game MVP in the same season. In 1973, he helped lead the Knicks to their second and most recent NBA championship before retiring from the league in 1975. During his career, he received numerous accolades including the 1965 Rookie of the Year Award, seven All-Star appearances and was a five-time All-NBA selection. He was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1982.
“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,” NBA commissioner Adam 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 sports.”
VIBE sends our condolences to the Reed family, the New York Knicks organization, and the NBA.