The NBA is in mourning following the news that Willis Reed has died at the age of 80, leaving basketball without one of its greatest legends of all time.
Among many other things, Reed was considered the great captain of the New York Knicks who won the franchise’s only two titles in 1970 and 1973.
There were extraordinary players on the Knicks at that time, with the group playing in three Finals in four years, only losing the 1972 Finals to the Lakers, who have gone down in history, such as Bill Bradley, Dave DeBusschere, Walt Frazier, Earl Monroe and Phil Jackson.
But among them all, the figure of Willis Reed emerged as the great leader of an extraordinary group of players who gave the Knicks their greatest moments of glory.
In that time, Reed collected, among other awards, two NBA titles, an MVP trophy, two Finals MVPs, seven All-Star appearances, five All-League Team selections, one All-Defensive Five and the Rookie of the Year award.
However, in 1970, he had one of the greatest moments in the history, not only of the Finals, but of the entire NBA. The Finals went to a tied seventh game after three wins for the Knicks and three for the Lakers.
The Los Angeles Lakers relied on the superhuman strength of Wilt Chamberlain, while the Knicks, coached by Red Holzman, relied on the play of Reed.
But misfortune struck the New Yorkers when, in Game 5, Reed collided with the Chamerlain wall and injured his leg. The Knicks went on to win that game, but lost Game 6 comfortably in L.A. without their leader.
Going into the seventh and decisive game, the big question in the Big Apple was whether Reed would be able to play. It was the same for the Lakers with Jerry West.
In the end, when the New York fans saw their captain come out of the tunnel to warm up, the atmosphere inside Madison Square Garden was electric.
He scored the Knicks’ first two points and, even with a weakened knee, was able to slow down Wilt, whom he left well below his best. When Reed left the game, exhausted, the Knicks already led 61-37 and ended up winning 113-99.
Reed, the best Knicks player of that season with an average of 21 points and 14 rebounds, was voted MVP of those Finals and left one of the golden memories in NBA history.
For that and for an extraordinary career, Reed, a member of the Hall of Fame, was also included in the best team of the 50th anniversary, in 1997, and in the best team of the 75th anniversary, in 2022.
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