Willis Reed was a star for the New York Knicks and one of the greatest players in NBA history.
But before he took to the NBA hardwood, Reed became a legend at Grambling and is still considered its greatest basketball star. In 1961, Reed led then-Grambling College to its only men’s basketball national championship in history with a victory over Georgetown of Kentucky in the NAIA title game.
After he left for the pros, became a basketball executive and was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, Reed never forgot about Grambling and the opportunities it gave him, which he why he always supported the school right up to his passing on March 31st of this year.
Well, Grambling never forgot about Reed’s contributions and efforts of support, and so last week the school decided to honor their legend.
At the pre-game festivities for the Brick City Classic, which featured Grambling taking on Hampton at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ, Grambling honored its graduate and university Hall of Famer with the establishment of a $1 million endowed scholarship in his name to benefit student-athletes.
Attending the event were his widow, Gale Kennedy Reed, University President Rick Gallot and former U.S. Senator from New Jersey Bill Bradley, who played with Reed on the Knicks Championship teams of the 1970s.
“He was the soul of the team in the very real sense of the word,” said Bradley of his former teammate. “And you know, there’s a great difference between a star and a champion. New York’s had a lot of stars. But only a few have been champions.”
And Reed was definitely a champion.
He was a 7x All-Star, 2x NBA Champion, 2x Finals MVP, was selected to the NBA’s 50th and 75th Anniversary teams and was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1982.
Unfortunately for Knicks fans, they haven’t had a championship since Willis and Bradley roamed the MSG hardwood.
But those teams were special and continue to hold a place in New York basketball history, which is why it was so fitting that Reed was honored so close to the place where he brought such excitement and jubilation to, and honored by the institution that he loved so much.
“Grambling should be very proud of Willis,” said Bradley. “Because Willis was very proud of Grambling.”
Now the name Willis Reed will live on at Grambling by helping other student-athletes succeed.
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