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Sad news this afternoon as former New York Knicks star Willis Reed has reportedly passed away at the age of 80.
The news was first reported by long-time sports journalist Peter Vecsey on Twitter.
“Just received word that Willis Reed, 80, passed this morning,” tweeted Vecsey. He has suffered from congestive heart problems over the past year or so, and was going through rehab to walk. Loved everything about Willis! A man’s man!!”
Willis was a Knicks hero who, in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals, hobbled out of the locker room at MSG with a ripped muscle in his right thigh and inspired the Knicks to a Finals win over the Lakers.
When Willis walked out the crowd erupted, leaving the depleted Knicks charged up and ready to play.
“When I saw that,” Knicks guard Walt Frazier said, “something told me we might have these guys.”
The 1970 All-Star Game MVP and 1969-70 league MVP suffered the injury and Game 5 and without him in Game 6, Wilt Chamberlain dominated the paint and led the Lakers to a win and force a decisive Game 7 back in New York.
Reed was a star for his hometown Grambling Tigers, leading the team to an NAIA title and three SWAC championships. The Knicks selected him in the second round of the 1964 NBA Draft and he paid immediate dividends, averaging 19.5 ppg and winning the NBA Rookie of the Year.
In his 10 years in New York, he ranked in the top ten in almost every team statistic. He was ranked top three in minutes played (23,073), field goals made (4,859), rebounds (8,414) and total points (12,183). In 1976, the Knicks retired his jersey number, becoming the first Knicks player to receive that honor.
After his playing days were finished, he got into coaching and management. And regardless of his position, he was always a friendly presence and a constant fixture in New York City.
Reed 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.
RIP Willis Reed.
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