New York Knicks icon Willis Reed, the leader of the franchise’s only two championships, has died at 80 years old.
The Knicks organization released a statement:
The Knicks organization is deeply saddened to announce the passing of our beloved Captain, Willis Reed. 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 played for 10 years in the NBA, winning the 1965 Rookie of the Year Award and the 1970 MVP. He was named to the All-Star game seven times and a five-time All-NBA selection. His shining moment came in a game on May 8, 1970.
In a Game 7 battle against Wilt Chamberlain and the Los Angeles Lakers, Reed led the Knicks into Madison Square Garden after missing Game 6 with a thigh injury. Stunning the crowd, Reed strolled out of the tunnel with a broadcasting icon delivering “Here comes Willis” for the call. Reed would score the opening two baskets of the game, providing a jolt through the team, including his Hall of Fame teammate Walt “Clyde” Frazier, who dropped 36 points and 19 assists in bringing the first championship to New York City.
“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.”
A retelling of the magical basketball moment is available below.