Two-time Hall of Famer and New York Knicks legend Willis Reed has died at age 80, the National Basketball Retired Players Association said.
The 80-year-old led the Knicks to two championships in the 1970s. The cause of Willis’s death has not been explained, but Willis was reported to be in ill health as the legend could not make it to the 50th anniversary of the iconic 1973 Knicks championship title.
Willis, who grew up on a tiny farm in Louisiana, also featured in what is arguably considered as one of the greatest moments in NBA history when, despite a serious torn thigh muscle injury, and after missing the first 6 games of the winner-take-all 7 Games NBA finals, he took to the court against the Lakers in May 1970. Willis only participated in the first half of the decider, but his heroic entry into the court through the tunnel inspired the Knicks to win the finals under Walk Frazier. Reed then went on to lead the Knicks to another title in 1973.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver offered condolence on the demise of the Knicks legend: “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.”
“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.” Silver added. “As a league MVP, two-time NBA Finals MVP, and member of the NBA’s 50th and 75th Anniversary Teams, Willis was a decorated player who took great pride in his consistency. Following his playing career, Willis mentored the next generation as a coach, team executive, and proud HBCU alumnus.”
Willis was a seven times All-Star selection, two NBA Finals MVP winner, and a Hall of Famer. He was the first player to sweep the MVP awards for the regular season, All-Star Game, and NBA finals in the 1969-70 season.