The National Association of Retired Basketball Players announced Tuesday:
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver issued a statement Tuesday:
Reed spent his entire 10-year career at the New York Knicks, leading the team to two NBA titles in 1970 and 1973 – the only two championships in franchise history – and collecting NBA Finals MVPs in both years.
“Willis Reed was the main team player and leader consumed,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “My first and dearest memories of NBA basketball are of seeing Willis, who embodied the winning spirit that he called the New York Knicks championship teams in the early 1970s. He played the game with great passion and determination, and his inspiring return to the 1970 NBA Finals remains one of the most symbolic moments of all sports.
“As MVP of the tournament, MVP of the NBA Finals twice and a member of the NBA’s 50th and 75th Anniversary Team, Willis is a decorated player and is proud of his consistency.” After his playing career, Willis guided the next generation as coach, Running the team and proud alumni of HBCU. We extend our deepest condolences to Willis’ wife, Gale, his family and many friends and fans.”
Reed had a great career – highlighted by two NBA titles and two NBA Finals MVP awards, plus becoming a seven-time All-Star – but he was most remembered in a legendary 1962-70 season that year, he became the first player to sweep the regular season, the All-Star Game and the NBA Final MVP.
However, he himself stepped out for the Seventh Final in 1970 after suffering a thigh injury in Game 5 and had to miss Game 6 of the series, and the Knicks had no answer for the Lakers’ Wilt Chamberlain – which was the legendary time. Reed scored the first four points in that game, and while limited to the rest of the way he got the team to win the first title (Walt Frazier’s 36 points and 19 rebounds are also related to victory).
Reed was born in 1942 in Hico, Louisiana, and stayed in this state until the end of college, leading the state to the NAIA title in 1961. Considered a small center at 6 feet 9, the teams quickly learned that he played much bigger as he went on to win the Rookie of the Year award in 1965.
Reed averaged 18.7 points and 12.9 rebounds per season during his career, and he was pulled out of his 19th place by the Knicks. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1982.