NBA Hall of Famer and Knicks Legend Willis Reed Dead at 80: 'Champion Among Champions'
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Willis Reed
NBA Hall of Famer Willis Reed, who won two championships with the New York Knicks, has died at the age of 80, the team said Tuesday.
"The Knicks organization is deeply saddened to announce the passing of our beloved Captain, Willis Reed," the Knicks said in a statement on social media. "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," they continued. "We ask everyone to please respect the family's privacy during this difficult time."
The Knicks did not share his cause of death.
In a tweet, basketball columnist Peter Vecsey said Reed "suffered from congestive heart problems over the past year or so and was going through rehab to walk."
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Dick Raphael/NBAE via Getty Willis Reed
According to ESPN, Reed's 10-year NBA career from 1964 to 1974 was spent entirely with the Knicks. He averaged nearly 19 points and 13 rebounds per game.
Knicks fans may remember Reed's career-defining moment in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals. After missing the previous game due to a thigh injury, Reed stunned fans by walking onto the Madison Square Garden court during warmups to face the Los Angeles Lakers. Footage of the moment was re-shared on social media on Tuesday.
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Scott Gries/Getty Willis Reed
"When Willis Reed came out on the court, I thought my ears were going to explode," Spike Lee recalled to the New York Times in 2020. "Both teams were on the court doing their layup lines, and when Willis came out, the entire Los Angeles Laker team stopped and turned around."
As ESPN notes, Reed scored the Knicks' first two field goals for the team and was named Finals MVP. Two seasons later, Reed was named Finals MVP once again after the Knicks earned their second title.
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Per CBS Sports, Reed's No. 19 jersey was retired by the Knicks, and he was elected to both the NBA's 50th- and 75th-anniversary teams.
He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1980, and the winner of the NBA's Southwest Division is awarded a trophy named after Reed.