Today’s #TBT sports blog rewinds the game clock to the 1970 NBA Finals.
That’s when Willis Reed provided New York Knicks fans with perhaps the most memorable entrance in Big Apple sports history.
40+ years later, Knicks fans still vividly recall when an injured Willis Reed limped out of the dark tunnel from his locker room and onto Madison Square Garden’s brightly lit center court.
Fans can even recite Knicks radio announcer Marv Albert describing Reed’s entrance “Now here comes Willis… and the crowd is going wild!”
Despite a torn lower leg muscle, Reed’s courage to play on May 8, 1970 energized Knicks fans and inspired his teammates during Game 7 of the NBA Finals.
The Garden erupted early in the game when the hobbled Knicks lefty center scored the game’s first two baskets. Though he did not play much during the remainder of the game, Reed’s heroics helped the New York Knicks defeat the Los Angeles Lakers 113 – 97. That’s when the Knicks captured the franchise’s first ever NBA crown.
That NBA Finals victory capped an incredible year for the under-sized Reed. At 6’9” Reed battled against the league’s much taller opponents like 7-footers’ Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain.
During the 1969-70 season, Reed guided the Knicks to their best record in team history. In doing so, he became the first NBA player in league history to be named MVP of the NBA regular season, the NBA All-Star Game and the NBA Finals.
During his entire 11-year career, #19 played in the pivot for only the Knicks. Drafted as the #8 pick in the second round out of Grambling State University, Reed compiled a brilliant NBA resume. When he retired in 1975, his career numbers included 18.7 points per game and 12.9 rebounds per game in 650 total games.
The seven-time NBA all-star repeated as NBA champion in 1973. In that year the Knicks upgraded their roster by adding Jerry Lucas to an already formidable frontcourt and signing Earl “The Pearl” Monroe to pair with Walt “Clyde” Frazier as the NBA’s best back court.
Reed Voted One of Top 50 NBA Players Ever
Voted as one of the 50 greatest NBA players ever, Reed continued in the game after he officially stopped playing. He coached in both the college and professional ranks at Creighton University and St. John’s University as well as the Sacramento Kings and Atlanta Hawks.
Willis Reed enjoyed his greatest sidelines success when he was appointed Senior Vice President and General Manager of the New Jersey Nets. The NBA Hall of Famer’s front office basketball knowledge was instrumental in helping the Nets advance to the NBA Finals in both 2002 and 2003.
Since Reed’s retirement in 1975, the Knicks’ franchise fortunes have never really flourished again at the same level.
However, the muscular lefty remains New York’s most beloved Knick, and the city’s never-to-be-forgotten 1970 NBA Finals hero.
Without a noticeable limp long gone, Willis Reed also makes his expected grand entrance into the #5 spot in New York Sports Icons.
Read about legendary New York Knicks Willis Reed and other iconic sports figures in New York City history.
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