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Remembering Willis Reed

March 21, 2023

A truly great basketball player, especially from the center position, and an integral member of the only two New York Knicks’ title teams, Willis Reed, who died today at age 80, was an even better person.

I met him once and interviewed him before a game when he was coaching. He was gracious, insightful and truly appreciated my remembering his 36 point/ 36  rebounds game 5/’70 “quarters,” vs the Bullets, as deep down or not so deep, he knew 36 is many more points than 4!!

A basketball expert and friend, Andy Roth, recently told me Willis was not doing well and would not attend the ceremony honoring the Knicks’ 1972-1973 team.

A stickler for good basketball fundamentals, Andy talked of all he learned and still regards as holy, when he attended Willis Reed’s basketball camp, now so many years ago.

On some level, I am still haunted by “my” Lakers’ title round losses to the Knicks in both ’70 and ’73 (they did win vs the Knicks in ’72 with a (69-13) team that won 33 straight games) but knew the Knicks were an incredible, clutch shooting, team basketball emphasized, albeit slightly over rated team.

Willis was not over rated. He was an excellent forward and when a trade brought Dave DeBusschere to that great team, enabling Willis to play center, they took off, winning two crowns, making 3 final rounds and the semis 6 straight seasons (’69-’74).

He was the Knicks’ leading scorer in 8 of their 9 semis and final round games in the ’70 title season, before being injured in the 5th game of the final.

Somehow, the Knicks won that game, coming from behind, lost #6 in L.A. when Wilt had 45, before another great, Walt Frazier with 36 points, led the team’s game 7 triumph.

Willis had been introduced as a starter to a thunderous ovation and scored the first two baskets for the Knicks in that May 8th game.

Perhaps, legendary public address announcer John F.X. Condon is introducing him now. Surely if so, it would be to a great ovation from the many good people above.


Willis Reed 1972 publicity photo.jpg

Willis Reed, pictured above.



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