New York Knicks

Knicks Legend, Basketball Hall of Famer Willis Reed Dies at 80

Reed won two championships in New York before getting inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame

Manny Rubio-USA TODAY Sports

New York Knicks icon and NBA 75th Anniversary Team member Willis Reed has died at the age of 80, the team announced on Tuesday.

“The Knicks organization is deeply saddened to announce the passing of our beloved Captain, Willis Reed,” the Knicks said in a statement. “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. We ask that everyone respect the family’s privacy during this difficult time.”

Reed spent all 10 of his NBA seasons with the Knicks after being selected 10th overall in the 1964 NBA Draft. He went on to become a seven-time All-Star, five-time All-NBA selection, the 1964-65 NBA Rookie of the Year, a 1969-70 All-Defensive Team member and the 1969-70 NBA MVP. For his career, Reed averaged 18.7 points and 12.9 rebounds per game.

Reed’s most memorable moments came in the NBA Finals. He famously played through a thigh injury in Game 7 of the 1970 Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers and earned Finals MVP while leading New York to its first championship. He took home Finals MVP once again in 1973, the last time the Knicks won the NBA title.

Following his playing career, Reed coached the Knicks for 96 games between the 1977-78 and 1978-79 seasons. He spent four years as the head coach at Creighton from 1981-85 before later joining the New Jersey Nets, first as a head coach in 1987 before later entering their front office. 

“Willis Reed was the ultimate team player and consummate leader,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “My earliest and fondest memories of NBA basketball are 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.

“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. We send our deepest condolences to Willis’ wife, Gail, his family and his many friends and fans.”

Bill Bradley, a former U.S. Senator and Willis’ former Knicks teammate, told The New York Times that Reed had congestive heart issues and that he had been under treatment at the Texas Heart Institute.

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