New York Knicks icon and member of the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Team Willis Reed has died at the age of 80, the team announced Tuesday.
“The Knicks organization is deeply saddened to announce the passing of our beloved Captain, Willis Reed,” the Knicks said in a statement. “While we mourn, we will always strive to uphold the standards he left behind: the unmatched leadership, sacrifice and work ethic that epitomized him as a champion among champions. His is a legacy that he will live on forever. We ask that everyone respect the family’s privacy during this difficult time.”
Reed spent all 10 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, the 1964 NBA Rookie of the Year -65, a member of the All-Defensive Team from 1969-70 and the NBA Most Valuable Player from 1969-70. In his career, Reed averaged 18.7 points and 12.9 rebounds per game.
Reed’s most memorable moments came in the NBA Finals. He played through a hamstring injury in Game 7 of the 1970 Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers and won Finals MVP while leading New York to its first championship. He took home Finals MVP one more time in 1973, the last time the Knicks won the NBA title.
After his playing career, Reed coached the Knicks for 96 games between the 1977-78 and 1978-79 seasons. He spent four years as head coach at Creighton from 1981-1985 before joining the New Jersey Nets, first as head coach in 1987 before moving into the front office with him.
“Willis Reed was the ultimate team player and consummate leader,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “My earliest and best 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 return in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals remains one of the most iconic moments in all of sports.
“As a league MVP, a two-time NBA Finals MVP, and a member of the NBA’s 50th and 75th Anniversary teams, Willis was a decorated player who prided himself on 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’s wife, Gail, her family, and her many friends and fans.”
Bill Bradley, a former US senator and Willis’s former Knicks teammate, told The New York Times that Reed had congestive heart problems and had been receiving treatment at the Texas Heart Institute.