San Francisco Chronicle
Iconic moment made Knicks star a legend
NEW YORK — Hall of Famer Willis Reed, who dramatically emerged from the locker room minutes before Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals to spark the New York Knicks to their first championship and create one of sports' most enduring moments, died Tuesday. He was 80.
The cause wasn't released, but Reed had been in poor health recently and couldn't travel to New York when the Knicks honored the 50th anniversary of their 1973 NBA championship team.
The Knicks tweeted a photograph picturing Reed from behind walking onto the floor as his teammates were warming up for the 1970 finale, one of the most memorable moments in NBA history.
Nicknamed “The Captain,” the 6-foot-9 Reed was the emotional leader on the Knicks' two championship teams.
Reed's accomplishments — seven All-Star selections, two NBA Finals MVP awards among them — would have warranted Hall of Fame induction by themselves. During the 1969-70 season, he became the first player to sweep the MVP awards for the regular season, All-Star Game and NBA Finals.
But his spot in history was secured simply by walking onto the floor for Game 7 in 1970.
Reed had injured a thigh muscle in Game 5 of the series between the Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers, tumbling to the court in pain. He sat out Game 6 as counterpart Wilt Chamberlain had 45 points and 27 rebounds in a Lakers romp that forced a deciding game at Madison Square Garden.
Reed's status was unknown even to his teammates as he got treatment until shortly before Game 7. Both teams were warming up when Reed came out of the tunnel, fans rising and roaring when they saw him emerge.
“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,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said.