Willis Reed

reed

Willis Reed was born on June 25, 1942, in Hico, Louisiana.  A place so tiny that he once told Pro Basketball Illustrated, “They don’t even have a population.”  Reed, however, was far from tiny.  Reed began playing basketball as a 6’2″ eighth-grader.  After enjoying great success in high school, he went to nearby Grambling State University, an all-black school famous for its football teams.

He ended up playing b-ball at Grambling, where he amassed 2,280 career points, averaged 26.6 points and 21.3 rebounds during his senior year, and led the school to one NAIA title and three Southwestern Athletic Conference Championships.  The 6’10”, 240-pound Reed was eventually drafted 10th overall by the Knicks in 1964, where he quickly established himself as a fierce, dominating and physical force on both ends of the floor.

Reed made an immediate impact with the Knicks.  In March 1965 he scored 46 points against the Los Angeles Lakers, the second highest single-game total ever by a Knicks rookie.  For the season, he ranked seventh in the NBA in scoring (19.5 points per game) and fifth in rebounding (14.7 rebounds per game).  He also began his string of All-Star appearances and was named the NBA Rookie of the Year.

Willis has got a lot of balls!

Willis has got a lot of balls.

In the first four games of the 70’s Finals against the formidable Los Angeles Lakers, Reed had scored 37, 29, 38 and 23 points, respectively, while averaging 15 rebounds.  In the fourth quarter of Game 5, he sustained a deep thigh injury.  The Knicks managed to survive that encounter, but were demolished by the Lakers in Game 6.

The seventh game of the 1970 Knicks-Lakers Finals was one of the greatest games ever — not just in the NBA Finals, not just in hoops, but in sports history.  Willis Reed’s dramatic entrance was a big reason why.  At 7:34 p.m., Reed, the soul of the Knicks, defied doctor’s advice & limped onto the court.  Bad-asses defy stuff.  The crowd went wild, and his teammates’ confidence returned with a vengeance.  Reed somehow managed to outjump Wilt Chamberlain on the opening tip, then scored the game’s first basket on a shot from the top of the key.  He then scored the second New York basket from 20 feet out.

willis-reed-limpNew York’s Bill Bradley recalled Game 7, in an article in The New York Times: “We left the locker room for the warm-ups not knowing if Willis was going to come out or not.”  Said Walt Frazier, “‘When he did that (emerged from the tunnel), we said, ‘Yeah, the captain is ready.'”  After Reed scored those first two buckets, Bradley recalled “At that point, the whole team had been lifted several levels.”  Willis wouldn’t score again, but he hobbled up and down the court for 27 minutes and helped hold Wilt Chamberlain to only 21 points.  Frazier did the rest, scoring 37 points in the Knicks rout and coming up with some decent hip-hop verbiage to sum it all up: “Willis provided the inspiration, I provided the devastation.”

Big bad-asses need big bad-ass boxes of Wheaties!

Big bad-asses need big bad-ass boxes of Wheaties!

For all his achievements, Reed was enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1982.  He is widely considered as one of the greatest Knicks ever, with the likes of Walt Frazier and Patrick Ewing.  In a 1997 poll entitled the NBA’s 50th Anniversary All-Time Team, Reed was selected as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History.

He is currently the Vice President of Basketball Operations for the New Orleans Hornets.

Here are the source links: http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=list/nba_finalsmoments and here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willis_Reed and here: http://www.nba.com/history/players/reed_bio.html and here:http://entertainment.howstuffworks.com/willis-reed-at.htm

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