Willis Reed, an NBA Hall of Famer who played his entire career with the Knicks, died Tuesday morning, the NBA Basketball Retired Players Association announced. He was 80 years old.
Reed was born in Louisiana and played college basketball at Grambling State, winning three NAIA championships in four years. The Knicks drafted him in the second round of the 1964 NBA draft, and he would instantly become a contributor.
In 1965, Reed won the NBA Rookie of the Year award and made the first of seven straight all-star game appearances, ultimately averaging a double-double in each of those seven seasons.
Reed’s best season came in 1970, when he averaged a career high 21.7 points and won his only NBA MVP award and first NBA championship. Nicknamed the Captain, Reed became the first player in NBA history to win MVPs in the regular season, all-star game and NBA Finals in the same season, and is one of three players to ever do so.
That year also featured his most famous moment. After not playing in Game 6 of the NBA Finals due to a thigh injury, Reed surprised fans at Madison Square Garden by showing up and playing in Game 7. He only scored four points in the game, but he gutted out 27 minutes to help the Knicks earn their first championship.
Reed won another championship and NBA Finals MVP in 1973 with New York. However, injuries forced Reed to retire after the 1973–74 season. He was elected into the NAIA Hall of Fame in 1970, the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in the class of 1982, and named to both the NBA’s 50th and 75th anniversary teams.
After his playing career, Reed entered coaching, first leading the Knicks in 1977–78, then as the head coach of Creighton between 1981 and ’85 and for the Nets in 1988–89. He also spent three years as an executive for the Hornets from 2004 to ’07.