Farewell to Willis Reed, the great captain

There was a time when New York was the basketball capital of the world. And in that time, the king of new york was willis reed. Captain, the captain. They say that there have been centers with more talent, certainly with more height (he measured 2.06). But not with more heart. Now, that huge heart has gone out. Reed, a legend of the knicksof New York and the NBA, has died at the age of 80.

The 1970 Finals are considered one of the best in history. His decisive party was chosen by ESPN in 2010 the best seventh ever. And what Willis Reed did on that nighton May 8 at Madison Square Garden, it’s one of the greatest feats the NBA has ever seen. And, surely, the great moment of basketball in the Big Apple. After getting injured in Game 5 and missing Game 6, Reed seemed ruled out for the decisive seventh against the Lakers of Jerry West, Elgin Baylor and wilt chamberlain. Without him, the Knicks had been swept in the sixth (135-113) and things looked ugly. Without his defense, Chamberlain had finished that penultimate game, the one that made it 3-3, with 45 points and 27 rebounds.

But at 7:34 p.m., when the Knicks were coming out to warm up, he appeared and raised a crowd that began to believe. He came out to play, injured. He scored the first two baskets for his team, and the only ones he scored that night. They did not need more because it was not about the points but about faith. When he sat out not to return with 3:05 left, the Knicks led 61-37. and Chamberlain had stayed at 2/9 shooting in the stretch in which he was defended by a visibly injured Reed. The wonderful Walt Frazier finished with 36 points, 7 rebounds and 19 assists. But Reed was MVP of the Finals. That seventh ended, by the way, with a 113-99.

It was the Knicks’ first ring in the first fully nationally televised Finals (via ABC). Howard Cosell was the reporter who interviewed the champions in full celebration. There, drenched in champagne in the local locker room, he gave Reed a present that represented “the best that human beings had to offer.” It wasn’t about numbers, but just in case Reed averaged 23 points and 10.5 rebounds in the Final. Three years later, the Knicks won their second and final ring. The Lakers again, although with less drama (4-1). Reed finished with 16.4 points and 9.2 rebounds and was once again the MVP of the Final. The first to win this award twice, something that no one else achieved until Magic Johnson (1980 and 1982) and that in total, after the two of them, ten other players have achieved.

They were the Knicks of Frazier and Reed. Also from Dave DeBusschere, Bill Bradley, phil jacksonan Earl Monroe who participated in the second title and the mythical trainer Red Holzman. The golden years of the Knicks. Reed, born in Bernice (Louisiana) came to the team in 1964 through the first position of the second round of the draft (pick 8). He had played at Grambling University. With the Knicks he played until 1974, when a knee injury ended his career. His averages were 18.7 points and 12.9 rebounds, with incredible seasons like 1968-69: 21.1 points and 14.5 rebounds. In addition to being a two-time champion and MVP of the Finals, he was MVP of the 1969-70 season, seven times all staronce MVP of the All Star GameRookie of the Year and, of course, he entered the list of the best in NBA history for the 50th and 75th anniversary of the League.

Exceptional defender, leader on the court and in the locker room, he left a unique mark on the NBA of his time and, forever, on New York basketball. And then, no one ever spoke ill of him, never. First a power forward, then a short center but plenty of spirit. Always a perfect partner and a relentless winner. This is how he will always be remembered: The CaptainThe big captain.

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