Willis Reed

Willis Reed

Infobox NBAretired

birthdate=birth date and age|mf=yes|1942|6|25
Hico, Louisiana
college=Grambling State
* New York Knicks (1964-1974)
* 2x NBA Champion (1970, 1973)
* 7x NBA All-Star (1965-1971)
* 1965 NBA Rookie of the Year
* 1970 NBA MVP
* 1970 NBA All-Star Game MVP
* 2x NBA Finals MVP (1970, 1973)
* NBA's 50th Anniversary All-Time Team
* New York Knicks #19 retired
* Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (1982)

Willis Reed Jr. (born June 25, 1942) is a retired American basketball player. He spent his entire professional playing career with the New York Knicks, and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1982.

Early years

Reed was born in Hico, Louisiana. While Reed was growing up on a farm in nearby Bernice, the Knicks were floundering. New York managed only one winning season in the 12 campaigns between 1955-56 and 1966-67. From 1956 to 1966 the Knicks finished last nine times, and the club failed to make the playoffs in the seven seasons from 1959 to 1966. In 1963-64 the Knicks brought up the rear of the Eastern Division with a 22-58 record.

At Grambling, where he played college basketball, Reed 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. He 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.

NBA career

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.

Reed proved to be a clutch playoff performer throughout his career. He gave an early indication of this in 1966-67 when he bettered his regular-season average of 20.9 points per game by scoring 27.5 points per contest in the postseason.

In his first seasons with the Knicks, he played power forward and later gained fame as the starting center. Despite his average stature (he stood at a mere 6-foot-10 when, for instance, contemporaries such as Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar stood 7-1 and 7-2, respectively), he made up for his lack of height by playing a physical game, often ending seasons with respectable averages in blocking and rebounding.

The team continued to struggle for a few years while adding good players through trades and the draft. Perhaps the most important personnel move was the decision to replace Dick McGuire as coach with Red Holzman midway through the 1967-68 season. The Knicks had gone 15-22 under McGuire; Holzman steered them with to a 28-17 finish. New York's 43-39 record gave the team its first winning record since 1958-59.

Reed continued to make annual appearances in the NBA All-Star Game. By this time he was playing power forward instead of center in order to make room for Walt Bellamy. Reed continued to work hard on the boards, averaging 11.6 rebounds in 1965-66 and 14.6 in 1966-67, both top-10 marks in the league. By the latter season he had adjusted to the nuances of his new position, averaging 20.9 points to rank eighth in the NBA.

New York won 54 games in 1968-69 after staggering to a 6-10 start. On December 19, the Knicks traded Bellamy and Howard Komives to the Detroit Pistons in exchange for Dave DeBusschere. The trade was good for Reed in two ways. First, DeBusschere assumed some of the heavy labor inside, thereby taking some of the pressure off Reed. But second and more importantly, DeBusschere was a legitimate forward, which meant that Reed could move back to the pivot position, where he was more comfortable and effective. "Since that trade, I feel like a new person", Reed said at the time. "Center is my position."

In a game played the day after the trade it was obvious which team had made out best in the exchange. The Knicks pounded the Pistons, 135-87; the 48-point margin of victory was the Knicks' largest ever. From December 17, 1968 to January 4, 1969 New York sailed off on a 10-game winning streak, then had another 11-game streak from January 25, 1969 to February 15, 1969.

The Knicks stressed defense. In 1968-69 New York held opponents to a league-low 105.2 points per game. With Reed clogging the middle and Walt Frazier pressuring the ball, the Knicks would be the best defensive club in the league for five of the next six seasons.

Reed scored 21.1 points per game in 1968-69 and grabbed a franchise record 1,191 rebounds, an average of 14.5 rebounds per game.

First championship

In the 1969-70 season, the Knicks won a franchise record 60 games and set a then-NBA record with an 18 game win streak. Reed played an important role in the Knick success, and in 1970 he became the first player in NBA history to be named the NBA All-Star Game MVP, the NBA regular season MVP, and the NBA Playoff MVP in the same season. That same year, he was named to the All-NBA first team and NBA All-Defensive first team, as well as being named as ABC's "Wide World of Sports" Athlete of the Year, and the Sporting News NBA MVP.

Reed's most famous performance took place on May 8, 1970, during Game 7 of the NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers in Madison Square Garden. Despite a severe thigh injury - a torn muscle - he started the game in front of a thrilled audience and scored the Knicks' first two field goals on his first two shot attempts. [ [http://www.nba.com/playoffs2004/greatest_finals_moments.html Greatest Finals Moments] , NBA.com, accessed February 9, 2008.] It was all the inspiration the Knicks needed, as teammate Walt "Clyde" Frazier went on to score 36 points. The Knicks won the game 113-99, giving New York City its first NBA title. The moment he walked onto the court was voted the greatest moment in the history of Madison Square Garden.

econd championship

The Knicks slipped to 52-30 in the 1970-71 season, still good enough for first place in the Atlantic Division; in mid-season, Reed tied Harry Gallatin's all-time club record by hauling in 33 rebounds against the Cincinnati Royals. Once again Reed started in the All-Star game. For the season, he averaged 20.9 ppg and 13.7 rpg, but the Knicks were eliminated by the Baltimore Bullets in the Eastern Conference Finals. In 1971-72 Reed was bothered by tendinitis in his left knee, limiting his mobility. He missed two weeks early in the season and returned, but shortly thereafter the injured knee prohibited him from playing and he totaled 11 games for the year.

The 1972-73 Knicks finish the season with a 57-25 record and went on to win another NBA title. Reed was less of a contributor than he had two season earlier. In 69 regular-season games he averaged only 11.0 points. In the playoffs the Knicks beat Baltimore and the Boston Celtics and once more faced the Lakers in the finals. After losing the first game, the Knicks captured four straight, claiming their second NBA Championship with a 102-93 victory in Game 5. Reed was named NBA Finals MVP.

Reed's career was cut short by injuries, and he retired after the 1973-1974 season, his 10th. For his career, Reed averaged 18.7 points and 12.9 rebounds per game, playing 650 games. He played in seven All-Star Games.


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.

Post playing career

Reed coached the Knicks in 1977–1978, and left the team 14 games into the following season (49-47 record). He served as volunteer assistant coach for St. John's University and head coached Creighton University from 1981–1985. Also in the 1980s, he served as an assistant coach for both the Sacramento Kings and the Atlanta Hawks. He became the head coach of the New Jersey Nets in 1987-88, on February 1988, compiling an 33-77 record. He then was the Nets' General Manager & Vice President of Basketball Operations from 1989 to 1996. During his time as general manager, he drafted Derrick Coleman and Kenny Anderson and gave the Nets a playoff contender throughout the early 1990s. Reed also staged a minor coup when he lured Chuck Daly to coach the Nets for 1992-93 and 1993-94. In 1996, Reed moved to the position of Senior Vice President of Basketball, with the same focus of building the Nets into a championship contender. The Nets did by making it to the NBA Finals in 2002 and 2003.

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

Further reading

*cite book |last=Heisler |first=Mark |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=Giants: The 25 Greatest Centers of All Time |year=2003 |publisher=Triumph Books |location=Chicago |id=ISBN 1-57243-577-1


External links

* [http://www.nba.com/historical/playerfile/index.html?player=willis_reed nba.com/historical/playerfile]
* [http://www.hoophall.com/halloffamers/bhof-willis-reed.html Basketball Hall of Fame profile]
* [http://www.nba.com/history/players/reed_summary.html NBA.com: Willis Reed Summary]

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