Willis Reed, the great New York Knicks captain and star center who guided the team to its only two titles and was responsible for one of the most iconic plays in NBA history, has passed away. He was 80 years old at the time of his death.

The National Basketball Retired Players Association released an announcement about Reed’s passing after receiving confirmation from his family.

The cause of Reed’s death was not made public, but he had recently been experiencing health issues. Due to this, he was also unable to go to New York for the Knicks’ celebration of the 50th anniversary of their 1973 NBA Championship team on February 25 when they played against New Orleans.

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Who was Willis Reed?

Willis Reed was a former basketball player, coach, and general manager from the United States. He played for the New York Knicks for the duration of his whole professional career.

As nothing more than a second-round draft choice in 1964, Reed signed with the New York Knicks. He was then awarded NBA Rookie of the Year that season after scoring 19.5 points on average per game. In 1970, the Knicks claimed the NBA championship, and Reed was named the Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the regular season, championships, and All-Star Game.

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He was the first NBA player to receive recognition for all three awards during the same campaign. In 1973, Reed assisted the Knicks in capturing a second title, and he was once more awarded Finals MVP.

Reed led the Knicks with his enthusiasm throughout his 10-year NBA career. The events of the 1970 NBA Finals versus Wilt Chamberlain and the Los Angeles Lakers show how his sheer presence could boost the team. Due to a thigh injury that prevented him from participating in the sixth game, Reed limped onto the court just before the crucial seventh game began, setting off an iconic moment. The Madison Square Garden crowd went wild when Reed made the game’s first basket, which helped the Knicks win.

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With 12,183 points and 8,414 rebounds in his career, Reed retired in 1974 after a series of knee injuries slowed him down. Reed left the Knicks as a player but came back as a coach from 1977 to 1979. The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inducted Reed in 1981.