Willis Reed

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Willis Reed
Reed with the New York Knicks in 1972
Personal information
Born(1942-06-25)June 25, 1942
Lincoln Parish, Louisiana, U.S.
DiedMarch 21, 2023(2023-03-21) (aged 80)
Houston, Texas, U.S.
Listed height6 ft 10 in (2.08 m)
Listed weight235 lb (107 kg)
Career information
High schoolWest Side (Lillie, Louisiana)
CollegeGrambling State (1960–1964)
NBA draft1964: 2nd round, 8th overall pick
Selected by the New York Knicks
Playing career1964–1974
Coaching career1977–1989
Career history
As player:
19641974New York Knicks
As coach:
19771978New York Knicks
19851987Atlanta Hawks (assistant)
1987–1988Sacramento Kings (assistant)
19881989New Jersey Nets
Career highlights and awards
Career NBA statistics
Points12,183 (18.7 ppg)
Rebounds8,414 (12.9 rpg)
Assists1,186 (1.8 apg)
Stats Edit this at Wikidata at NBA.com
Stats Edit this at Wikidata at Basketball-Reference.com
Basketball Hall of Fame as player
College Basketball Hall of Fame
Inducted in 2006
Representing  United States
Pan American Games
Gold medal – first place 1963 São Paulo Team Competition

Willis Reed Jr. (June 25, 1942 – March 21, 2023) was an American professional basketball player, coach, and general manager. He spent his entire ten-year pro playing career (1964–1974) with the New York Knicks of the National Basketball Association (NBA). Reed was a seven-time NBA All-Star and five-time All-NBA selection, including once on the first team in 1970, when he was named the NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP). He was a two-time NBA champion (1970, 1973) and was voted the NBA Finals MVP both times. In 1982, Reed was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. He was named to both the NBA's 50th and 75th anniversary teams.

After retiring as a player, Reed served as assistant and head coach with several teams for nearly a decade, then was promoted to general manager and vice president of basketball operations (1989–1996) for the New Jersey Nets. As senior vice president of basketball operations, he helped to lead them to the NBA Finals in 2002 and 2003.

Early life and education[edit]

Born on June 25, 1942, in Hico, Louisiana, Willis Reed Jr. was the only child of Willis Sr. and Inell Reed.[1][2] His parents moved from his grandparents' farm to Bernice, Louisiana, where they worked to ensure Reed got an education in the segregated South.[1] Reed showed athletic ability at an early age and played basketball at West Side High School in Lillie, Louisiana.[3]

Reed attended Grambling State University, a historically black college. Playing for the Grambling State Tigers men's basketball team, Reed scored 2,280 career points, averaging 26.6 points per game and 21.3 rebounds per game during his senior year. He led the Tigers to one NAIA title and three Southwestern Athletic Conference championships.[3] Reed also was a member of Phi Beta Sigma fraternity.[4]


The New York Knicks selected Reed with the first pick in the second round of the 1964 NBA draft.[2] Reed quickly made a name for himself as a fierce, dominating, and physical force on both ends of the floor as a center. In March 1965, he scored 46 points against the Los Angeles Lakers, the second-most points in a game ever by the Knicks' rookie. For the 1964–65 season, he was seventh-ranked in the NBA in scoring (19.5 points per game) and fifth-ranked in rebounding (14.7 rebounds per game). He also began one of his multiple All-Star appearances and won the NBA Rookie of the Year Award,[5] while also being named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team.[6]

For a few years, the Knicks struggled while adding valuable players through trades and drafts. Midway through the 1967–68 season, Dick McGuire was replaced as coach with Red Holzman. The Knicks had accumulated a 15–22 record under McGuire but then in the part of the season that Holzman led them achieved a 28–17 record, for a 43–39 season, its first winning record since the 1958–59 season.[7]

Reed continued to be selected annually for the NBA All-Star Game. By that time he was playing as a power forward to open up the center position for Walt Bellamy.[8] Reed averaged 11.6 rebounds in 1965–66 and 14.6 in 1966–67, both ranked top 10-best in the league. He averaged 20.9 points in the latter season.[9]

In 1968–69, the Knicks had traded Bellamy and Howard Komives to the Detroit Pistons for Dave DeBusschere, allowing the Knicks to move Reed back to center.[8] New York's defense surrendered a league-low 105.2 points per game. For five of the next six seasons, the Knicks were the best defensive team in the league, with Reed in the middle and additional defensive efforts by Walt Frazier.[8] Reed scored 21.1 points per game in 1968–69 and grabbed a franchise-record 1,191 rebounds, with an average of 14.5 rebounds per game.[9]

First championship[edit]

In the 1969–70 season, the Knicks won a franchise-record 60 games and set a then single-season NBA record with an 18-game win streak. In 1970, Reed became the first player in NBA history to be named the NBA All-Star Game MVP, the NBA regular season MVP, and the NBA Finals MVP in the same season. In the 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.[8]

Reed's most famous performance happened on May 8, 1970, in game seven of the 1970 NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers in Madison Square Garden.[10] Due to a severe thigh injury, a torn muscle that had previously kept him out of game six, he was considered unlikely to play in game seven. However Reed surprised the fans by walking onto the court during warmups, prompting widespread applause. Starting the game, he scored the Knicks' first two field goals on his first two shot attempts, his only points of the game.[8] Reed played 27 minutes, finishing with four points and three rebounds.[11] After the game in the winner's locker room, a moved Howard Cosell told Reed on national television, "You exemplify the very best that the human spirit can offer."[12]

Second championship[edit]

The Knicks slipped to a 52–30 record in the 1970–71 season; despite this, the Knicks took first place in the Atlantic Division. In the middle of the season against the Cincinnati Royals, Reed tied Harry Gallatin's all-time team record of 33 rebounds. He started again in that season's All-Star Game. His season average was 20.9 points and 13.7 rebounds per game, but the Knicks were knocked out by the Baltimore Bullets in the Eastern Conference Finals.[13] During the 1971–72 season, Reed had problems with tendonitis in his left knee, which limited his mobility.[14] After a two-week hiatus, he returned to the court, only to have the injured knee prevent him from playing shortly thereafter; in total, he played 11 games for the season. Without Reed, the Knicks still managed to make the NBA Finals, but were defeated in five games by the Los Angeles Lakers.[15]

The 1972–73 Knicks' season concluded with a 57–25 record, and they proceeded to win another NBA championship.[16] Averaging only 11.0 points in 69 regular season games, Reed's contribution was a far cry from his record two seasons prior. In the playoffs, the Knicks defeated the Bullets and upset the Boston Celtics, and again faced the Lakers in the NBA Finals. After losing the first game, the Knicks won four straight, securing their second NBA championship with a 102–93 victory in game five, as Reed scored 18 points, grabbed 12 rebounds, and recorded 7 assists in the deciding victory.[17] After the win, Reed was named NBA Finals MVP.[18]

Reed's career was cut short by injuries, and he retired after the 1973–74 season.[19] For his career Reed averaged 18.7 points and 12.9 rebounds per game, playing 650 games. He played in seven All-Star Games.[20]

Post-playing career[edit]

Reed spent several years coaching before moving into general management. He coached the Knicks in 1977–1978, and left the team 14 games into the following season (49–47 record). He was the head coach at Creighton University from 1981 to 1985 and volunteer assistant coach for St. John's University. Reed also served as an assistant coach for the NBA's Atlanta Hawks and Sacramento Kings.[13]

Reed debuted as head coach of the New Jersey Nets on March 1, 1988, one week after the Nets' star forward (and Reed's cousin) Orlando Woolridge was suspended by the league and was to undergo drug rehabilitation.[21] He compiled a 33–77 record with the Nets. In 1989, he stepped down as coach and became the Nets' vice president of basketball and business development.[22] He was given the responsibility for personnel in 1993, receiving a three-year contract extension and gaining general manager duties.[23] During that time, he drafted Kenny Anderson and Derrick Coleman,[8] acquired Dražen Petrović, and made the Nets a playoff contender throughout the early 1990s. Chuck Daly was hired by Reed to coach the Nets for the 1992–93 and 1993–94 seasons.[8] In 1996, Reed was promoted to senior vice president of basketball operations, while continuing his goal of turning the Nets into championship contenders.[8] They made the NBA Finals in 2002 and 2003.[1]

Reed then became the vice president of basketball operations with the New Orleans Hornets in 2004.[24] He retired in 2007.[25]


In popular media[edit]

Rap songs have mentioned Reed, recognizing his impressive athleticism and skill. Examples include Kurtis Blow's 1984 hit "Basketball"[32] on his Ego Trip album, and the Beastie Boys' "Long Burn The Fire" on their 2011 album Hot Sauce Committee Part Two.[33]

Reed's name has become synonymous with playing through injury, as Cris Collinsworth described an injured Aaron Rodgers as having a "Willis Reed kind of night" on the NBC Sunday Night Football broadcast on September 9, 2018.[11]

Personal life[edit]

Reed and his first wife, Geraldine Oliver, married when both were still attending Grambling State University. They had two children, Karl Vance and Veronica Marie, and the marriage ended in divorce.[2] He then married Gale Kennedy, a nurse, in 1983. The wedding was held in Roslyn Heights, New York.[34]

Reed died from heart failure in Houston, Texas, on March 21, 2023, at age 80.[1][35]

NBA career statistics[edit]

  GP Games played   GS  Games started  MPG  Minutes per game
 FG%  Field goal percentage  3P%  3-point field goal percentage  FT%  Free throw percentage
 RPG  Rebounds per game  APG  Assists per game  SPG  Steals per game
 BPG  Blocks per game  PPG  Points per game  Bold  Career high
 †  Won an NBA championship  *  Led the league


Regular season[edit]

1964–65 New York 80* 38.0 .432 .742 14.7 1.7 19.5
1965–66 New York 76 33.4 .434 .757 11.6 1.2 15.5
1966–67 New York 78 36.2 .489 .735 14.6 1.6 20.9
1967–68 New York 81 35.5 .490 .721 13.2 2.0 20.8
1968–69 New York 82 37.9 .521 .747 14.5 2.3 21.1
1969–70 New York 81 38.1 .507 .756 13.9 2.0 21.7
1970–71 New York 73 39.1 .462 .785 13.7 2.0 20.9
1971–72 New York 11 33.0 .438 .692 8.7 2.0 13.4
1972–73 New York 69 27.2 .474 .742 8.6 1.8 11.0
1973–74 New York 19 26.3 .457 .792 7.4 1.6 .6 1.1 11.1
Career 650 35.5 .476 .747 12.9 1.8 .6 1.1 18.7
All-Star 7 4 23.0 .452 .750 8.3 1.0 12.6


1967 New York 4 37.0 .538 .960 13.8 1.8 27.5
1968 New York 6 35.0 .541 .733 10.3 1.8 21.3
1969 New York 10 42.9 .510 .786 14.1 1.9 25.7
1970 New York 18 40.7 .471 .737 13.8 2.8 23.7
1971 New York 12 42.0 .413 .667 12.0 2.3 15.7
1973 New York 17 28.6 .466 .857 7.6 1.8 12.8
1974 New York 11 12.0 .378 .600 2.0 .4 .2 .0 3.4
Career 78 33.9 .474 .765 10.3 1.9 .2 .0 17.4


  1. ^ a b c d Araton, Harvey (March 21, 2023). "Willis Reed, Hall of Fame Center for Champion Knicks, Dies at 80". The New York Times. Archived from the original on March 21, 2023. Retrieved March 21, 2023.
  2. ^ a b c Willis Reed Jr. (March 10, 1977). "Pride Is His Spur". The New York Times. Archived from the original on March 21, 2023. Retrieved March 21, 2023.
  3. ^ a b "NBA Bio: Willis Reed". National Basketball Association. Archived from the original on September 1, 2010. Retrieved February 8, 2015.
  4. ^ "Willis Reed". Blue Phi. December 18, 2014. Archived from the original on February 3, 2015. Retrieved February 8, 2015.
  5. ^ The Capital Journal from Salem, Oregon · 22 Archived March 21, 2023, at the Wayback Machine (subscription required)
  6. ^ Concord Transcript from Concord, California (subscription required)
  7. ^ Burke, Don (March 22, 2023). "NBA Hall of Fame legend Willis Reed dead at 80". News.com.au.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h "Legends profile: Willis Reed". National Basketball Association. September 13, 2021. Archived from the original on March 22, 2023. Retrieved March 22, 2023.
  9. ^ a b c "Willis Reed Stats, Height, Weight, Position, Draft Status and more". Basketball-Reference.com. Archived from the original on August 7, 2011. Retrieved March 25, 2023.
  10. ^ "Top NBA Finals moments: Hobbled Willis Reed inspires Knicks' victory in Game 7". National Basketball Association. Archived from the original on March 23, 2023. Retrieved March 24, 2023.
  11. ^ a b Tomasson, Chris (September 11, 2018). "Did Aaron Rodgers have a Willis Reed moment? Reed weighs in". Pioneer Press. Archived from the original on March 21, 2023. Retrieved March 21, 2023.
  12. ^ "'Our Captain': Knicks, NBA world react to death of Willis Reed". Fox Sports. March 21, 2023. Archived from the original on March 22, 2023. Retrieved March 22, 2023.
  13. ^ a b "Legends profile: Willis Reed". National Basketball Association. Archived from the original on December 20, 2018. Retrieved December 20, 2018.
  14. ^ "Where there's a Willis". Sports Illustrated. May 21, 1973. Archived from the original on March 24, 2023. Retrieved March 24, 2023.
  15. ^ Shmelter, Richard J. (March 18, 2016). The Los Angeles Lakers Encyclopedia. McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-9334-0. Archived from the original on March 28, 2023. Retrieved March 24, 2023.
  16. ^ "Season Review: 1972–73". National Basketball Association. Archived from the original on March 14, 2023. Retrieved March 25, 2023.
  17. ^ "1973 NBA Finals Game 5: Knicks vs Lakers, May 10, 1973". Basketball-Reference.com. Archived from the original on January 28, 2023. Retrieved February 17, 2023.
  18. ^ Magliocchetti, Geoff (March 21, 2023). "Knicks Legend Willis Reed dies at 80". Sports Illustrated. Archived from the original on March 25, 2023. Retrieved March 25, 2023.
  19. ^ "Willis Reed dies at 80: NBA world mourns loss of Knicks icon and Basketball Hall of Famer". sportingnews.com. March 21, 2023. Archived from the original on March 21, 2023. Retrieved March 21, 2023.
  20. ^ "Revisiting Willis Reed's Game 7 performance: What you didn't know about Knicks legend's battle vs. Lakers". sportingnews.com. March 22, 2023. Archived from the original on March 25, 2023. Retrieved March 25, 2023.
  21. ^ Baker, Chris (March 1, 1988). "Clippers to Play Willis Reed's Nets in New Jersey". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on October 14, 2012. Retrieved June 1, 2012.
  22. ^ "Willis Reed Steps Down as Head Coach of Nets". Los Angeles Times. Associated Press. August 11, 1989. Archived from the original on March 27, 2023. Retrieved March 27, 2023.
  23. ^ Freeman, Mike (January 15, 1993). "Nets Hand Reed Keys to the Kingdom". The New York Times. p. B-10. Archived from the original on March 27, 2023. Retrieved March 27, 2023.
  24. ^ "Willis Reed Leaves New York Area for the Big Easy". Gothamist.com. June 30, 2004. Archived from the original on November 7, 2017. Retrieved February 8, 2015.
  25. ^ "Reed's special moment lives on". ESPN. May 7, 2010. Archived from the original on May 13, 2010. Retrieved September 28, 2010.
  26. ^ NBA Register: 1986–87 Edition. The Sporting News Publishing Company. 1986. p. 344. ISBN 9780892042272.
  27. ^ Rogers, Thomas (February 21, 1982). "Reed Named to Hall of Fame". The New York Times. Archived from the original on March 21, 2023. Retrieved March 22, 2023.
  28. ^ "NBA at 50: Top 50 Players". National Basketball Association. October 29, 1996. Archived from the original on May 4, 2019. Retrieved March 23, 2023.
  29. ^ "NBA 75th Anniversary Team announced". National Basketball Association. October 21, 2021. Archived from the original on October 25, 2021. Retrieved March 22, 2023.
  30. ^ "Willis Reed Game" (PDF). The Basketball Classic. Archived (PDF) from the original on March 15, 2022. Retrieved March 15, 2022.
  31. ^ "NBA unveils new trophies for division winners named after 6 NBA legends". National Basketball Association. Archived from the original on April 22, 2022. Retrieved April 23, 2022.
  32. ^ "Modern Poetry Edition #13, (OLD SCHOOL DOUBLE ISSUE)". macdart.com. Archived from the original on May 1, 2006. Retrieved June 11, 2016.
  33. ^ "Hot Sauce Committee Part Two". BeastieBoysAnnotated.com. Archived from the original on September 9, 2015. Retrieved June 11, 2016.
  34. ^ "SPORTS PEOPLE; Comings and Goings". The New York Times. August 21, 1983. Archived from the original on March 21, 2023. Retrieved March 21, 2023.
  35. ^ "Mr. Willis Reed, Jr". kingsfuneral.com. Retrieved April 11, 2023.
  • Smalls, F. Romall; Jackson, Kenneth T. (2002). "Willis Reed". Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives: Sports Figures, Vol. 2. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons/Gale Group. pp. 259–260.

Further reading[edit]

  • Heisler, Mark (2003). Giants: The 25 Greatest Centers of All Time. Chicago: Triumph Books. ISBN 1-57243-577-1.

External links[edit]