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Willis Reed

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Title: Willis Reed  
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Subject: New York Knicks, Isiah Thomas, Wilt Chamberlain, Dave DeBusschere, Shaquille O'Neal
Collection: 1942 Births, African-American Basketball Coaches, African-American Basketball Players, African-American Sports Executives and Administrators, Atlanta Hawks Assistant Coaches, Basketball Players at the 1963 Pan American Games, Basketball Players from Louisiana, Centers (Basketball), College Men's Basketball Head Coaches in the United States, Creighton Bluejays Men's Basketball Coaches, Grambling State Tigers Men's Basketball Players, Living People, Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Inductees, National Basketball Association All-Stars, National Basketball Association Players with Retired Numbers, National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame Inductees, New Jersey Nets Executives, New Jersey Nets Head Coaches, New Orleans Hornets Executives, New York Knicks Draft Picks, New York Knicks Head Coaches, New York Knicks Players, People from Lincoln Parish, Louisiana, People from Union Parish, Louisiana, Power Forwards (Basketball), Sacramento Kings Assistant Coaches, St. John's Red Storm Men's Basketball Coaches, United States Men's National Basketball Team Players
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Willis Reed

Willis Reed
1972 publicity photo of Reed
Personal information
Born (1942-06-25) June 25, 1942
Lincoln Parish, Louisiana
Nationality American
Listed height 6 ft 9 in (2.06 m)
Listed weight 240 lb (109 kg)
Career information
High school West Side (Lillie, Louisiana)
College Grambling State (1960–1964)
NBA draft 1964 / Round: 2 / Pick: 8th overall
Selected by the New York Knicks
Pro career 1964–1974
Position Center
Number 19
Coaching career 1977–1989
Career history
As player:
19641974 New York Knicks
As coach:
19771978 New York Knicks
1981–1985 Creighton
19871989 New Jersey Nets
Career highlights and awards
Career NBA statistics
Points 12,183 (18.7 ppg)
Rebounds 8,414 (12.9 rpg)
Assists 1,186 (1.8 apg)
Stats at
Basketball Hall of Fame as player
College Basketball Hall of Fame
Inducted in 2006

Willis Reed, Jr. (born June 25, 1942) is a retired American basketball player, coach and general manager. He spent his entire professional playing career (1964–1974) with the New York Knicks. In 1982, Reed was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.[1] In 1996, he was voted one of the "50 Greatest Players in NBA History".[2]

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 to 1996) for the New Jersey Nets. As Senior Vice President of Basketball, he led them to the NBA Finals in 2002 and 2003.[3]


  • Early life and education 1
  • Career 2
    • First championship 2.1
    • Second championship 2.2
  • Legacy 3
  • Post-playing career 4
  • Notes 5
  • References 6
  • Further reading 7
  • External links 8

Early life and education

Reed was born on June 25, 1942 in Lincoln Parish, Louisiana and named after his father. He grew up on a farm in nearby Bernice, Louisiana. His parents worked to ensure Reed got an education in the segregated South. Reed showed athletic ability at an early age and played basketball at West Side High School in Lillie, Louisiana.[1]

Reed attended Grambling State University, a historically black college. Playing for the Grambling State Tigers men's basketball team, Reed amassed 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.[1] Reed also became a member of Phi Beta Sigma fraternity.[4]


The New York Knicks selected Reed in the second round, with the eighth overall selection, in the 1964 NBA draft. Reed quickly made a name as a fierce, dominating and physical force on both ends of the floor. 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 won the NBA Rookie of the Year Award while also being named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team.

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.

He played center (basketball). Despite his relatively average stature for a basketball player, he made up for his lack of height by playing a physical game, often ending seasons with respectable averages in blocking and rebounding. (He stood 6-foot-9 when contemporaries such as Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar stood 7-1 and 7–2, respectively.)

The team continued to struggle for a few years while adding good players through trades and the draft. Dick McGuire was replaced as coach with Red Holzman, midway through the 1967–68 season. The Knicks had gone 15–22 under McGuire; Holzman steered them to a 28–17 finish. In 1968, New York's record was 43–39, 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, in order to make room for Walt Bellamy. Reed averaged 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 a 6–10 start. On December 19, the Knicks traded Bellamy and Howard Komives to the Detroit Pistons in exchange for Dave DeBusschere. "Since that trade, I feel like a new person", Reed said at the time. "Center is my position."

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 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. 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 1970 NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers in Madison Square Garden. Due to a severe thigh injury, a torn muscle that had previously kept him out of Game 6, he was considered unlikely to play in Game 7. Yet 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.[5] Walt "Clyde" Frazier went on to score 36 points with 19 assists as the Knicks won 113–99, giving New York City its first NBA title. The moment Reed walked onto the court was voted the greatest moment in the history of Madison Square Garden.

Second championship

The Knicks slipped to 52-30 in the 1970–71 season, still good enough for first place in the Atlantic Division; and 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. Without Reed, the Knicks still managed to make the NBA Finals, but were defeated in five games by the Los Angeles Lakers.

The 1972–73 Knicks finished the season with a 57-25 record and went on to win another NBA title. Reed was less of a contributor than he was two seasons 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 1973–74 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.


Post-playing career

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 head coach at Creighton University from 1981–1985 and volunteer assistant coach for St. John's University. Reed also served as an assistant coach for the NBA's Sacramento Kings and Atlanta Hawks.

Reed debuted as head coach of the New Jersey Nets on March 1, 1988, one week after the Nets' star forward and his cousin, Orlando Woolridge, was suspended by the league and was to undergo drug rehabilitation.[7] He compiled a 33–77 record with the Nets. In 1989, he was hired as the Nets' General Manager and Vice President of Basketball Operations (1989 to 1996). During this time, he drafted Derrick Coleman and Kenny Anderson, acquired Dražen Petrović, and gave the Nets a playoff contender throughout the early 1990s. Reed hired 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 Operations, with the continued goal of building the Nets into a championship contender. The Nets made the NBA Finals in 2002 and 2003.

Reed next took the position of Vice President of Basketball Operations with the New Orleans Hornets in 2004. He retired from that position in 2007.[8]


  1. ^ a b c "NBA Bio: Willis Reed". NBA. Retrieved 02-08-15. 
  2. ^ "NBA All-Time Team". Basketball Reference. 1996. Retrieved 02-08-15. 
  3. ^ "Willis Reed Leaves New York Area for the Big Easy". Gothamist. 2004-06-30. Retrieved 02-08-15. 
  4. ^ "Willis Reed". Blue Phi. 2014-12-18. Retrieved 2015-02-08. 
  5. ^ Greatest Finals Moments,, accessed February 9, 2008.
  6. ^ NBA Register: 1986-87 Edition. The Sporting News Publishing Company. 1986. p. 344.  
  7. ^ Baker, Chris (1 March 1988). "Clippers to Play Willis Reed's Nets in New Jersey". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 1 June 2012. 
  8. ^ "Reed's special moment lives on", Sports, ESPN


  • F. Romall Smalls and Kenneth T. Jackson, "Willis Reed", Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives: Sports Figures, vol. 2, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons/Gale Group, 2002, pp. 259–260
  • Robert Christgau, Beastie Boys. Retrieved July 18, 2013. Website:

Further reading

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

External links

  • Basketball Hall of Fame profile
  • Willis Reed Summary
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