You never forget your first
Each playoff series was better than the one before. Defeating the Baltimore Bullets (now Washington Wizards) and their dynamic duo of Wes Unseld and Earl Monroe in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals was heart-stopping every game.
This was one of the biggest rivalries in basketball at the time. In Game 5, Reed scored 36 points and had 36 rebounds, That was the same amount of rebounds as Baltimore’s Wes Unseld (15), Jack Marin (11) and Gus Johnson (10) combined.
In the Eastern Conference finals against Lew Alcindor’s (now Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) Milwaukee Bucks, the question was, could Reed spread the floor, bringing Alcindor out to neutralize his presence under the basket? Yes, he could and he did. The Knicks moved the ball rapidly from player to player, diminishing the Bucks defense. New York’s teamwork allowed them to get through this series in five games.
You had to be there to understand what it was like. Everything was going right for the beleaguered Knicks, finally! The excitement from winning is something that is an unimaginable joy for a New York fan.
The 1970 NBA Finals
Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, and Jerry West. led the loaded Los Angeles Lakers. They were NBA All-Stars at the time, and some of the greatest players in the history of the sport. New York had four more games to win. Then the unthinkable happened.
Reed went down in Game 5. New York had a 32-point fourth quarter to pull out a 107-100, taking a 3-2 series lead. Even so, fans asked, was this it? Is the dream over? The team thought so, and the City thought so. How could we ever win without the Captain? I’m not ashamed to say I cried that night. Nothing ever went right for the New York Knicks. They lost Game 6.
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And then came Game 7 and one of the most iconic moments in New York sports history. It doesn’t get any bigger than New York City, Madison Square Garden. I wish I could convey the feelings of that night. The overwhelming joy to see Willis come out of the tunnel and take the floor. I was at home and could feel the world’s most famous arena rocking to its core as the fan’s shouts blocked out the voices of the announcers.
We did it, a 113-99 victory. Clyde lit up the Lakers with 36 points, 19 assists, and seven boards. Hew was even 12-of-12 from the free throw line.
That first championship has carried me for 50 years. I am a Knicks fan for life. Are you?
If you were there, let us know what your favorite memories are of that championship season in the comments section below.