Fifty years ago, on May 8, 1970, Willis Reed and the New York Knicks, won the franchise first-ever NBA Championship. Now 50 years later we celebrate him.
Willis Reed, also is known as “the Captain”, was drafted by the New York Knicks in the second round of the 1964 draft. He was 22-years-old. The ultimate bargain, NYK, signed the player who bought them two championships for $10,000.
Right away, Reed was an uplifting force on his team. In his rookie year. He made the All-Rookie team and was the first player in franchise history to be named Rookie of the Year.
That would be just the beginning of Reed’s accomplished career. From his third season to his last, Reed took his team to the postseason every year. It was fifty years ago during the 1969-70 season that Willis Reed became a legend.
During this 1969-70 season, Willis would go to the All-Star game, but this year he would get the MVP. At the end of the season, he also earned the regular-season Most Valuable Player Award. This year was different; not only did the New York Knicks go to the playoffs, but they also made a trip to the Finals.
This run to the Finals consisted of first defeating Wes Unseld and the Baltimore Bullets in the eastern division. Next, NYK defeated the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals.
This Finals championship series had to be one of the most thrilling of that era. After the third and fourth games were won in overtime, the series was tied at two-all. During the fifth game, which the Knicks won, Reed tore a muscle in his thigh, which caused him to miss game six. With the series tied, the Finals moved back to Madison Square Garden.
It was somber in my home the night of the seventh game, and it seemed as though the Garden fans were too. The New York Knicks had come all that way but were without their Captain. It would be tough to win against a great Lakers’ team.
In a moment that any Knicks fan of a certain age will never forget, Willis Reed came limping through the tunnel and on to the floor to join his teammates. The fans’ cheers were so loud you could barely hear the announcers. When Reed scored the first two points, the Garden exploded, and it was all his team needed.
The Captain would only score four points in that game, but he lifted his team and his fans to that first championship. During that 1969-70 season, Willis Reed won the Finals MVP, also making him the first player to win an All-Star MVP, regular-season MVP, and Finals MVP in the same year.
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In the next four years, the Knicks would go against the Lakers three times, winning just one more title, creating one of the biggest rivalries in basketball, which continues today.
List of Accomplishments
- 1964-65 Rookie of the Year
- 1964-65 All-Rookie First Team
- 1969-70 All-Star MVP
- 1969-70 All-Defensive Team
- Two-time Finals MVP
- Five-time All-Defensive Team
- Seven-time All-Star Team
- 1982 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame
Willis retired in 1974. He returned to the fold shortly after as Knicks’ coach from 1977-79.