Skip to main content

"The Willis Reed Game"

Willis-Reed

It was Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals, and nobody knew if Willis Reed would play. The center and captain of the New York Knicks had suffered a torn muscle in his right thigh during Game 5 against the Los Angeles Lakers and had not played in Game 6 when Wilt Chamberlain's 45 points and 27 rebounds enabled the Lakers to tie the series at 3-3.

When the teams took the floor for pre-game warmups, Reed was not with his New York teammates. He remained in the locker room, deep in the bowels of the building.

"I didn't want to have to look at myself in the mirror 20 years later and say I wished I had tried to play," Reed later recalled thinking, so he received painkiller injections in his thigh and limped to the court during warmups. The crowd already at Madison Square Garden erupted and the Lakers stopped warming up to stare at Reed.

Scroll to Continue

Recommended Articles

"I saw the whole Laker team standing around staring at this man," said Knicks guard Walt Frazier. "When I saw that, when they stopped warming up, something told me we might have these guys!"

Reed lined up against Chamberlain for the opening tap and scored the Knicks' first two baskets of the game. Reed finished with only four points and three rebounds but gave New York a noble half and his presence was more than enough to inspire the Knicks to a 113-99 victory and the franchise's first NBA Championship. He pestered Chamberlain into multiple missed shots while he was in the game, then flipped the keys to Frazier, whose 36 points and 19 assists wound up as one of the greatest and most overshadowed Finals stat lines ever.

Following 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."

Steve Kerr reflects on Jason Kidd’s transition from a superstar on the court to one of the top coaches in the league

Steve Kerr reflects on Jason Kidd’s transition from a superstar on the court to one of the top coaches in the league

Kerr notes how players of Kidd's caliber are rarely ever able to make the transition to coaching like Kidd has, making him quite a unique coach

Serge Ibaka reminds players not to sit out too long unless 'you're Kawhi or Kevin Durant or Stephen Curry

Serge Ibaka reminds players not to sit out too long unless 'you're Kawhi or Kevin Durant or Stephen Curry

When Ibaka realized he was out of the rotation after a devastating injury, he was prompted to make a tough decision and set an example to his fellow NBA players

John Salley on Larry Bird vs. Bill Limber fight

John Salley on the Bill Laimbeer vs. Larry Bird fight: "He hit him very legal"

Most people agree that Bill Laimbeer was the one who initiated the brawl with Larry Bird. But John Salley, Bill's former teammate, sees the incident differently.

Bruce Bowen

Bruce Bowen addresses his dirty player reputation ”It's who I am”

Bruce Bowen shares his honest take on being tagged as a dirty player.

stephen-a-smith-patrick-beverly-min

Patrick Beverly goes off on Stephen A. Smith: "You need to be drug tested. Get off the weed man!"

Safe to say, Pat Bev disagreed with Stephen A.'s take regarding James Harden and his possible new max contract.

Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton

DeAndre Ayton’s video game obsession will cost him a lot, on and off the court

DeAndre Ayton's love for video games reduces his sleeping time to two hours on some nights. This isn't good news to fans and the front office that is not keen on giving him a max extension.

Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler

“I know what I’m capable of” — Jimmy Butler shines the brightest as the Miami Heat draws first blood against the Boston Celtics

After a remarkable 42-point half, the Heat limited the Celtics to shoot just 2 out 15 from the field (13.3%) in the third quarter

Miami Heat small forward LeBron James on the floor vs. Dallas Mavericks

LeBron James admits 2011 Finals loss vs. Dallas Mavericks was the toughest one in his career

LeBron opened up on what the catastrophic 2011 Finals loss taught him.