(New York) Former player Willis Reed, two-time NBA champion with the New York Knicks, has died at the age of 80, the association of former players of the professional basketball league announced on Tuesday as well as his forever club.
His former teammate, Bill Bradley, told The New York Times that the native of Louisiana, where he retired, suffered from heart problems.
“The Knicks are deeply saddened to announce the passing of our dear ‘Captain’,” the franchise wrote on its Twitter account. “We will always be committed to holding ourselves to the standards he leaves behind. The unparalleled leadership, sacrifice and work ethic that made him a champion among champions. »
Willis Reed remains to this day the emblem of the great hours of New York professional basketball, which date back more than half a century and have never been approached since.
This rough 2.08m center, raised in the segregationist south, was the soul of the champion Knicks in 1970 and 1973, who shone with their defense unmatched in the league at the time.
With a limited trigger, but a sense of rebound and placement well above average, “The Captain”, one of his nicknames, was also a threat in attack, thanks to a rich technical register .
Of his career, undermined by injuries, many will have especially remembered his performance in the decisive seventh game of the 1970 final against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Injured in the left leg in the fifth game, absent in the sixth, Willis Reed made a surprise comeback in the final game of the series, after receiving three injections of anti-inflammatories.
He scored the Knicks’ first two baskets, his only points of the game, and gave his team the momentum they needed to win and win the first trophy in their history.
He will be voted the NBA’s best player for the 1969-70 season and twice the best player in the Finals.
More than any other player of this golden New York generation, Willis Reed embodied altruism and the importance of the collective.