This may have been the most-thunderous roar from the Madison Square Garden crowd ever. It truly was a great moment.
It wasn’t just his physical toughness at 6’9″ and 240 pounds. The Knickerbockers’ Willis Reed certainly had that, as demonstrated in this video below. He took on the entire Lakers team all by himself.
But it was in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals that his mental toughness was the inspiration for New York taking on the Los Angeles Lakers and coming away with the win. Reed sat out Game 6 due to a torn thigh muscle suffered in Game 5. LA tied the series at 3-3, with Wilt Chamberlain racking up 45 points and 27 rebounds. Virtually no one expected to see Reed on the court in the final game, but the Madison Square Garden faithful went wild when Willis suddenly appeared. I doubt the Garden rafters had ever resonated like that before. Take the time to watch the video below. The legends, and what they had to say, are priceless.
To say Willis was hobbled is to vastly understate his condition. He took an injection of pain killer prior to the game, but his limp was unmistakable. He was able to get up and down the court slowly and awkwardly, but when Wilt leaned on him with Reed on the defensive end, it was obvious that Willis was in excruciating discomfort. Willis hit his first two shot attempts, and those were his total points for the game.
The Knicks took the game – the series – and the Title. Knicks guard, Walt Frazier, tallied 36 points and 19 assists, but that incredible stat line was overshadowed by Reed’s heroic effort. Willis literally WILLED his team to victory. This was one of the greatest stories in the history of the NBA – and should not be lost to time.
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Videos via vslice02 and The Knicks Channel – Orange & Blue Global