New York Knicks legend and NBA Hall of Famer Willis Reed dies at 80

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This is no doubt a sad day for the NBA, but especially sorrowful for any Knicks fan, as Hall of Famer Willis Reed died today at the age of 80. 

And it was the New York club to be the first to announce it publicly to the world, with a statement that mentions the legendary center’s unique leadership that brought them two NBA trophies back in the 70s.

“The Knicks organization is deeply saddened to announce the passing of our beloved Captain, Willis Reed,” the statement read this Tuesday afternoon. “As we mourn, we will always strive to uphold the standards he left behind — the unmatched leadership, sacrifice and work ethic that personified him as a champion among champions.

“His is a legacy that will live forever. We ask everyone to please respect the family’s privacy during this difficult time.”

Reed started off his 10-year professional career on the right foot, as he became the league’s Rookie of the Year in 1964 and just four years later won the MVP award after a game that will be remembered all throughout NBA history.

It was 1970, and the Knicks were set to face Wilt Chamberlain’s Lakers in Game 7 of the Finals, as it was all prepared at the Madison Square Garden for New York to conquer their first title ever. The problem was, Reed had missed Game 6 due to an important thigh injury, and no one expected him to play.

On that May 8th, however, “The Captain” left the crowd astonished as he appeared walking out of the tunnel as the radio broadcaster shouted “here comes Willis”. Although he wasn’t able to play at his fullest, his presence was so inspiring that his teammates beat the Los Angeles side to obtain their much-deserved NBA trophy.

This went on to be remembered in the league’s history as “The Willis Reed Game.” By the time the big man retired, he was already a 7-time All Star and 5-time All-NBA selected athlete, being named a part of the league’s 50th and 75th anniversary teams.

Reed played all of his career for the Knicks, and in 1976 his No.19 jersey was retired to this day.

The NBA family remembers Willis fondly and with great character

One of the first to make his feelings known was NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who was devastated by the news, but dedicated words of inspiration for the former star.

“Willis Reed was the ultimate team player and consummate leader. My earliest and fondest memories of NBA basketball are of watching Willis, who embodied the winning spirit that defined the New York Knicks’ championship teams in the early 1970s,” Silver said in a statement. “He played the game with remarkable passion and determination, and his inspiring comeback in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals remains one of the most iconic moments in all of sports.”

Other longtime sport broadcasters also decided to pay tribute after sharing memories with the legend.

“What I remember about Willis is he would always carry a blue Sharpie with him wherever he went, and he’d always have a stack of pictures with him from when he played for the Knicks,” said ESPN’s Bobby Marks, who even worked for Reed back in the day. “And he’d go out of his way, whether it was those pictures or a basketball, he would never turn anyone down. It’s a lasting remembrance I always think about, giving back to people who are less fortunate.”

Antonio is a life long sports enthusiast and professional journalist, who shares an obssesive urge to find and dig up the most interesting facts to guide gamblers towards more exciting, yet safe bets. In his own words, ''you can never really know enough about the things you love''.

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