As a motivated second-round pick, Willis Reed came out firing in the NBA, averaging 19.5 points and 14.7 rebounds a game in his rookie season. He wound up a member of the All-Rookie First Team and the NBA’s Rookie of the Year, laying the foundation for what wound ultimately up being a fantastic encore of high-level basketball.
In his first seven seasons in the league, Reed never averaged less than a double-double, with the latter five of those campaigns surpassing the 20-and-10 mark. He was a bruising inside presence at 6-foot-9 and roughly 235 pounds that welcomed as much physical contact as he doled out every night to some of the game’s best.
Reed would lead the Knicks to their first NBA Championship ever in 1970. Despite having never averaged more than 21.7 points per game at any point of his career, he elevated that number to 23.7 in the playoffs, to along with 13.8 rebounds per game en route to the NBA Finals MVP trophy.
Three years later, New York was in a position to claim another title. That opportunity took a massive blow when Reed tore his right thigh muscle in Game 5 and sat out Game 6. In a pure showing of heart and adrenaline, however, he limped onto the court for Game 7, where he’d score two early baskets and immediately leave the game.
Despite the lack of production in the stat sheet, the impact and inspiration had already been given to his teammates who went on to win the game and the championship. For his determination, — he also averaged16.4 points and 9.2 rebounds a game — Reed was given a second NBA Finals MVP to add to a continuous growing trophy collection.
Reed’s resume doesn’t read like a traditional second-round pick. Over the course of a decade-long career spent entirely with the Knicks, he dominated at both ends and racked up accomplishments left and right, a Hall of Famer vindicated by his level of greatness when nobody else saw it.