New York Knicks icon Willis Reed, who led the club to two NBA championships in the 1970s, has died, the team confirmed in a statement on Tuesday. He was 80.
Reed, who spent his entire professional playing career with the Knicks, helped the team win NBA titles in 1970 and 1973, and was named finals MVP on each occasion.
"The Knicks organization is deeply saddened to announce the passing of our beloved Captain, Willis Reed," the Knicks said in a statement.
"As we mourn, we will always strive to uphold the standard 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."
During a decade as a player, between 1964 and 1974, Reed built a reputation as a ferocious, physical competitor both on defense and offense.
He finished his career with 12,183 points at an average of 18.7 points per game, with 8,414 rebounds and 1,186 assists.
The signature moment of a storied career came during the 1970 NBA finals win over the Los Angeles Lakers.
Reed had suffered a torn thigh muscle in game five and was forced to sit out game six, when Wilt Chamberlain rattled in 45 points and 27 rebounds to help tie the series at 3-3.
Improbably, Reed returned for game seven at Madison Square Garden and scored his team's opening two field goals before turning his attention to snuffing out the threat posed by Chamberlain.
Reed eventually left that game just before half-time with the Knicks leading 61-37. The Knicks would go on to win 113-99 to clinch the championship.
Reed explained his determination to play in game seven in a postgame interview.
"I felt like I was going to play. I didn't know how effective I was going to be. I just said 'I hope I have a good ballgame; I hope the team plays well. And I hope we can win it'," Reed said.
"I did everything I could because I didn't know whether we'd be back here again next year. We're here this year, let's win it this year."
Multiple injuries took their toll on the Knicks star.
Reed cut his playing career short with retirement after the 1973-1974 season before coaching stints with the Knicks, Atlanta Hawks, Sacramento Kings and the then New Jersey Nets.
He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1982 and was named among the 50 greatest players in history in the NBA's 50th Anniversary All-Time team in 1996. He was also included in the NBA's 75th Anniversary team in 2021.