Home » Willis Reed’s inspirational moment was bigger than basketball

Willis Reed’s inspirational moment was bigger than basketball

by The Grio

New York Knicks NBA player Willis Reed is surrounded by basketballs in New York, May 14, 1970, where he received his award as the NBAs Most Valuable Player. Willis Reed, who dramatically emerged from the locker room minutes before Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals to spark the New York Knicks to their first championship and create one of sports’ most enduring examples of playing through pain, died Tuesday, March 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Anthony Camerano, File)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

As a youngster in Brooklyn, my love affair with the NBA and the New York Knicks hadn’t kicked in yet when Willis Reed created one of sports’ most iconic moments. I was still getting used to white classmates in a white neighborhood after being put on a school bus for second grade. But I eventually grew to realize why May 8, 1970 stirred so many emotions, in the city and elsewhere.

That’s when Reed limped from the tunnel onto the court at Madison Square Garden for Game seven of the NBA Finals. 

Hollywood draws inspiration from such scenes, a crowd erupting as the injured star unexpectedly emerges from the locker room for a must-win game. The Los Angeles Lakers were shook and never recovered. A legend was born, and Reed, who died Tuesday at age 80, was cemented in sports lore forever.

Not bad for a country boy from Hico, La., which he once described as so small, it doesn’t have a population. 

Reed went from Grambling State University to Broadway’s bright lights, etching his name in history with grace and class. It helped that he played in the nation’s largest media market, which magnifies most any story. And it helped that he hit his first two jumpers in storybook fashion (0-for-3 the rest of the game), which intensified the emotional jolt. It fueled the Knicks to win their first NBA title behind 36 points and…

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