Bill Bradley pays an emotional tribute to ‘the best kind of leader’ Willis Reed after his death at age 80, saying the Knicks legend’s ‘courage and unselfishness’ inspired 1970 title win
Former Knicks small forward and Basketball Hall of Famer Bill Bradley has paid tribute to his former teammate Willis Reed, after ‘The Captain’ died at 80 years old.
The passing of the seven-time All-Star and 1970 MVP – who led the Knicks to titles in 1970 and 1973 – was announced Tuesday, with longtime NBA reporter Peter Vecsey writing that Reed had been dealing with congestive heart problems ‘over the past year or so.’
Bradley got an appreciation for Reed’s appreciation up close as he played with him for seven seasons.
‘He was The Captain — that says it all,’ Bradley told the New York Post.
‘He was the backbone of the team. He was the guy that took us to the first championship by his courage, and by his unselfishness. And he was a big Knick all his life.’
Willis Reed is seen with Bill Bradley and his wife Ernestine during a Knicks fundraiser in 1999
Willis Reed, the legendary New York Knicks captain, has passed away at 80
Reed was a seven-time All-Star, two-time NBA champion and one-time MVP with the Knicks
‘Willis always was fair to everybody,’ Bradley continued. ‘He insisted on making sure you gave 100 percent all the time. He was a supporter of [coach] Red [Holzman], obviously.
‘He was somebody who we knew that if anybody got into trouble out there on the court, for whatever reason, Willis had your back.
‘And that went from whether there was some kind of physical altercation, or whether it was having the courage to take the last-second shot. Or, whether it was setting the time in the locker room for the guy that did take the shot and missed it. ‘You go on, another game.’ … He was the best kind of leader for our team.’
A two-time NBA champion and Finals MVP, the 6-foot-10 Reed was the centerpiece of Knicks coach Red Holzman’s memorable teams of the late 1960s and 1970s.
He would later coach the Knicks and serve as general manager before moving on to similar roles with the New Jersey Nets, but it’s his gritty, unselfish play that made him a near-religious figure among New York fans.
Reed averaged 18.7 points and 12.9 rebounds per game, but block statistics weren’t recorded in his day, and so it can be difficult to gauge his full defensive impact.