This Day in Sports History: Willis Reed Plays Game 7
On this day, 48 years ago during the 1970 NBA Finals match-up between the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers it was a pivotal Game Seven, the best two words in sports.
The Knicks were vying for their first NBA Title and were dealt a big blow in Game Five when their superstar, Willis Reed tore a muscle in his thigh which forced him to sit out Game Six. In that game, opposing center, Wilt Chamberlain dominated the Knicks. He scored 45 points and secured 27 rebounds without Reed in the lineup, that Lakers win tied the series at three.
To say the Knicks fans were worried might have been an understatement, as that city was thirsting for an NBA Title. No one knew if Willis Reed would be able to play or even if he did how truly effective he would be.
The team held out until just before warm-ups when a report surfaced that Reed had received a cortisone injection in his thigh and the next thing you knew he was emerging from the tunnel heading towards the court. Madison Square Garden erupted with jubilation as their hero was going to give it a go in Game Seven.
Once Reed was seen hobbling onto the floor for warm-ups the entire Lakers team stopped dead in tracks and watched with amazement that he was going to play.
The Knicks star point guard, Walt "Clyde" Frazier also took notice when his running mate was making his way to the floor and said after the game, "When I saw that, something told me we might have these guys."
The psychological advantage that Reed playing gave the Knicks could not be under stated. If the Knicks star player was going to tough it out, his teammates took notice and rose their games to new heights. In addition, the boost it gave the crowd, the players after the game talked about how much of an advantage it was to have them be a true sixth man for the team.
Reed would hit the first two shots of the game for the Knickerbockers which sent the crowd into even more of a frenzy. In total those would be the only four points he would score in 27 minutes of play. However, he would pester Chamberlain enough to force him into just 2-for-9 shooting while he was guarding him and Walt "Clyde" Frazier would do the rest. Frazier would go onto lead New York to its first ever NBA Championship with 36 points and 19 assists in a dominate 113-99 victory over the Lakers.
Willis Reed always said, "it wasn't the greatest game I've ever played but definitely the most important game I've ever played."