Willis Reed, a basketball legend who led the New York Knicks to a pair of NBA championships in the 1970s, died Tuesday at the age of 80.
In a statement, the Knicks said they were "deeply saddened to announce the passing of our beloved captain," adding, "We will always strive to uphold the standards 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."
No cause of death for Reed was released. However, Bill Bradley, Reed's former teammate and a former U.S. senator, told The New York Times that Reed had congestive heart issues and had been undergoing treatment at the Texas Heart Institute in Houston. Reed was also absent this past February during a ceremony in New York celebrating the 50th anniversary of the 1973 championship team, the Times noted.
Throughout his 10 years in the NBA, all with the Knicks, Reed became known for his gruff and physical style of play. He was the league's Rookie of the Year in 1965 and its MVP in 1970, in addition to being a seven-time All-Star.
His most iconic moment, though, came during Game 7 of the 1970 Finals against Wilt Chamberlain and the Los Angeles Lakers. Reed had missed the prior game and wasn't expected to play, but shocked the sports world by suiting up for Game 7.
While Reed only scored two baskets across 27 minutes of action in Game 7, ESPN notes, "the emotional lift he gave the Knicks delivered New York its first NBA title in what became known to history as 'The Willis Reed Game.'"
Reed will be remembered "perhaps more for the manner he led the Knicks than how superbly he played for them," The Associated Press reported.