Grambling and NBA Legend Willis Reed passes away

Courtesy of Grambling State Athletic Communications

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GRAMBLING, La. | The Grambling State University Department of Athletics is saddened to learn of the passing of Willis Reed, a former Grambling State basketball star, Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, and College Basketball Hall of Fame Inductee.  

“The department of athletics mourns the passing of legendary former Grambling State basketball player Willis Reed,” said Vice President and Director of Athletics Dr. Trayvean Scott.  “He was one of the game’s most fierce competitors with many legendary accomplishments both on and off the court. He will be remembered for being an inspiration to all he encountered—from rural Louisiana to the bright lights of New York City.  Our thoughts and prayers are with Ms. Gale and the entire Reed family at this time.” 

“The Grambling State University family is saddened by the loss of Willis Reed. He was a legend in his own right, and a close friend to my family,:” said GSU President Rick Gallot. “His stature and athleticism were equivalent to the depth he gave to the game, his life, and his family. Mr. Reed is the personification of what can be achieved when you purposefully go beyond what is considered possible. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Reed family.” 

Reed, who was born on June 25, 1942, in Dubach, La., earned a basketball scholarship to Grambling State in 1960. While at GSU, he dazzled fans and dominated the court, closing his collegiate career with 2,280 career points where he led the Tigers to an NAIA National Championship in 1961. As a senior, he averaged 26.6 points per game and 21.3 rebounds per contest. While a student, Reed became a member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc.  

In 1963, he helped the United States win a gold medal in the Pan American Games held in São Paulo, Brazil.  

Upon completing his amateur career, he was drafted to the New York Knicks in the second round of the 1964 NBA Draft. Following his first season in the league, Reed was named the NBA Rookie of the Year and made the NBA All-Rookie First Team.  

During his illustrious professional career, Reed won two NBA Championships, earned two NBA Finals MVP awards, was named the NBA’s MVP in 1970, was 7x NBA All-Star, accumulated one NBA All-Star game MVP award and was a 5x All-NBA selection. Reed also earned one NBA All-Defensive Team recognition and was selected to NBA’s 50th and 75th Anniversary Team.  

His No. 19 jersey was also retired by the New York Knicks.  

Upon his retirement from the NBA in 1974, Reed embarked on a coaching and administrative career beginning in 1977 when became the head coach of the Knicks. From 1981-85, he served as the head coach of Creighton University’s men’s basketball program. He also spent time as a volunteer coach at St. John’s University.  

After exiting the college ranks, he made assistant coaching stints with the Atlanta Hawks and Sacramento Kings. In 1988, he assumed head coaching duties of the New Jersey Nets. He moved into the Nets’ front office one year later where he was hired as the general manager and vice president of basketball operations, a position he held until 1996 when he was promoted to senior vice president of basketball operations. During his tenure, he helped craft New Jersey into a title contender. The Nets reached the 2002 and 2003 NBA Finals.  

In 2004, Reed took the position of vice president of basketball operations with the New Orleans Hornets. He retired in 2007. 

Reed was honored by Grambling State in 2022 when he became the first basketball player in school history to have their jersey retired. The court inside the Fredrick C. Hobdy Assembly Center was also named in his honor.  

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