As if we needed any more proof that Knicks’ legend and two-time NBA champion Willis Reed was one of the meanest and toughest players to ever walk on a basketball court, thanks to Michael Rapaport’s new ESPN 30 for 30 documentary, When The Garden Was Eden, we now have rare footage showing Reed trying to fight the entire 1966 Lakers’ team.
A year earlier, a rookie (of the year) Reed dropped 46 on the Lakers so I guess he thought for his encore he would drop a few Lakers. Here’s how it went down according to Knicks commentator Alan Hahn in his book 100 Things Knicks Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die.
Reed was […] in his third NBA season and his first as team captain. He was a second-round pick, a battler who was a fighter literally from his first day of school as an only child growing up in rural Bernice, Louisiana.
And Rudy LaRusso was getting on his nerves.
The two lined up along the lane for a free throw at the old Garden on 49th Street and battled for rebounding position. Reed — accidentally or not — tripped LaRusso, who quickly took offense. The 6’7″ forward, a five-time All-Star who came from Brooklyn, threw a punch at Reed just as Lakers center Darrall Imhoff had grabbed Reed in a bear hug, which left him defenseless. […]
Suddenly, a one-man melee resulted, as Reed pounded Imhoff and then went after LaRusso, who ran to the Lakers bench. A 6’9″ rookie named John Block came at him, fists raised, but Reed dropped him with a hammer that sent Block toppling backward. He took out five of his teammates as he fell.
“They said I should be banned,” Reed said in the October 31, 1977, issue of Sports Illustrated. “All I got was an ejection and a small fine, nothing like what they give out now. You know what would happen if someone did all that today?”
This was no Malice at the Palace, however. No fans were involved. This was a straight-up, old-school basketball brawl that, at the time, wasn’t completely absent from the NBA game. More important, this was Reed giving clear indication that the days of punking the Knicks were over.
“You started to realize that, ‘Hey, we’ve got a warrior here,'” Knicks guard Johnny Green said in Garden Glory.
Yes, they did have a Warrior and during the 1969-70 NBA championship season, Reed became the first player in NBA history to be named MVP, All-Star Game MVP and Finals MVP in the same season. If that wasn’t impressive enough, he was also on the All-NBA First Team and averaged 22 & 14 for the season.
And here’s the story behind Reed’s most memorable performance.
Source: Ball Don’t Lie