NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 04: NBA legend Willis Reed poses with his Wheaties box during the unveiling of the special-edition Wheaties box at the NBA Store on February 4, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Scott Gries/Getty Images)

One of the endearing faces and names in New York Knicks history from the franchise’s glory years in the early 1970’s, Willis Reed passed away Tuesday. He was 80.

Reed forever became synonymous with one indelible moment that helped shape the sports world. The Knicks were in the midst of a tough-seven game series against the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1970 NBA Finals. With the series tied at three-games a piece, Reed — who didn’t play in Game 6 due to a thigh injury was not expected to play in deciding Game 7.

Until he did play. Reed heroically walked onto the court at Madison Square Garden to a stunned and cheering Knicks crowd, as New York would find a way to stop the Lakers 113-99 in Game 7 to capture the franchises’ first ever championship.

In sports — especially in New York — there are just moments that last forever. Namath’s guarantee is one. Jeter’s flip play against Oakland in the ALDS in 2001 is another. Mark Messier’s guarantee in 1994 is another. Then there is Willis Reed.

“He was the backbone of the team,” former Knicks and New Jersey state Senator Bill Bradley was quoted as saying of Reed in the New York Post on Tuesday.

Reed won two NBA titles with the Knicks, helping the franchise win its second in 1973. The Knicks just recently celebrated that team’s 50th anniversary a few weeks ago.

In addition to being a tremendous basketball player, Reed was also a head coach with the Knicks during the 1977-78 season, and the New Jersey Nets during the 1988-89 season. He also coached collegiality at Creighton for four years from 1981-85.

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  • Ed Cohen - Knicks broadcaster

  • New York Rangers

  • Howie Rose - Mets broadcaster

  • The Knicks Wall

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  • Willis Reed, in his own words

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