Walt Frazier Game 7 1970 (#2 Greatest NBA Finals performance of all time)
36 Points, 19 Assists, 7 Rebounds (Video)
“Willis Provided the Inspiration and I Provided the Devastation.” – Walt Frazier
The 1970 New York Knicks was a team not composed of great individual players, but they would achieve greatness with their unselfishness and devotion to one another.
“We had five guys that came from different and varied backgrounds” Frazier explained, “But we came to play as a team, and it was something beautiful to watch because the ball really moved around the court.”
The Knicks would make teamwork an art form as they dissected opponents. But even on this team of equals, Willis Reed stood alone as its heart and soul. The Knicks would follow Reed’s lead (heh, I could easily be a rapper) all the way to the finals where they would face Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor and the Los Angeles Lakers. For four bitterly fought games, Chamberlain and Reed would battle each other to a 2 games apiece standoff. But in game 5, New York would fall victim to an early Laker run, and then disaster as Reed would fall to the floor on a fairly innocent play.
“I thought I was really hurt” Reed said “Then I laid there for a minute, and I didn’t think I was that hurt. Then I tried to get up, and I knew I really was hurt. And I didn’t know what was going to happen at that point.”
“I was thinking ‘well there goes the championship'” Frazier described “Willis was the backbone of the team, and without him I didn’t see there was any way we could contain Chamberlain.”
But in the second half of game 5, the Knicks would find a way by swarming Wilt and stifling the Lakers offense with relentless pressure on the ball, and stealing game 5. The Knicks, without Reed for game 6, would be shredded by Chamberlain for 45 points and sent back to New York for game 7, in desperate need of another miracle.
“In the locker room, no one knew if Willis Reed was going to play or not.” Frazier recounts “He was in the training room, the door was closed. Guys (teammates) were asking ‘is he going? Is he not going?'”
“When the team left the locker room, nobody knew if Willis was going to come out” said Bill Bradley.
“I always remember thinking one thing, that eventually one day during my lifetime, that I will not be a basketball player. 20 years down the road, 25 years down the road, I’d be sitting somewhere, in some lake, fishing, I would think to myself ‘Boy, I wish I played in that game.'” Willis Confessed “I wasn’t going to let that happen. That was my moment.”
Limping bravely out of the tunnel, Reed provided one of the most amazing scenes in NBA and sports history. This was further fuelled by the fact that he made his first 2 jumpers. He had inspired the Knicks, and it would be Walt Frazier who carried them home. “Clyde” would absolutely dominate Jerry West, scoring 36 points whilst dishing out 19 assists and grabbing 7 rebounds. Frazier’s incredible game is often over looked when people think back to the 1970 championship, but not here. Reed’s bravery and Frazier’s brilliance are totally interconnected, and had Frazier not been as spectacular, and the Knicks had lost, Reed’s incredible courage would have become simply a footnote in NBA history.
It is only fitting, and purely coincidence, that number 2 of the countdown is being released on September 11, a day that horrified the world for the tragic loss of life but also showed the resiliency of New York City and America to the rest of the world.
Number 1: Michael Jordan Game 6 1998 NBA Finals
Number 3: Magic Johnson Game 6 1980 NBA Finals