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It was Game seven of the 1970 NBA Finals, and nobody knew if Willis Reed would play. The center and captain of the New York Knicks had suffered a torn muscle in his right thigh during Game five against the Los Angeles Lakers, and had not played in Game six when Wilt Chamberlains forty five points and twenty seven rebounds enabled the Lakers to tie the series at three and three.
When the teams took the floor for pregame warm ups, Reed was not with his New York teammates. He remained in the locker room, deep in the bowels of the building.
I wanted to play, Reed recalls. That was for the championship, the one great moment you play for all your life. I didn't want to have to look at myself in the mirror twenty years later and say I wished I had tried to play.
Reed took an injection to dull the pain in his leg, and just moments before tip off he limped through the tunnel and onto the court. Waves of cheers cascaded down from the Garden stands as fans caught sight of the Knicks captain, a sight that was not lost on New York's opponents.
November 17th, 2011
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