Considering how today’s NBA players frequently resort to cowardly, pathetic acts of fake tough guy-ness, such as subtweeting and throwing shade and wearing dumb-ass T-shirts with innuendos associated with them, it’s worth using this edition of NBA Throwback Thursday to remember when the NBA was a league for manly men. And nobody has ever suited up for an NBA game who embodied manliness more than Willis Reed.
Of course, during the course of the past week or so, former New York Knicks tough guy Charles Oakley has been discussed a lot in the news. But before Oakley was around to serve as the Knicks’ enforcer, a Hall of Fame talent by the name of Willis Reed was around to serve as both the enforcer and the best all-around player for the Knickerbockers.
Throughout his NBA career, Reed posed as a nightmare for the Los Angeles Lakers, highlighted by his iconic performance while battling a serious injury in Game 7 of the NBA Finals, a game in which the Knicks defeated the Lakers to win their first-ever title.
However, Reed was a nightmare in another sense on a fateful night in 1966, when he literally beat the crap out of the entire Lakers team. After engaging in some physical play, specifically with Lakers forward Rudy LaRusso, Reed became visibly frustrated and swung his elbow at LaRusso’s head. LaRusso then made the ill-advised decision to take a swing at the 6-9, 240-pound Reed, and, after that, all hell broke loose.
Reed proceeded to decimate the entire Lakers roster, throwing haymakers at guys on the bench who hadn’t even entered the game. Bulldozing his way down the Los Angeles bench, cold-cocking everyone in sight, Reed resembled Mike Tyson if Mike Tyson were high on meth.
Nowadays, whiny ESPN pundits would imply that Reed should be permanently banned from basketball for such a “disgraceful” display, and the league office would probably suspend him for the remainder of the season. But, since this occurred in 1966, Reed received the severe punishment of a zero-game suspension and a $50 fine. Oh, the humanity!
For what it’s worth, the Knicks went on to win the game 122-119 after the fracas, so maybe Reed’s tirade lit a fire under his team and was worthwhile after all. It’s just a shame that Wilt Chamberlain wasn’t yet a member of the Lakers, as a brawl between Reed and the Big Dipper would be pay-per-view material, to say the least.