Unsung Knick History – The Night Willis Fought the Entire Laker Bench…and Won!
WHAT YOU SEE IS WILLIS REED "THE CAPTAIN" KNOCKING RUDY LaRUSSO THE FUCH OUT!
(REPOSTED January 11th, 2011 by Brian Cronin)
Willis Reed was in his third season as a Knick when the 1966-67 season kicked off in October 1966 with a loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on the road. The Knicks’ home opener was on Tuesday, October 18, 1966 against the Los Angeles Lakers, who were the defending Western Conference Champions (falling to the Boston Celtics in a hard-fought seven-game NBA Finals earlier in 1966) and Reed was the starting power forward. Drafted in the second round of the 1964 NBA Draft as a center, Reed ended up splitting time at center and power forward along with the Knicks’ first round draft pick, Jim “Bad News” Barnes (I discussed Barnes’ Knick career in a previous Unsung Knicks History piece here), as the pair were used similarly to how Patrick Ewing and Bill Cartwright were deployed decades later. Early in the 1965-66 season, Barnes was packaged in a deal for star center Walt Bellamy, who became the Knicks primary center with Reed as the primary power forward. At the start of the 1966-67 season, Reed and Bellamy were now beginning their first full season playing together.
During the game against the Lakers at Madison Square Garden, Reed was matched up against veteran forward/center Rudy LaRusso, in his eighth season out of Dartmouth. Throughout the game, Reed took exception to what he felt were an inordinate amount of elbows thrown his way by LaRusso as the pair jockeyed for position in the low blocks. LaRusso, I am sure, felt that Reed was giving just as good as he was getting. Reed complained to the referees, who he later noted looked at him as though he was nuts, so Reed determined that if they were not going to take care of things, he would.
During the third quarter, a Knick was shooting two foul shots. After the second shot went up, naturally, LaRusso and Reed began jockeying for position and Reed felt that LaRusso hit him with one elbow too many, so after LaRusso turned to head up court, Reed tangled up with him a bit. LaRusso responded by throwing a haymaker at Reed. The problem for Reed was that this was taking place directly in front of the Lakers’ bench, so quickly a bunch of Lakers race on to the court.
When Reed turned to respond to LaRusso’s missed haymaker, Laker center Darren Imhoff (a former Knick #1 draft pick that I also featured in the same Unsung Knick History piece I did on Barnes that you can read here) grabbed Reed from behind, ostensibly to break up the fight. Well, LaRusso took this opportunity to tag Reed with a punch. This enraged Reed. He slugged Imhoff, dropping the big man to the ground. He then chased LaRusso to the Lakers bench and got in two mighty shots in LaRusso’s face. At this point, Laker rookie forward John Block ran up, also ostensibly to play peacemaker. Well, Reed responded with a left hook that broke Block’s nose. Imhoff came up again and Reed punched him in the eye, sending a bleeding Imhoff into a bunch of Lakers. By this time, Reed’s Knick teammates had arrived, as well, and it was a full-fledged brawl (Knick guard Em Bryant, in particular, was jumping all over Lakers). Reed caught LaRusso one more time, knocking him to the ground. Reed was also throwing any other Laker who came at him to the ground, including Laker center Hank Finkel.no comments