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Big men the Knicks got, but a team they ain't
John Papanek
December 12, 1977
Beloved New York superhero Willis Reed was lured out of retirement by the idea that he could inspire his old club to play the way he did. It has not been easy
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December 12, 1977

Big Men The Knicks Got, But A Team They Ain't

Beloved New York superhero Willis Reed was lured out of retirement by the idea that he could inspire his old club to play the way he did. It has not been easy

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The flight back to New York was a trip in every sense of the word. Reed pored through basketball literature. Monroe perused the script of a movie entitled The Fuzz and (he Fence in which he had been offered a role. "Got to find me a new line of work," he said. "I figure I'm only good in the game for seven more years. Quit when I'm 40. I think I like The Fence." Hurtling around the plane, changing seats every 10 minutes or so and making barnyard noises was Williams, who is called by his teammates "Crazy Eddie" after the "in-sane" stereo dealer who pitches on New York television. Williams was calm that night compared to his performance on the earlier flight to Houston, which had been a turbulent one, with lightning flashing all around the jet. And there was Haywood, wired into his cassette machine, listening to John Coltrane jazz, passing notes to his teammates written on cocktail napkins, saying that he would not talk to anyone for the rest of December.

After the loss to Milwaukee back at the Garden, in which the Knicks had 40 turnovers and reached their season's nadir, going down by 17 points in the third quarter and hearing boos all night, Monroe allowed that everything was really fouled up. Haywood, reacting to a reporter who was studying his "17 rules" and obviously having changed his mind about talking, said with a laugh, "That stuff doesn't mean anything anymore."

Frustration showed all over Reed's face as he told a questioner, "Hey, what goes on inside my team is off limits." He later huddled behind closed doors with Knicks President Michael Burke, Gulf & Western's man at the Garden. You could almost feel the heat. Reed wants his center. Gulf & Western wants its winner. Even if it has to buy up the entire NBA to get it.

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