By now, you probably have a clear image of Willis Reed walking out of the Madison Square Garden tunnel before tipoff of 1970’s Game 7 of the NBA Finals against the Lakers. It’s been replayed more times than almost any other singular moment in NBA history.
The one footage of Willis Reed you likely don’t have engraved in your head is that of him single handedly trying to take on the entire 1966 Lakers squad on his own. That’s because nobody had footage of it… until now.
Reed and Lakers power forward Rudy LaRusso had been scrapping all game, but things finally reached a tipping point in the third quarter. The two lined up next to each other on the foul line, and while jockeying for position on the ensuing free throw, LaRusso claims Reed threw an elbow at his head. LaRusso responded to this provocation with an attempted haymaker, and all hell broke loose. Reed and LaRusso found themselves in front of the Lakers bench, which sprung onto the court in LaRusso’s defense.
And here’s an account of the fight by New York Times’ Dave Anderson…
In the confusion Reed flattened [Darrell] Imhoff, a 6-foot-10-inch, 220-pound center, with a punch over the left eye. [John] Block, a 6-9, 210-pound rookie center, suffered a bloody nose, which turned out to have been fractured. Imhoff, holding a bloodied towel to his face, lay sprawled in front of the Laker bench for several minutes while the police restored order among a few of the 15,755 spectators who had run onto the court for a ringside view. Imhoff needed one stitch to close a cut on his left eyelid. LaRusso, who is 6-8 and weighs 225, later admitted that “Reed hit me a couple good ones.” Both were ejected from the game.
Willis Reed was not suspended and fined $50 by the league.