Nearly 50 years ago, legendary NBA center Willis Reed of the New York Knicks was ejected for fighting during a game against the Los Angeles Lakers.
What happened that day in October 1966 was well-documented with words — but now a rarely seen video of the fight between Reed and, well, nearly the entire Laker team has surfaced as part of an ESPN documentary on the 1970s Knicks, "When the Garden Was Eden."
Reed's single-handed ferocity is stunning to watch.
Former NBA coach and New York Knick player Phil Jackson told ESPN that Reed was "throwing bodies" off his shoulder and "just kind of went along" and "decimated this team. Rudy LaRusso had a broken jaw and Henry Finkel had a broken jaw."
So thorough was Reed's tally of opponents that then-Laker superstar Jerry West told ESPN, "I know a couple guys who got punched" who weren't involved in the fight.
Reed's response to the reminder of the fight? "Yeah, yeah, yeah I kinda remember that," his voice trailing off with an uncomfortable-looking smile.
Here's how it reportedly went down: Reed and the Lakers' La Russo were battling heavy all game, but by the third quarter things got ugly. LaRusso claimed Reed threw an elbow at his head, Deadspin said, and punched at the Knicks center. With that, Reed went to work.
Deadspin noted the account by New York Times reporter 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.
Reed added in the ESPN interview that the league wanted to drum him out for the fight but watched the video and saw that he didn't throw the first punch. The only penalty Reed and LaRusso got beyond their ejections was a $50 fine each, Deadspin added.
The Knicks won the game 122–119.
Here's the clip: