‘I will remember and cherish for the rest of my life’: Grambling pays tribute to Willis Reed

GRAMBLING — Willis Reed retired his No. 50 jersey Saturday night, and the field at the Frederick C. Hobdy Assembly Center is named after him.

After walking through the tunnel that bears his name and seeing his jersey reveal in the rafters, Reed was just excited to watch the rest of the men’s basketball game between Grambling and Southern. Both the men’s and women’s teams picked up upset wins over Southern, both previously undefeated in the SWAC, to give Reed even more to celebrate.

“It’s something I will remember and cherish for the rest of my life,” Reed said. “People asked me, ‘Where would you like to go to see a match?’ Let’s go to Grambling to see them play football, let’s go to see them play basketball, I feel like home here.

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Former Grambling basketball star Willis Reed's jersey was retired and the court named after him by the university on Saturday, January 15, 2021.

Reed, 79, played four seasons at Grambling from 1960 to 1964, leading the Tigers to SWAC championships in 1963 and 1964. The 6-foot-10, 240-pound Reed averaged 26.6 points and 21.3 rebounds as a senior and 18.7 points and 15.2 rebounds. for his career.

Reed’s trip to Grambling is one he still enjoys. He was born in Dubach, Louisiana, and raised on a farm in Bernice. He played at West Side High School in Lillie.

“For me to be here, to have been one of the top 50 players in the first 50 years of the NBA or to be in the Hall of Fame, basketball or not, those are dreams you dream of,” Reed said. during an interview. on “Louisiana Legends” in 1998. “But the real goal when Willis Reed was playing basketball in high school and wanted to go to Grambling was to get educated enough to go out and get a job.”

Reed played under Linden Stone throughout his high school career, and the way the coach presented himself made him want to go to college. Reed met Stone in his freshman year after Reed had grown three inches to 6 feet 5 inches the summer after eighth grade.

Reed remembers Stone wearing a suit and tie as his father had to sweat through his clothes to get paid as an ordinary laborer.

“What did I see outside of basketball? I saw a chance, that in basketball I had the chance to get an education,” Reed said. “If I worked hard enough I could get a scholarship and have the chance to go to school and become a teacher and a coach, which is what I wanted to be, I wanted to be like Coach Stone. Grambling gave me that opportunity .”

Reed played football and his senior year and West Side won the state championship. The legendary Eddie G. Robinson was Grambling’s football coach and asked Reed if he was going to come and play for him.

“I’m not going to play football, because I’m going to play basketball,” Reed replied.

It was a good choice. He was the first player to have his jersey retired by the New York Knicks in 1976 and was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1981. And now he’s the first player to have his number hung in the rafters at Grambling .

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