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Stacey Lehman

Willis Reed, Legendary Center of the World Champion N. Y. Knicks, RIP [by Stacey Harwood-Lehman]

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Basketball great Willis Reed spoke about his literacy project. David was eager to get his predictions for the upcoming Knicks season.

In 2003, then chairman of the NEA Dana Gioia, invited David to join him in Washington for the annual Washington Book Festival, hosted by Laura Bush. It was a great event. Dana had even arranged for David's mom Anne to come along and for all of us to join him at the White House for the breakfast ceremony preceding the Festival. 

Just as the guests were taking their seats for Bush's opening remarks, David saw former Knicks great Willis Reed enter the room. He was impossible to miss, of course; at 6'10" he towered over just about everyone in the room, with the exception of former Detroit Pistons center Bob Lanier (6'11"), also in attendance. 

Reed was on hand to talk about his literacy project. 

I watched David from across the room (he was seated among the day's speakers; I was elsewhere, with Anne). He lit up when Reed took the podium. When the proceedings adjourned and guests made their way to the exits, David practically lept over seats with the finesse of a point-guard making a layup shot with two seconds on the clock. I've seen him focus on an objective, but this was masterly. 

He reached Reed and I snapped the photo, above. 

As it so happened, my office in New York City was at One Penn Plaza, across the street from Madison Square Garden. On a whim, I phoned the Knick's publicity department with the request that Reed sign the photo, which he graciously agreed to do. I've given David many gifts over the years, but I think this signed photo of the basketball great ranks among his favorites.

-- sdl

The moment no Knicks fan will ever forget: when Willis Reed hobbled onto the court in the deciding game of the 1970 championship series with the LA Lakers. When Reed came out, the crowd roared. Reed, injured, played well. The great unselfish Knicks of Reed and Walt Frazier, Dave DeBuschere, Bill Bradley, and Dick Barnett, coached by Red Holtzman, won the game, the series, and the hearts of New Yorkers.

-- DL

March 03, 2023

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"Lively and affectionate" Publishers Weekly


I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman

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