ST. PAUL — So was it a Willis Reed moment when Aaron Rodgers returned from a knee injury to lead Green Bay to a dramatic comeback win Sunday night over the Chicago Bears?
Ask Willis Reed.
"Well, I wouldn't say that, but, I mean, it's a great moment," Reed said Tuesday, Sept. 11, in a telephone interview.
Reed has great respect for Rodgers and calls him one of the best NFL quarterbacks ever. But he reminded that his big return-from-injury moment with the New York Knicks in 1970 happened in Game 7 of the NBA Finals rather than the opening game of a season.
"It was the championship," Reed said. "It's do or die."
Rodgers injured his left knee in the first half of Sunday's game against the Bears and was taken out on a cart. Limping, he returned in the second half and threw three touchdown passes as the Packers overcame a 20-0 deficit to win 24-23 at Lambeau Field.
During the NBC telecast, announcers Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth on several occasions brought up Reed, who took the court in dramatic fashion against the Los Angeles Lakers on May, 8, 1970 after many believed he would not play because of a torn thigh muscle. The star center hit the game's first two baskets on jump shots — all of his points that night — and they sparked the Knicks to a 113-99 victory for their first NBA title.
"You talk about heroic efforts, you mentioned Willis Reed," Michaels said to Collinsworth during the telecast. "You have to go back to 1970, the NBA. ... If this thing happens with Rodgers, I can't think of a better example."
After Rodgers completed the comeback, others compared him to Reed, as well. Rodgers told NBC he plans to play Sunday against the Vikings at Lambeau Field, but Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Monday that no final decision has been made.
Reed, named to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1982, is an NFL fan but was busy Sunday night and did not watch the game. He was flattered to learn later how much he was talked about.
"I'm glad to know that I'm still remembered," Reed, 76, said from his home in Ruston, La., where he is retired. "I'm glad somebody thought it was that kind of moment. It's good to be thought of.
"It's a great honor. I think my name being mentioned with Aaron Rodgers anything (is terrific). He's a great quarterback."
Reed didn't deny Rodgers had a much better game than Reed did in 1970. In 27 minutes, Reed made 2 of 5 shots for four points and grabbed three rebounds, but his two early baskets are credited with giving the Knicks a huge emotional lift in taking a 69-42 halftime lead.
"I would give the ups to Aaron Rodgers," Reed said. "The only difference was (Reed's game) was for all the marbles. We were either going to win or lose, go home champs or go home losers."
In the meantime, Reed wants to see how the season plays before deciding if this was indeed Rodgers' Willis Reed moment.
"That's a great moment for him," Reed said. "I'm sure when he's my age, and he starts talking about his great moments of his life, that will be one of his great games. At the end of the season, we'll know how significant this game ends up being."