Willie Naulls, a four-time All-Star with the Knicks and three-time champion with the Celtics, passed away on Sunday at age 84. The cause was respiratory failure resulting from Churg-Strauss syndrome according to his wife, Dr. Anne Van de Water Naulls.
A Texas native and UCLA All-American, Naulls scored and rebounded his way to becoming just one of 10 players in Knicks history with at least four All-Star appearances. He became a pioneer of diversity in sports after Knicks teammates named him a team captain, the first black athlete with such an honor for any major professional sports team.
The 6-foot-6 forward averaged 19.3 points and 11.7 rebounds in seasons with the Knicks, including a 49-point, 24-rebound performance against Hall-of-Famer Bailey Howell and the Detroit Pistons.
Naulls was later traded to San Francisco (1962) and Boston (1963), where he won a trio of championship rings playing alongside Bill Russell, John Havlicek and Tom Heinsohn.