The Celtic dynasty was finally over. Bill Russell retired as player and coach after the 1969 Championship and Sam Jones also retired, with K.C. Jones having preceded him a year earlier. The new team to beat in the East was the New York Knicks, who served notice by winning a league-record 18 straight games early in the season. Willis Reed, Dave DeBusschere, Bill Bradley, Walt Frazier, Cazzie Russell and Dick Barnett played as a team on both ends of the floor, with no one player dominating the spotlight. The other team to be reckoned with in the East was Milwaukee, which catapulted to 56 wins in just its second season with the addition of 7-2 rookie center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, then called Lew Alcindor.

New York was extended to seven games in the Eastern Semifinals by Baltimore before advancing, but had a much easier time with Milwaukee, ousting the Bucks in five games. In the West, Jerry West had won the league scoring title (31.2) almost out of necessity as Wilt Chamberlain hurt his knee nine games into the season and didn't return until three games remained. As a result Atlanta won the division by two games over the Lakers. But with Chamberlain back for the Playoffs, Los Angeles swept the Hawks in four straight to meet the Knicks in the Finals. The first six games were classic battles, with the Knicks winning one, then the Lakers tying the series, until a Game 7 loomed. The Knicks, with an emotional boost from their injured captain, Reed, won to capture New York's first NBA title in 24 years in the league.

The events of the 1970 NBA Finals remain indelibly etched in the memories of those who watched, while others latched onto them the way youngsters memorize tales of yore told by family elders. Reed had been having a marvelous Finals, dominating the injury-slowed Chamberlain, until he tripped and tore a leg muscle in Game 5. The Knicks scrambled with undersized players against Chamberlain and hung on to win that game, but with Reed out of Game 6, Chamberlain poured in 45 points to tie the series.

The Knicks left the lockerroom before Game 7 in New York not knowing if Reed would be able to play. Just before tipoff, Reed hobbled through the tunnel and onto the floor of Madison Square Garden. The fans erupted, Reed scored New York's first two baskets, and the inspired Knicks went on to a 113-99 victory.

"There isn't a day in my life that people don't remind me of that game," Reed said years afterward.