The basketball community has lost a legend with the passing of Cal Ramsey, who tore it up at Rucker Park, played for the Knicks for a short time, and later became a celebrated broadcaster for the team.
Ramsey ‘s death — he died on Monday from cardiac arrest at the age of 81 years old, according to the New York Times — sent shock waves through the NBA, with everyone from Commissioner Adam Silver to once upon a time almost-Knicks head coach Steve Kerr offering their condolences.
The Knicks themselves issued a statement of sorrow for Ramsey’s passing, and James Dolan even said some words, which you can see for yourself by reading the above-linked NYT obituary.
We are deeply saddened by the passing of NYC Basketball legend and former Knick Cal Ramsey, who represented the organization as a player, broadcaster and community ambassador. He had an unwavering love for the game, the city and its people and will be greatly missed. pic.twitter.com/dl7NhBdR7Y— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) March 25, 2019
The Knicks intend to have a moment of silence for Ramsey on Thursday, when the Knicks play the Toronto Raptors at Madison Square Garden, and the team will wear a memorial ribbon on their jerseys, according to the New York Post.
Seeing as Ramsey was beloved throughout the NBA community, it’s only right that we take this opportunity to celebrate his life and look at what he accomplished in his 81 years on this earth.
Ramsey’s path to the NBA
Ramsey was born on July 13, 1937, in Selma, Alabama, but he grew up in Harlem, New York. The 6’4” forward was famous for balling out in the Rucker League, and his first appearance at MSG came as a high schooler.
While studying at New York University, Ramsey played at MSG for three seasons, and today he sits in 11th place on the all-time NYU scoring list with 1,275 total points, per the NYT. One time, he notched 34 rebounds in a single game, according to the New York Post.
In 1959, he was chosen by the St. Louis Hawks in the second round of the NBA draft, but after only four games with the team, Ramsey was traded to the Knicks. Ramsey’s NBA career was short; he only played 13 total games, seven of which were with the Knicks in 1959, and as a ‘Bocker he averaged 11.4 points and 6.7 rebounds. In addition to the Hawks and Knicks, Ramsey played a few games for the Syracuse Nationals.
Ramsey went on to play in the semi professional Eastern League for three seasons, but a serious knee injury forced his retirement as a player.
Becoming a broadcaster
Although his playing career was brief, Ramsey made a name for himself post-retirement by becoming a Knicks broadcaster starting in 1972. He did telecasts for the team for 10 years, working with the likes of Bob Wolff, Dick Stockton and Marv Albert.
“Wonderful to work with — one of the most popular, nicest people I’ve ever been around,’’ Albert said of Ramsey, per the New York Post. “Such great dignity. He was an ambassador for the game when we were on the road. A delight and fun on the air with insights.’’
He was a part of the broadcast crew during the Knicks most recent championship run, which of course took place more than four decades ago, in 1973.
Ramsey did more than play and talk about basketball, although in another basketball-related tidbit, he served as an assistant coach for the NYU team starting in 1983. He was also assistant director of community relations for NYU for 20 years, and in 2004 received the NYU President’s Alumni Achievement Award.
Ramsey was friends with Wilt Chamberlain, as evidenced by the following photo Tweeted out by Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News:
RIP Cal Ramsey. Here's a cool ass picture of him, Oscar Robertson and Wilt Chamberlain with his lady friend. pic.twitter.com/tJVAHYwYwp— Stefan Bondy (@SBondyNYDN) March 25, 2019
The relationship with Chamberlain was also touched on by Alan Hahn, who, as part of his remembrance of Ramsey, shared a page from one of the books he’s written about the Knicks. According to Hahn, in August 1963, Chamberlain invited Ramsey to join him on a trip to Washington, D.C., where it just so happened that Dr. Martin Luther King was giving his famed “I Have A Dream” speech.
“[We] stood right in the middle of that crowd,” Ramsey said, per Hahn.
Here, read the whole page for yourselves:
In 1991, Ramsey became part of the Knicks community relations team, and he served as an ambassador for the franchise for almost 30 years. He was a stalwart at Knicks home games until his health became too much of an issue.
Ex-Knick and NYU star Cal Ramsey has died. Ramsay was a part of the Knick organization for 5 decades as a player, broadcaster & community relations team member. Ramsay could usually be found near the court at MSG on game nights, greeting visitors with a smile. A true gentleman.— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) March 25, 2019
Ramses Barden, a wide receiver who was drafted by the NFL’s New York Giants in 2009, was named after Ramsey. You can read all about that connection by clicking on this link to a New York Times story on the subject from 2009.
In 1978, Ramsey was inducted into the NYU Athletics Hall of Fame, and in 1994 he was inducted into the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame. In 2010, the Knicks presented Ramsey with the Dick McGuire Knickerbocker Legacy Award.
After he retired but before he became a Knicks broadcaster, Ramsey was a teacher in New York. Shout out to teachers everywhere!
RIP, Cal. You’ll live forever as a New York basketball icon.