The New York Knicks said that Cal Ramsey died of cardiac arrest at The Riverside Premier Rehabilitation and Healing Center in Manhattan.
After his playing career, Ramsey worked for the organization as a color analyst and later in community relations. He served as a Knicks ambassador for the past 28 years and also had remained on NYU’s basketball staff since 1983.
As one of the first African American players in the NBA, former Knick Cal Ramsey has been breaking barriers since the days of Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, where he attended with close friend Wilt Chamberlain in 1963, and continues to educate the youth on the importance of Black History.
“Cal represented the Knicks with pride for more than five decades as a player, broadcaster and one of the greatest ambassadors in New York City basketball history,” said Knicks owner Jim Dolan said in a statement. “He was the epitome of class, wisdom and dignity, and will be remembered for the thousands of young lives he influenced as a community leader. Knicks games will not be the same without Cal’s presence. He will be greatly missed.”
In the 1990’s, I ran academic enrichment programs for the YMCA at various locations throughout Brooklyn. One of those programs was the Jr. Knicks League, where my young players got to interact with Mr. Ramsey, attend games at Madison Square Garden and suit up to play in front of 20,000 fans at halftime.
I can personally attest, having spoken with the man on many occasions, to the magnitude of his presence and what he meant to the youth of NYC, many of whom had no idea of his credentials as a player.
Ramsey was born in Alabama but starred at Commerce High School in New York, the Rucker Park League and at NYU. He played professionally – both in the ABA and NBA – for the St. Louis Hawks, the Syracuse Nationals and the Knicks.
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Longtime Knick fans also remember him as the team’s color analyst from 1972-82, having broadcast the franchise’s last championship season in 1972-73.
He is a member of the NYU Athletics and New York City Basketball Hall of Fame.
The Knicks said they will honor Ramsey during their next game, Thursday against Toronto.