Harlem and the New York City basketball community lost one of their greatest members Monday, March 25, with the passing of the legendary Cal Ramsey.
Ramsey, 81, died of cardiac arrest at Riverside Premier Rehabilitation and Healing Center in Manhattan after a long illness.
Ramsey was a star player at NYU averaging 20.2 points, 17.5 rebounds. His record of 34 rebounds against Boston College has never been broken.
After graduating in 1959, he was drafted by the St. Louis Hawks. He also played for the New York Knicks and the Syracuse Nationals. Ramsey, a 6-foot-4 small forward born in Selma, Alabama, growing up in Harlem, was also known for his play at Rucker Park, most notably against players like Connie Hawkins, Wilt Chamberlain and Sonny Hill.
Born July 13, 1937, Ramsey, also a New York City teacher, became the Knicks broadcaster in 1972 after a brief career as a player. He then worked for them in community relations serving as the teams ambassador for the last 28 years. He also held a position on NYU’s basketball staff since 1983.
Ramsey was inducted into the NYU Athletics Hall of Fame in 1978, and inducted into the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame in 1994. In 2010, the Knicks presented Ramsey with the Dick McGuire Knickerbocker Legacy Award.
The Knicks will honor Ramsey tonight, March 28, at Madison Square Garden during their game against the Toronto Raptors. The team will wear a memorial black ribbon on their jerseys throughout the rest of the season. Until his health declined, Ramsey was seen prominently seated at most Knick home games.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver tweeted, “From Rucker Park to the Garden, Cal Ramsey was a New York City basketball icon. He was a kind and caring friend who gave so much to the game he loved.”
Knicks owner and Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan called Ramsey “one of the greatest ambassadors in New York City basketball history.”
“He didn’t let his wheelchair deter him,” said Harlem resident Ernie “Nes” Morris, one of Ramsey’s many friends. “GBH. God bless him.”
Morris saw Ramsey, the only player to be voted MVP in the Rucker High School division, their college division and their pro division, play during his prime.
“He was a helluva ballplayer. He had some great games at NYU and at Rucker. He was 6-4 and could play center,” Morris stated.
“He was a good brother too. He tried to do positive things when he was with the Knicks.”