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Cal Ramsey, a basketball institution in New York, dies at age 81

Former NBA Player Cal Ramsey attends A Sunday

Former NBA Player Cal Ramsey attends A Sunday Afternoon In Harlem Presented By Aetna during the Harlem EatUp! Festival on May 17, 2015. Photo Credit: Robin Marchant

Cal Ramsey, who starred on the court in high school, college and professionally in New York and then became an institution at Madison Square Garden for decades, passed away on Monday at age 81, the Knicks said.

Ramsey, who was a longtime courtside presence at the Garden before games, greeting fans and guests, died at the Riverside Premier Rehabilitation and Healing Center of cardiac arrest, according to the Knicks.

The Knicks will honor Ramsey, a community relations ambassador for the team, with a moment of silence, a special tribute and a memorial uniform ribbon during their game against the Raptors on Thursday.

“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,” Madison Square Garden executive chairman and chief executive officer James 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.”

Ramsey, who was born July 13, 1937, in Selma, Alabama, attended Commerce High School in New York and then New York University, where he starred for the Violets and earned All-American status as a senior in 1959. He graduated from NYU’s School of Commerce with a bachelor of science degree in business administration in 1959.

Ramsey went on to play professionally for the NBA’s St. Louis Hawks, Knicks and Syracuse Nationals. He played 13 games in his career, including seven with the Knicks in the 1959-60 season, when he averaged 11.4 points per game.

After his playing career, Ramsey became a television analyst for the Knicks from 1972 to 1982. In 1991, he joined the Knicks’ community relations team and served as an ambassador for the last 28 years.

He was inducted into the NYU Athletics Hall of Fame in 1978 and New York City Basketball Hall of Fame in 1994.

In 2002, Ramsey received the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) Man of the Year Award, and in 2005, he received the Distinguished Service Award from the Metropolitan Basketball Writers Association. He also was honored by the Knicks with the organization’s Dick McGuire Knickerbocker Legacy Award in 2010.

Ramsey returned to NYU as an assistant coach in 1983 and remained on the staff through the 2018-19 season.

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