On Monday morning, former New York Knicks forward and cult hero Harthorne Wingo passed away at the age of 73.
The North Carolina native played for the Knicks for four seasons during the 1970s. He was part of the legendary 1972-73 Knicks team led by Walt Frazier, Willis Reed, Earl Monroe, and Dave DeBusschere. Wingo only played in 13 games that season and averaged four minutes of game time, but he became a fan favorite in New York.
Fans would frequently chant the forward’s name when he entered the game or made a shot. Longtime Knicks announcer Marv Albert could be heard on broadcasts saying, “And chants of ‘Win-go!’ have risen up at the Garden.”
Additionally, the undrafted 6-foot-6 forward became immortalized in a classic hip-hop album. Wingo became a fan favorite of the rap group the Beastie Boys when they were growing up in New York. The group name dropped Wingo in “Lay It On Me,” a track from their 1989 studio album Paul’s Boutique.
“More updated on the hip-hop lingo, My favorite New York Knick was Harthorne Wingo,” the lyrics say.
The Knicks official Twitter account confirmed Wingo’s death on Monday afternoon.
“Sending our deepest sympathies to the family & friends of Harthorne Wingo. The 1972-73 NBA Champion has passed away. Once a Knick, Always a Knick,” the account tweeted.
Harthorne Wingo and His New York Knicks Legacy
The Knicks’ Harthorne Wingo was a tall and lanky forward well-known for his strange jump shot. His unique shooting form endeared him to New York fans. In addition, when his occasional shots went in, Wingo would get a roar from the crowd louder than the team’s stars would normally.
Early on in his basketball career, Wingo received an invitation to join the Harlem Wizards in 1970, according to Polksports.com. However, the Knicks took notice of the forward because of his size and athleticism.
The Knicks convinced Wingo to join the Allentown Jets of the Eastern League instead. Two years later in 1972, the Knicks signed him as a free agent.
At the time of his death, Wingo was still living in New York. He made sure to attend anniversary events for the 1973 team’s championship as well. He only averaged 4.8 points during his short lived NBA career. But by the 1974-75 season, Wingo’s playing time increased significantly. He played in all 82 games that season and shot 46 percent from the field. His impact in the locker room and with the fans stand out even more.
”Harthorne Wingo was a beautiful person,” his former teammate Bill Bradley told The New York Post. “The fans loved him and so did his teammates. He was a positive part of the team dynamic and shared rightfully in the glow of the 1973 championship.”
National Basketball Players Association attorney Ron Klempner told The Post‘s Marc Berman that he was beloved by Knicks fans.
“I can’t tell you how many shots went up in the Canarsie schoolyards accompanied by the Wingo chant,” Klempner said. “He was beloved among the Knicks faithful.”