Harthorne Wingo, Tryon native and Knicks fan favorite, dead at 73

The playground standout-turned-NBA role player died Jan. 20

Harthorne Wingo waves to the crowd during a 2013 ceremony to honor the 1972-73 world champion New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. The former New York Knick and fan favorite died in a New York City hospital on Jan. 20 was confirmed by the coroner's office. No cause was given. (Frank Franklin II / AP Photo)

NEW YORK — Harthorne Wingo, a Tryon native and fan favorite and reserve on the New York Knicks’ 1973 NBA championship team, has died. He was 73.

He died Jan. 20 in a New York City hospital, the New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner told The Associated Press. The cause was not immediately available.

The 6-foot-6 forward spent four seasons with the Knicks from 1972-76, averaging 4.8 points and 3.5 rebounds. He also played overseas.

The Knicks acknowledged Wingo’s death Monday and tweeted a statement from former Knicks star and current broadcaster Walt Frazier, who remembered Wingo as “a very unique individual.”

“He was effervescent, gregarious, with an infectious personality not only endearing to his teammates but the Knicks Nation as well,” Frazier said.

Apart from Frazier, Wingo played on a title team with the likes of Willis Reed, Earl Monroe, Bill Bradley, Dave DeBusschere, Jerry Lucas, Dick Barnett and Phil Jackson.

Wingo was from Tryon, a town in Polk County near the Blue Ridge Mountains. He played in junior college in Rock Hill, South Carolina, before making his way to New York and earning a reputation as an elite playground player at the famed Rucker Park.

As a Knick, he may not have played much but he won over Madison Square Garden fans. They’d chant for Wingo to come off the bench, delighting in the lyrical ring of his name, as if they had just completed a winning Bingo card.

The Beastie Boys referenced Wingo’s name in a rap lyric to the song “Lay It On Me” more than a decade after Wingo’s Knicks career had ended.