Fallen Celtic: Remembering Reggie Lewis

Joe GillCorrespondent IIMarch 30, 2010

Guard Reggie Lewis of the Boston Celtics dribbles the ball down the court during a game against the Milwaukee Bucks at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

We honor Reggie Lewis as the Boston Sports Then and Now Athlete of the Month. He was a budding star for the Boston Celtics from 1987-1993. He died tragically during the summer of ‘93 at the age of 27. The cause of death was cardiac arrest.

This would be Boston’s second tragedy over a seven year span. Lenny Bias, the college superstar from Maryland, died from a drug overdose before he ever played one game in Celtics Green. Coincidentally, both players hailed from the same state.

Reggie Lewis was a high school star with the 50-0 Dunbar High School team. He then left his home state of Maryland to attend Northeastern University in Boston.  He played for the Huskies from 1983-1987 while averaging 22.2 points per game during his collegiate career. He was also team captain and graduated as the school’s all-time leading scorer. Fittingly on January 21, 1989, Lewis had his No. 35 retired never to be worn again by another Northeastern Husky.

Like Bias, Lewis was chosen by the Celtics in the first round, 22nd overall.

Lewis was perceived as the local boy done well even though he was not born in Massachusetts.

He arrived on a team that still had superstars like Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parrish. Lewis was a sponge at the beginning of his career trying to learn as much as he could from these Celtics greats. He would be the heir apparent.

In his second year, Lewis excelled. He missed just one game in his sophomore campaign and averaged 18.5 points per game. With Larry Bird injured, he was there to pick up the offensive slack.

Lewis consistently improved every season. He was chosen as an NBA All Star during the ’91-’92 season. He averaged 20.8 points per game over the course of the season.  Lewis elevated his play even higher during the playoffs averaging 28 points in 10 games.

After his breakout season and the retirement of Larry Bird, Reggie Lewis was bestowed the captaincy of the Boston Celtics. An honor held by Boston greats such as Bird, Cousy, Russell, Havlicek, and Cowens.

Lewis did the Captain’s C proud. During the ’92-’93 season, Lewis just missed two games and averaged 20.8 points for a second consecutive season. He helped lead Boston back to the playoffs with a 48-34 record.

However, Lewis and the Celtics playoff run were cut short. In the first game versus Charlotte, Reggie collapsed to the parquet floor. This proved to be his last game.

Boston lost the first round series three games to one.

Lewis made a comeback with his team regardless of his heart ailments. However, he was unable to dodge his health issues for long. On July 23, 1993 at the Celtics Brandeis practice facility, Reggie Lewis suffered cardiac arrest and passed away.

Reggie Lewis was honored for his life as an athlete and a man by the Celtics and Northeastern University, his Alma mater. The Celtics raised his No. 35 to rafters amongst the other great captains and players of the team. Northeastern University named their Track & Athletics Center in his honor.

Reggie Lewis, a player and man, that left life and basketball much too soon.


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