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Reggie Lewis
Reggie Lewis.jpeg
No. 35
Position: Shooting Guard
Personal information
Full name: Reginald C. Lewis
Born: November 21, 1965
Baltimore, Maryland
Died: July 27, 1993 (aged 27)
Waltham, Massachusetts
Nationality: Flag of the United States.png American
Physical stats
Listed height: 6 ft 7 in (2.01 m)
Listed weight: 195 lbs (88 kg)
Career information
High school: Paul Laurence Dunbar
(Baltimore, Maryland)
College: Northeastern (1983–1987)
NBA Draft: 1987 / Round: 1 / Pick: 22nd
Selected by the Boston Celtics
Playing career: 19871993 (6 years)
Career history
19871993 Boston Celtics
Career highlights and awards

Reginald C. Lewis (November 21, 1965 – July 27, 1993) was an American professional basketball player for the Boston Celtics of the National Basketball Association (NBA) from 1987 to 1993.


Personal life

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Lewis attended high school at Paul Dunbar High School, where he played basketball alongside future NBA players Muggsy Bogues, David Wingate, and Reggie Williams. The 1981–82 Dunbar Poets finished the season at 29–0 during Lewis' junior season and finished 31–0 during his senior season, and were ranked first in the nation by USA Today.

Lewis attended Northeastern University in Boston. Over his four years at Northeastern, Lewis scored 2,708 points, still the all-time record at the university. His Northeastern teams won the ECAC North all four seasons and played in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament every year. The 1983–84 Huskies advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, falling one point shy of the Sweet 16 when Rolando Lamb scored at the buzzer to lift VCU over the Huskies.

His uniform number was retired and hangs in tribute in Matthews Arena (the home of Northeastern University's men's basketball team and the Celtics' original home arena in 1946). As a Celtic, he and his family lived in Dedham, Massachusetts. He was a second cousin of PJ Dozier, who wore the jersey number 35 as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder in honor of Lewis.

Boston Celtics

Lewis was drafted in the first round, 22nd overall, by the Boston Celtics in the 1987 NBA Draft. The Celtics were looking to add some youth to the team, especially for the aging "Big 3" of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parish. This need became more urgent after Len Bias, the 2nd overall pick in the 1986 NBA Draft, died of a cocaine overdose.

As a rookie, Lewis played sporadically, averaging 8.3 minutes per game under coach K. C. Jones. By his second season, thanks in part to a new coach (and an injury to Celtics star Larry Bird) Lewis averaged over 30 minutes and scored 18.5 points per game. Lewis was selected to play in his first and only NBA All-Star Game held in Orlando, Florida, 1992. He played 15 minutes, scoring 7 points and grabbing 4 rebounds.

Lewis averaged 20.8 points in each of his last two seasons with the Celtics, and finished with a career average of 17.6 points per contest.

His no. 35 jersey was retired by the Celtics, making him one of only two Celtics to have a retired number without winning a championship with the team, the other player being Ed Macauley.

Death and legacy

On April 27, 1993, in Game 1 of the Celtics' playoff series against the Charlotte Hornets, Lewis suddenly collapsed on the court and remained on the ground for several seconds. After he finally got up, he looked perplexed and dazed as he headed to the Celtics bench. Lewis returned briefly to the game, but was eventually pulled due to dizziness and shortness of breath. He left the contest having scored 17 points in 13 minutes of action in what turned out to be his final NBA game.

The following day, Lewis checked into New England Baptist Hospital, where he underwent a series of tests by more than a dozen heart specialists, who the Celtics called their "dream team" of doctors. Lewis was diagnosed with "focal cardiomyopathy", a disease of the heart muscle that can cause irregular heartbeat and heart failure. Lewis was told his condition was most likely career-ending. However, he later sought a second opinion from Dr. Gilbert Mudge at Brigham and Women's Hospital, who diagnosed Lewis with neurocardiogenic syncope, a less serious non-fatal condition instead. As a result, Lewis began working out in preparation for returning for the 1994 season. Mudge was later cleared of any wrongdoing, and he insisted he had never authorized Lewis to resume workouts.

On July 27, 1993, during off-season practice at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, Lewis suffered sudden cardiac death on the basketball court at the age of 27 years old. James Crowley, a Brandeis University police officer who happened upon the gym on a routine patrol, and another Brandeis University police officer attempted to revive Lewis by using mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, but they were unsuccessful.

Lewis is buried in an unmarked grave in Forest Hills Cemetery in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts.

His death was attributed to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a structural heart defect that is the most common cause of death in young athletes.

Following Lewis' death, questions were raised about whether he had used cocaine, and whether cocaine use had contributed to his death. The Wall Street Journal reported that physicians "suspected that cocaine killed Boston Celtics star Reggie Lewis...but they were thwarted by actions by his family and a 'dismissive' policy toward drugs by the NBA." The Journal added the following:

The Boston Celtics responded by expressing sadness about the "vicious attack on Reggie Lewis and his family" and threatening "to file a $100 million lawsuit against the reporter, The Wall Street Journal and its parent company, Dow Jones and Co. Inc." Dr. Gilbert Mudge, a doctor who treated Lewis, was sued for malpractice in connection with Lewis' death; in written responses to questions from the attorneys for Donna Harris-Lewis, Mudge said that "16 days before Lewis collapsed from a heart attack in 1993, he acknowledged having used cocaine, but said he had stopped." On the other hand, the doctor who performed the autopsy on Lewis testified that the scarring on his heart was inconsistent with cocaine use, and other doctors reached the same conclusion though they "stopped short of saying he never used drugs." Also, Lewis's heart tissue tested positive for adenovirus during his autopsy.

After Lewis' death, the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center was opened in Roxbury, Boston. The center was funded partially by Lewis and has hosted major indoor track and field competitions, the Boston Indoor Games, home basketball games for Roxbury Community College, and Northeastern University track and field events.

On March 22, 1995, the Boston Celtics retired Lewis' jersey. Lewis had worn the number 35 for his entire career. During the ceremony, former teammate Dee Brown made a speech while two other former teammates, Sherman Douglas and Xavier McDaniel, held up Lewis' framed jersey.

Lewis' contract remained on the Celtics' salary cap for two full seasons after his death because at the time the NBA did not have a provision to void contracts in the event an active player died; NBA Commissioner David Stern said that the remaining NBA teams should approve an exemption for Lewis' contract, but the rest of the league, many of whom had spent years or even decades losing to the Celtics on the court, said that they would do no such thing to help Boston. The rules have since been changed so that a similar case would result in a deceased player's contract being paid by league insurance.

External links