He was the quiet Celtic with the infectious
smile. He was reserved and
almost shy but his actions, both on and off the basketball court, spoke
much louder than any words. He was a 6-7-basketball player, the captain
of the team and the leading scorer. He was a devoted husband, father
and friend to many. He was the torchbearer to a new Green and White
generation. He was a soft-spoken yet powerful leader. Reggie Lewis, 27
years old, fell victim to natural causes and on Tuesday, July 27, 1993,
Celtics fans tearfully said, 'good bye'.
Ten years later, Celtics.com fondly remembers him.
Born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, Lewis enjoyed success and early
fame as a key member of a 50-0 Dunbar High School basketball team that
also featured future NBA players Reggie Williams, David Wingate and
Tyrone "Mugsy" Bogues. But he never let undefeated seasons or 30-point
scoring nights interfere or distract the soul, the personality, the man
That was not Reggie Lewis, nor his style.
He went on to college to Boston's Northeastern University and
became an instant success averaging 17.8 points per game in his
freshman year. Three years later, he would conclude his brilliant
collegiate career averaging 22.2 points while connecting on almost half
his field goals (1,043-for-2,098, 49.7%). The Huskies captain graduated
as the team's all-time leading scorer, ninth-best in NCAA history, and
in ceremonies on January 21, 1989 had his familiar number 35 retired to
the Matthews Arena rafters.
Basketball experts often use words like, 'potential' and
'prime'. Reggie Lewis played only six seasons with the Boston Celtics
and he had barely reached his 'peak'.
He was Boston's top draft choice (22nd pick overall in the
first round) in 1987. The Celtics top management team of President Red
Auerbach, General Manager Jan Volk and Head Coach Jim Rodgers liked
what they saw in Lewis on that day, June 22, 1987.
Like most rookies in Celtics history, the first year is a learning one,
i.e. sit and watch, and Lewis' was no exception. But he observed and
learned and pushed himself in year two and appeared in 81 of the 82
regular season games and finished the campaign averaging 18.5 points
per game. More importantly, he stepped in and comforted Celtics fans'
fears and worries, after Larry Bird missed almost the entire season due
Celtics fans witnessed true flashes of brilliance in Lewis
during 1991-92, as he averaged a career-best 20.8 points per game (he
averaged the same figure the following season) while playing in all 82
He posted a spectacular career-high 28.0 points per game in the 1992
playoffs and was the lone Celtic to be named the NBA Eastern Conference
By 1992-93 he had replaced the legendary Bird as the captain of the
Celtics. The soft-spoken guard had joined a select group of Celtic
greats, like, Bob Cousy, Bill Russell, John Havlicek and Dave Cowens,
as the team leader. Quite often, verbal remarks seemed to take a back
seat. As Auerbach said, "Reggie doesn't say a lot of words, he lets his
game speak for him."
Ironically, Reggie was marking his first playoff game as team
captain, on April 29, 1993 at the Boston Garden facing the Charlotte
Hornets, when after pouring-in 17 points (on 7-for-11 field goal and
3-for-4 free throw shooting) in just 13 minutes he collapsed on the
famous parquet floor. It proved to be his final game.
There will never be a clear method of telling just how good
Reggie Lewis would have been. We caught a brief moment. We have many
His spirit lives on. The beautiful Reggie Lewis Track and
Athletic Center located in Roxbury, MA is a testament to the Hall of
Fame status he has achieved in the community. He remains the only
Celtic in the 57-year history of the franchise to have had 100
rebounds, 100 assists, 100 steals and 100 blocked shots in a single
season (1991-92 with 394 rebounds, 185 assists, 125 steals and 105
blocked shots). And, joining twenty other distinguished legends that
have had their number retired, his #35 will forever be observed and
honored in the rafters of the FleetCenter.