November 21, 1965|
July 27, 1993 (aged 27)|
|Listed height||6 ft 7 in (2.01 m)|
|Listed weight||195 lb (88 kg)|
Paul Laurence Dunbar|
|NBA draft||1987 / Round: 1 / Pick: 22nd overall|
|Selected by the Boston Celtics|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Career NBA statistics|
|Points||7,902 (17.6 ppg)|
|Rebounds||1,938 (4.3 rpg)|
|Assists||1,153 (2.6 apg)|
|Stats at Basketball-Reference.com|
Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Lewis attended high school at Dunbar High School, where he played basketball alongside 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 in each of his 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 current Boston Celtics player P. J. Dozier, who wore the jersey number 35 as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder in honor of Lewis.
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 only 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 per game 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.
He averaged 20.8 points per game in each of his last two seasons with the Celtics, and finished with a career average of 17.6 points per contest.
His #35 jersey was retired by the Celtics as a memorial to him, making him one of only two Celtics to have a retired number without winning a championship. The other was Ed Macauley, who did win a championship with the St. Louis Hawks in 1958 and is a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Lewis suffered sudden cardiac death on the basketball court at an off-season practice on July 27, 1993, at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He was 27 years old. Lewis had shown symptoms of heart problems in the preceding months (including collapsing during the opening game of the Celtics' first-round playoff series with the Charlotte Hornets), and the cause of his death was subsequently attributed to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a structural heart defect that is considered the most common cause of death in young athletes. 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.
Following Lewis' death, it was alleged that Lewis had used cocaine, and that drug use may have been a contributing factor in his death. However, 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:
Whether Mr. Lewis died from a heart damaged by cocaine -- as many doctors suspected then and now -- cannot be definitively shown. What is evident: The official cause of death, a heart damaged by a common-cold virus, is a medically nonsensical finding by a coroner who was under intense pressure from the Lewis family to exclude any implication of drug use.
The Boston Celtics responded by expressing sadness about the "vicious attack on Reggie Lewis and his family", and threatened "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, and his son has a heart condition very similar to his father's.
After Lewis' death, the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center was opened in Roxbury, Boston. The center was funded partially by Lewis and routinely hosts 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, with the entirety of the remaining balance immediately erased from a team's salary cap charges (similar conditions are now part of contracts for players with career-ending medical issues, as was shown when the Miami Heat and the NBA's insurance carrier reached a deal to jointly pay Chris Bosh the full balance of his contract and removed 100% of the contract from the Heat's salary cap).
|GP||Games played||GS||Games started||MPG||Minutes per game|
|FG%||Field goal percentage||3P%||3-point field goal percentage||FT%||Free throw percentage|
|RPG||Rebounds per game||APG||Assists per game||SPG||Steals per game|
|BPG||Blocks per game||PPG||Points per game||Bold||Career high|
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