Remembering Reggie Lewis

Reggie Lewis

Reggie Lewis, 1965-1993

For Celtics fans who were just discovering their love of basketball as Larry Bird’s career was winding down, our hopes came to rest on the slender shoulders of one Reggie Lewis. The lanky Lewis was born in Baltimore, Maryland. He played at legendary Dunbar High in Baltimore, but he played his college ball in Boston at Northeastern. So it only seemed fitting that the Boston Celtics made him their first round draft choice at 22nd overall in the 1987 draft, a mere year after the tragic death of Len Bias, the man who was supposed to serve as the bridge to future success as the careers of the original Big Three were winding down.

After an uneventful rookie year in which he saw little playing time, Reggie exploded as the Celtics 6th man in his second year. He became an all around great player very quickly. With a silky smooth shooting touch, fundamental passing skills, and the ability to both block shots and steal the ball as a swingman, Reggie had game. An Eastern Conference All Star in 1992, Reggie Lewis became the Captain of the Celtics after Bird’s retirement. Reggie Lewis was the future of the Celtics. Unfortunately, Reggie’s years in Celtic green proved too brief, as the Celtics were once again struck by tragedy.

On April 29, 1993 Reggie Lewis collapsed while running the court at the Boston Garden during the first game of a first round playoff series against the Charlotte Hornets. Reggie Lewis never played another NBA game. I have no desire to rehash the medical drama that played out after Lewis collapsed. I understood at the time why Lewis wanted a second opinion, and I understand why the first team of doctors wanted no part of clearing him to play. I can forgive Dr. Gilbert Mudge for being human and wrong in his second opinion that suggested Lewis would be able to play again. Unfortunately, some times tragedies happen, and there is nothing anyone can do to stop them.

I was in my parent’s basement watching television on the night of Tuesday, July 27, 1993 when a news flash announced that an NBA All Star had passed away. I knew immediately that it was Reggie Lewis. I could feel it. My worst suspicions were confirmed when the News came on and announced that Reggie Lewis had collapsed on a basketball court at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. Reggie Lewis was dead, and for the first time as a young teenager, I began to truly understand the nature of tragedy. It comes without warning and it can strike down the best of us.

All of the recriminations and speculation that followed both fascinated and pained me. Had Lewis used cocaine? Was there something that could have been done to prevent his tragic death? None of it matters really. We’ll never know how good Reggie Lewis could have been, and the Celtics suffered for years in the aftermath of his unexpected death. His wife and his two young children – one at the time still unborn – were the ones who really had to suffer the full force of his tragic death. My heart went out to them.

Reggie Lewis died 17 years ago today. His number 35 is retired and hanging in the rafters of the new Boston Garden, and he will always have a place within the Celtic family. Our time watching Reggie play may have been too short, but what a time it was. Rest in peace, Reggie.

Only in Baseball . . .

As a long-time Red Sox fan, I love the sport of baseball. Being in Boston in 2004 and celebrating in the streets when they came back to beat the Yankees and then again when they beat the Cardinals in the World Series ranks among my favorite moments. Still, I sometimes can not help but cringe at some of the stranger rules and regulations embraced by the sport.

Take last night’s Dodgers game, in which Don Mattingly, filling in as manager for the ejected Joe Torre, may have cost his team the game by stepping back on the dirt of the mound after speaking with closer Jonathan Broxton. An obscure baseball rule dictates that a manager’s visit to the mound ends when he steps of the mound, even though it begins when he crosses the foul line on to the field of play. So, by stepping back on the mound, Mattingly was visiting the mound for the “2nd” time, and as a result, Broxton had to be removed from the game. The Giants went on to win the game and Mattingly’s gaffe became fodder for this post.

Here is my problem with all of this; baseball is a sport, and it should be about competition between the players, not obscure, silly rulings. While there is no guarantee that the Dodgers would have held on and beaten the Giants if Broxton had not been removed, it seems silly that they were denied his further services over something seemingly so trivial. Major League Baseball would do well to eliminate these sorts of issues, because I’m going to bet that a lot of people want to see the games won by the players rather than influenced by rules arcana. Only in baseball . . .

Once and Future King?


NBA Star LeBron James

Good to be the "King."


Adrian Wojnarowski’s thought provoking article, State of LeBron: Live at 9, from his ego, illuminates exactly what’s gone wrong in the NBA under the watch of NBA Commissioner David Stern. The celebration of individual greatness has become an ode to the narcissistic young stars who are told how special they are from the moment their talent emerges, and lost in that sea of greed, ego, and excess is a sport that at its best can be an elegant celebration of the collective, a song to the power of the whole rather than the individual.

Credit David Stern for growing the league in the aftermath of the Magic-Bird era, but make no mistake that his calculated efforts to push the admiration of great individual performances has poisoned the NBA. Great as Michael Jordan was, and as much as he saved the league in an hour of need, his legacy has now been twisted into one that tells the young superstars of today it’s okay for them to make it all about themselves.

Cameras follow Chris Bosh around to record his free agency experience and LeBron James has the audacity to schedule an hour-long special on ESPN to announce his decision about where he will continue his basketball career. Perhaps the most amusing twist of all  is that LeBron now looks as though he may sign in Miami to join Dwayne Wade and Bosh so that the three of them might unite for a championship. Apparently it takes more than a self-inflated ego to win the NBA’s ultimate prize.

As a Celtics fan, I watch the circus that surrounds LeBron James and his cohorts, and I contrast it with the simple, quiet manner in which both Paul Pierce and Ray Allen resigned with the Boston Celtics. Maybe Pierce and Allen are over the hill. Maybe the Celtics window is closed. Whatever the truth of the matter, Pierce and Allen can finish their careers with dignity, knowing that their sacrifices for the greater good of the team brought them at least one championship and a chance at another.

Here’s to hoping that maybe one day LeBron James can learn that its not just about it him. Maybe then he can truly be the King that he proclaims to be.

I Spy, You Spy

Well, recent news of the arrest by the United States government of 12 people accused of spying for Russia has to be one of the more surreal news moments of recent memory. This is the sort of thing you expect to read about in fiction or see on a television show of the scripted variety.

Emerging reports indicate that the accused spies hid the information they were sending in digital pictures. Apparently this sort of thing has been a fear of counter-intelligence types for quite awhile. In a way, it really is quite brilliant. Hiding messages in the digital code of a picture without altering the image itself allows only those who know there is something more too look for to find the information. As the linked news article points out, file sizes limit how much information can be transmitted this way, but it just goes to show that even with the Cold War a thing of the past, a spy’s work is never done.

Now where’s James Bond when we need him?