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.

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.

Why we should all be rooting for the Boston Celtics to win the NBA Championship.

Let’s start with the obvious disclaimer that I’m a Celtics fan and I can’t stand the Los Angeles Lakers or Kobe Bryant. With that out of the way, let me explain why I think that the vast majority of basketball fans should be rooting for the Boston Celtics to win the NBA Championship this post season. If you’re a fan of one of the other three teams still remaining, you’re excused. We can all appreciate loyalty. Otherwise, your rooting interest should go to the Celtics for one very simple reason: Team.

The NBA has long pushed individual superstars. Whether it be Wilt, Magic, Bird, Michael, Kobe, or LeBron, the NBA has marketed individual greatness. It has ridden the back of individual superstars and turned them into marketing icons. For myself and I suspect at least some others, that emphasis on the individual has become a turn off – a gross and crass exuberance for the celebration of the selfish. Kobe Bryant and the media’s “LeBron Sweepstakes” obsession are the pinnacle of this trend. As great as Magic, Larry, and Michael were individually, the best thing about them was the way they helped spur their teams on to the greatest heights. Michael Jordan made Bill Wennington and an aging Bill Cartwright look like integral parts of championship teams. Kobe Bryant needed the individual skills of Shaq or Pau Gasol to help him win a championship. I actually hear complaints from Laker fans when Kobe doesn’t take enough shots. Wow.

Frankly, I’m sick of hearing about the “Black Mamba” and LeBron, and to my eyes, the Boston Celtics look like the antidote to a basketball culture that’s become all about “me.” The Celtics are so fun to watch right now because more than any other team they are winning by their combined talents. They buried LeBron James and the Cavaliers not with individually great performances (although Rajon Rondo’s impressive triple-double was just that), but by working together. To watch the Celtics pass the ball when their offense is running on all cylinders is a thing of beauty.

Watching three aging stars, a great young point guard, a tough center who does the little things, and a bench of misfits come together to shock the media darling teams has been a great pleasure, but more than anything, it represents a triumph of the team over the individual. Growing up, I was taught that team sports were about coming together to form a whole greater than the sum of the individual parts. That’s the Boston Celtics, and I for one hope they dispatch the Orlando Magic and go on to win the championship by proving that “we” is better than “me.”

You can keep Kobe, L.A. I’d rather have a team anyway.