Boston Drafts Reggie Lewis in the First Round
Reggie Lewis was picked22nd overall by the Boston Celtics in the first round of the 1987 NBA draft. His talent and work ethic displayed at Northeastern didn’t go unnoticed, even though it is a smaller college basketball program. In his rookie season, he averaged only 8.5 minutes and 4.5 PPG. With Boston’s Big 3 running the show, he would sit and watch like any other rookie and learn from the legends. Reggie’s second year was completely different. He played in 81 of 82 games, averaging 18.5 PPG and showing he could be the next great Celtic. As each year past, Lewis got better, becoming a fan favorite with his offense and defensive play. Reggie was quickly becoming a star in the NBA, which was on full display in the 90’s.
In March of the 91-92 season, Boston went up against the great Michael Jordan. Lewis was up for that challenge, famously blocking four of MJ’s shots. During that season, Lewis averaged a career high 20.8 PPG playing in all 82 games. He was the only Celtic to be represented in the All-Star game. By years end, Lewis became the only Celtic in history to have over 100 rebounds, 100 assists, 100 blocks, and 100 steals. In 1992, Lewis chosen as captain of the Celtics.
The Rise and Fall
Reggie Lewis entered the 1993 NBA playoffs against the Charlotte Hornets at home in the Boston Garden. In Game 1 of the first round, Lewis started the game shooting 7-11 and scoring 17 points until he collapsed on to the floor 13 minutes into the game. The fans waited in utter silence as Lewis eventually woke up. Unbelievably, Lewis tried to come back into the game. He played another 6 mins until the coaching staff had to get him off the floor. Those would be the last minutes he ever played in the NBA.
Reggie was taken after the game to New England Baptist Hospital to have tests done by 12 cardiologists. The Celtics called them a “dream team” of doctors. Reggie didn’t get the news he was hoping for as the doctors advised him of a heart condition that can be fatal. He was strongly advised to stop playing basketball. Reggie Lewis decided to seek a second opinion. He transferred to Brigham and women’s hospital for more testing. Dr. Gilbert Mudge disagreed with the first diagnosis Reggie received from the previous hospital, assuring the All-Star it wasn’t a heart condition and he could resume playing basketball with no limitations. Going with the second opinion, Reggie went to work on his jumper and on July 27th, 1993, Lewis collapsed to the floor and tragically passed away two hours later in the hospital.
Lewis was 27 years ols when he passed. But his memory will live forever through the Reggie Lewis track and athletic center. He will never be forgotten on the court. Number 35 will always be up above as the Celtics retired his number in 1995.