Reggie Lewis
Reggie Lewis Celtics headshot.jpg
Reggie Lewis portrait from the Celtics yearbook
Personal information
Born(1965-11-21)November 21, 1965
Baltimore, Maryland
DiedJuly 27, 1993(1993-07-27) (aged 27)
Waltham, Massachusetts
Listed height6 ft 7 in (2.01 m)
Listed weight195 lb (88 kg)
Career information
High schoolPaul Laurence Dunbar
(Baltimore, Maryland)
CollegeNortheastern (1983–1987)
NBA draft1987 / Round: 1 / Pick: 22nd overall
Selected by the Boston Celtics
Playing career1987–1993
PositionShooting guard
Career history
19871993Boston Celtics
Career highlights and awards
Career NBA statistics
Points7,902 (17.6 ppg)
Rebounds1,938 (4.3 rpg)
Assists1,153 (2.6 apg)
Stats Edit this at Wikidata at
Stats Edit this at Wikidata at

Reginald C. Lewis (November 21, 1965 – July 27, 1993) was an American professional basketball player for the National Basketball Association's Boston Celtics from 1987 to 1993.[1]

Early life

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Lewis attended high school at Dunbar High School, where he played basketball alongside future NBA players Muggsy Bogues and David Wingate. 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.[2]

College career

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 all 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.[3] He was a second cousin of PJ Dozier, who wore the jersey number 35 as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder in honor of Lewis.[4]

Professional career

Boston Celtics (1987–1993)

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.[5]

As a rookie, Lewis played sporadically, averaging 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 Bird), Lewis averaged over 30 minutes 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 in 1992. He played 15 minutes, scoring 7 points and grabbing 4 rebounds.

Lewis averaged 20.8 points in each of his last two seasons with the Celtics, and finished with a career average of 17.6 points per contest.[6]

His no. 35 jersey was retired by the Celtics, making him one of only two Celtics to have a retired number without winning a championship with the team, the other player being Ed Macauley.[7]

On April 29, 1993, in Game 1 of the Celtics' playoff series against the Charlotte Hornets, Lewis suddenly collapsed on the court and remained on the ground for several seconds. After he finally got up, he looked perplexed and dazed as he headed to the Celtics bench. Lewis returned briefly to the game but was eventually pulled due to dizziness and shortness of breath. He left the game having scored 17 points in 13 minutes of action in what turned out to be his final NBA game.[8]

The following day, Lewis checked into New England Baptist Hospital, where he underwent a series of tests by more than a dozen heart specialists, who the Celtics called their "dream team" of doctors. Lewis was diagnosed with "focal cardiomyopathy", a disease of the heart muscle that can cause irregular heartbeat and heart failure. Lewis was told his condition was most likely career-ending. However, he later sought a second opinion from Dr. Gilbert Mudge at Brigham and Women's Hospital, who diagnosed Lewis with neurocardiogenic syncope, a less serious non-fatal condition instead. As a result, Lewis began working out in preparation for returning for the 1994 season. Mudge was later cleared of any wrongdoing, and he insisted he had never authorized Lewis to resume workouts.[9]


On July 27, 1993, during off-season practice at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, Lewis suffered sudden cardiac death on the basketball court at the age of 27 years old. 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.[10]

Lewis is buried in an unmarked grave in Forest Hills Cemetery in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts.[11]

His death was attributed to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a structural heart defect that is the most common cause of death in young athletes.[12][13]


Following Lewis' death, questions were raised about whether he had used cocaine, and whether cocaine use had contributed to his death.[14][15][16] 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.[17]

The Boston Celtics responded by expressing sadness about the "vicious attack on Reggie Lewis and his family" and threatening "to file a $100 million lawsuit against the reporter, The Wall Street Journal and its parent company, Dow Jones and Co. Inc."[18] 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."[19] 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."[20][21] Also, Lewis's heart tissue tested positive for adenovirus during his autopsy.[22]

After Lewis' death, the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center was opened in Roxbury, Boston. The center was funded partially by Lewis and has hosted major indoor track and field competitions, the Boston Indoor Games, home basketball games for Roxbury Community College, and Northeastern University track and field events.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

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 if 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.[23] The rules have since been changed so that a similar case would result in a deceased player's contract being paid by league insurance.[24]

NBA career statistics

  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

Regular season

1987–88 Boston 49 0 8.3 .466 .000 .702 1.3 .5 .3 .3 4.5
1988–89 Boston 81 57 32.8 .486 .136 .787 4.7 2.7 1.5 .9 18.5
1989–90 Boston 79 54 31.9 .496 .267 .808 4.4 2.8 1.1 .8 17.0
1990–91 Boston 79 79 36.4 .491 .077 .826 5.2 2.5 1.2 1.1 18.7
1991–92 Boston 82 82 37.4 .503 .238 .851 4.8 2.3 1.5 1.3 20.8
1992–93 Boston 80 80 39.3 .470 .233 .867 4.3 3.7 1.5 1.0 20.8
Career 450 352 32.6 .488 .200 .824 4.3 2.6 1.3 .9 17.6
All-Star 1 0 15.0 .429 .500 4.0 2.0 1.0 7.0


1988 Boston 12 0 5.8 .382 .000 .600 1.3 .3 .3 .2 2.4
1989 Boston 3 3 41.7 .473 .000 .692 7.0 3.7 1.7 .0 20.3
1990 Boston 5 5 40.0 .597 .000 .771 5.0 4.4 1.4 .4 20.2
1991 Boston 11 11 42.0 .487 .000 .824 6.2 2.9 1.1 .5 22.4
1992 Boston 10 10 40.8 .528 .333 .762 4.3 3.9 2.4 .8 28.0
1993 Boston 1 1 13.0 .636 .000 .750 2.0 1.0 .0 1.0 17.0
Career 42 30 30.4 .510 .133 .777 4.2 2.6 1.2 .5 17.5

See also


  1. ^ Joe Gill (March 30, 2010). "Fallen Celtic: Remembering Reggie Lewis". Bleacher Report. Retrieved February 19, 2020.
  2. ^ "Dunbar High: Brick House". SLAM Online. September 21, 2007. Archived from the original on June 3, 2010. Retrieved December 9, 2008.
  3. ^ Knapp, Gwen (July 29, 1993). "The Reggie Lewis Aftermath Boston Mourns, Puzzles And Opines Over Celtics Star's Death". Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved May 21, 2015.
  4. ^ Doxy, Andrew (August 3, 2018). "Celtics sign PJ Dozier to a two-way contract". CelticsBlog. Retrieved August 5, 2018.
  5. ^ Mike B. (January 16, 2010). "With Len Bias-Reggie Lewis Duo, Boston Celtics Could Have Owned 1990s". Bleacher Report. Retrieved February 19, 2020.
  6. ^ "Reggie Lewis". National Basketball Association. Retrieved February 19, 2020.
  7. ^ Tommy McArdle (February 21, 2019). "Every retired number for the Celtics and who wore it". Retrieved February 19, 2020.
  8. ^ "MacMullan: Remembering Reggie Lewis". July 26, 2013.
  9. ^ "To those who knew Reggie Lewis best, fond memories are always front and center". The Boston Globe.
  10. ^ Robbins, Liz (July 23, 2009). "Officer Defends Arrest of Harvard Professor". The New York Times. Archived from the original on June 3, 2010. Retrieved June 3, 2010.
  11. ^ Reggie Lewis at Find a Grave
  12. ^ Christine Gorman (August 9, 1993). "Did Reggie Lewis Have to Die?". Time. Archived from the original on May 1, 2008. Retrieved May 22, 2010.
  13. ^ Halley, Jim (May 22, 2008). "Young athletes urged to get screened for heart trouble". USA Today. Retrieved May 22, 2010.
  14. ^ "Report: Doctors Suspected That Cocaine Killed Celtics' Lewis". The Seattle Times. AP. March 9, 1995. Archived from the original on September 26, 2012.
  15. ^ Alicia C. Shepard. "The Journal's Reggie Lewis Bombshell". American Journalism Review. Archived from the original on June 3, 2010.
  16. ^ "Cocaine claim could spur insurance probe". The Boston Globe. The Baltimore Sun. February 7, 1999. Archived from the original on July 23, 2011.
  17. ^ Suskind, Ron (March 9, 1995). "Deadly Silence: How the Inner Circles, Of Medicine and Sports, Failed a Stricken Star". The Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on January 4, 2011. Retrieved February 15, 2018.
  18. ^ "Report: Doctors Suspected That Cocaine Killed Celtics' Lewis". The Seattle Times. AP. March 9, 1995. Archived from the original on September 26, 2012. Retrieved November 26, 2012.
  19. ^ "Report: Doctors Suspected That Cocaine Killed Celtics' Lewis". CBS News. February 5, 1999. Retrieved February 15, 2018.
  20. ^ "No signs of drug use". CNN. May 17, 1999. Archived from the original on June 3, 2010.
  21. ^ "Doctors: Drugs Did Not Kill Reggie Lewis". Los Angeles Times. March 29, 1995. Archived from the original on June 3, 2010.
  22. ^ Suskind, Ron (March 9, 1995). "Deadly Silence: How the Inner Circles, Of Medicine and Sports, Failed a Stricken Star". Archived from the original on January 4, 2011. Retrieved February 12, 2020.
  23. ^ "At Face Value, Board Makes Celtics Pay For Their Success". Hartford Courant. November 14, 1992.
  24. ^ "Bosh, Heat part ways over year after last game".