Celtics swing man Reggie Lewis’ death happened on July 27th 1993.
In just six years as a pro, Lewis became one of the most beloved Celtics in team history.
The first word that comes to mind when watching Reggie Lewis play was smooth; he personified smoothness with everything he did on the court.
People that never saw Lewis play may wonder why he is still so revered 20 years after his death.
One reason is because he was good at every aspect of basketball; he had no weakness.
Another reason is because of the way he seamlessly integrated himself into an old, stiff Celtics lineup that needed some new blood but wasn’t ready to turn the historical page and usher in a completely new era.
Lewis was an old school player in a new school body, on the cusp of a new style of NBA. At 6-7, 195 he was what the future of the NBA looked like.
In his rookie year, 1987-88, Larry Bird was in his eighth year, Kevin McHale was in his seventh and both Dennis Johnson and Robert Parrish were in their 11th.
The ascension of Lewis’ career tracks along with the fall and then success of the Celtics.
In his first year, Lewis played sparingly and the Celtics went 57-25 and made it to the Eastern Conference finals where they lost to Detroit in six games.
Year two, Lewis played more thanks to Bird only playing six games, and he emerged on the scene by averaging 20.3 ppg, but the 42-40 Celtics were swept in round one of the playoffs.
Year three, Bird is healthy and Lewis proves the previous year wasn’t a fluke by averaging 17.3 ppg, Celtics go 52-30 but again lose in round one.
1991-92 was the best year of Lewis’ career. In addition to being the leading scorer (20.8), Lewis became the only player in Boston Celtics franchise history to have 100 rebounds, 100 assists, 100 steals, and 100 blocks in a single season.
Lewis was elected to the All-Star team, the only time in his career. Boston went 51-31 and again won a playoff series before being eliminated in round two.
His final season in the league, Lewis had truly emerged as the Celtics leader, again scoring 20.8 ppg and the Celtics made the playoffs again.
With Larry Bird gone, McHale and Parrish nearing the end, Lewis was THE hope for the future, the bridge between past Celtic success and continued success in the future.
Instead, Lewis suffered sudden cardiac death on the basketball court at an off-season practice on July 27, 1993, at Brandeis University in Massachusetts. He was only 27 years old.
Reggie Lewis death set the team back almost a decade.
The following season, the Celtics went 32-50 and would make the playoffs once in the ensuing eight seasons.
On March 22nd, 1995, the Celtics retired his #35.
For his career, Lewis averaged 17.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 2.6 apg and 1.3 spg.
RIP Reggie Lewis.