On July 28, Comcast SportsNet will look back -- with teammates, coaches and family -- at the basketball life of Reggie Lewis, 20 years after his passing. For more on Reggie, visit csnne.com for a new story each day this week. Remember Reggie is presented by your New England Ford Dealers.
On March 22, 1995, Reggie Lewis became the 18th player to have his number retired by the Boston Celtics, but was the first to have it done posthumously. Of course, that’s because Lewis passed away 20 months earlier, after collapsing on the court at Brandeis University.
Reggie Lewis Night was obviously a bittersweet occasion for the Lewis family, the organization, the fans and everyone who had been associated with Reggie. It was an opportunity to celebrate all that he accomplished in his time with the Celtics but to also mourn how depressingly brief that time was.
Adding to the emotion were rampant rumors and speculation surrounding the role that drugs may have played in Lewis’ death. In fact, at the time, some wondered if the ceremony should be postponed until there was more clarity on the subject. But the Celtics stuck to schedule, and raised No. 35 to the rafters before a 124-107 loss to MJ and the Bulls.
“In my heart, I believe Reggie was an upstanding man,” Larry Bird told the crowd, “a man's man.” Bird was one of the many Celtic greats in attendance, along with Dennis Johnson, Red Auerbach, emcee Tommy Heinsohn and then-GM M.L. Carr. But the most emotional tribute was courtesy of Lewis’ widow, Donna, who read an original poem called “Believe What Your Own Eyes See.”
It concluded with the line: “Character is one thing that never dies. Let's not believe these harmful lies.”
And whether or not the fans in attendance truly did believe the rumors about Lewis, for one night no one cared.
As Lewis finished her poem, chants of “Reggie! Reggie!” filled the Garden and No. 35 joined the Nos. 3, 32 and 33 on Boston’s most recent banner.