Reggie was on his way to being something really special. Here’s this talented guy who had never done anything wrong, who did so much for the city of Boston, and the next thing you know, he’s gone. – Michael Jordan
23 years ago today, the NBA lost a future great when 27-year-old Boston Celtic Reggie Lewis collapsed and died on a basketball court during an off-season practice. People tend to overrate the potential of players and loosely throw around the terms “future great” and “hall-of-fame potential” but I don’t think that’s the case at all with Reggie.
By the time he died, he was one of six players who, from 1988-93, posted at least 7,500 points, 1,500 rebounds, 1,000 assists, and 500 steals. The other five — Charles Barkley, Clyde Drexler, Michael Jordan, Karl Malone, and Chris Mullin — are all Hall of Famers
Now think about the fact that he spent the first couple years of his career playing with the BIG 3 of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish. During his sophomore season, Reggie was still able to average 18.5 points a game while the BIG 3 were averaging 19+ each.
Reggie finally broke the 20-point mark during his 5th season and it was his 5th season where he made the All-Star team and had the memorable four blocks on Michael Jordan (MJ did finish with 35 but on 12-36 shooting) game. It’s also when he made a name for himself in the playoffs, by blowing up for 36 points and 7 assists and 42 points and 5 steals against the Cavs and without the assistance of Larry Bird.
“He was on his way,” said Bird. “He was a gamer. He just came to play. That was it.”
That was it. Play is all I wanted to see from Reggie and in 1993, just a month after hearing about Drazen Petrovic’s death, there was Reggie Lewis on ESPN’s Sportscenter for the last reason I wanted to see him playing on my TV.
REGGIE VS MJ
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