Sports Law Blog
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Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Remembering Reggie Lewis and the Sports Law Issues that Followed his Death
Please Note: for an updated and expanded version of this post, see July 27, 2013 post: 20th Anniversary of Reggie Lewis Death & Its Sports Law Legacy**
Yesterday marked the 17th anniversary of the death of Reggie Lewis, an all-star Celtics guard/forward who died from a heart attack on July 27, 1993, at the age of 27.
Growing up right outside of Boston, I was a big Reggie Lewis fan. He's still one of my all-time favorite Celtics, maybe my favorite. In addition to terrific defense and all-out hustle, he averaged 21 points per game in each of his last two seasons (91-92 and 92-93) and in the 91-92 season did something that Larry Bird never accomplished -- he led his Celtics team in scoring, steals and blocked shots per game. As CelticsBlog highlights, Lewis, who was 6'7, also famously blocked Michael Jordan four times in one game.
Lewis had the unenviable task of following Bird as the next great Celtic. It was a task that, had Lenny Bias not died from a cocaine overdose the night the Celtics made him the 2nd overall pick in the 1986 NBA Draft, Lewis would have shared with another potential superstar and the Celtics probably would have gone on to be one of the best teams in the 90s.
But that didn't happen.
On April 29, 1993, Lewis collapsed during a playoff game in Boston against the Charlotte Hornets. A "dream team" of 12 Boston cardiologists concluded that Lewis had cardiomyopathy, also known as "athletes heart" and a potentially fatal condition whereby the heart becomes too thick and beats irregularly. I've written about cardiomyopathy in the context of Eddy Curry and Alan Milstein addressed it when he argued on behalf of Curry that the Chicago Bulls had no right to insist on a DNA test as a condition of Curry's employment.
The doctors told Lewis that his basketball career was over.
Lewis then received a second opinion from Dr. Gilbert Mudge, a cardiologist who as Time Magazine reported, diagnosed Lewis with neurocardiogenic syncope, "a fairly benign fainting condition caused by nerve irregularities during or after peak periods of exertion." At a press conference, Mudge said, "I am confident that under medical supervision Mr. Reggie Lewis will be able to return to professional basketball without limitations." Mudge's opinion was later supported by other cardiologists, though some disagreed and supported the original diagnosis instead.
It has been a shade more than three years since Celtics chairman of the board Paul Gaston threatened to sue the Wall Street Journal after the newspaper suggested drug abuse and team negligence may have contributed to the death of Reggie Lewis.For a really good video about Lewis, here's this tribute I found on Youtube: