BOSTON -- The death of Reggie Lewis sent this city -- and the sports world -- into shock and mourning last night.
At a hastily called news conference late last night at the Boston Garden, Celtics president Dave Gavitt said: "The only thing I can say is that our hearts are very heavy tonight for Reggie Lewis and his family. Reggie Lewis was an outstanding basketball player, but more importantly, Reggie Lewis was an outstanding human being. He had so much to give to the community, to the Celtics and to his family."
Gavitt declined to answer any questions.
Said former Celtics great Dave Cowens: "I'm sort of in shock and deeply saddened that something like this happened. We all knew that Reggie had a problem. To find out is still a shock. He was a gem of a person. I don't think anyone could say anything bad about Reggie Lewis."
Donna Harris Lewis, who is expecting the couple's second child, was informed that her husband collapsed by Eddie Rice, a radio talk-show host and a friend of the Lewises. Donna Lewis thought Rice was making a social call and according to reports, she was telling him about her pregnancy when Rice broke in to tell of an "unconfirmed report" of her husband's collapse.
"I just feel bad right now for Donna and his family," the Celtics' Xavier McDaniel told the Boston Globe. "We have to pray to God that they'll be all right. Reggie was a great person, and as a player, he was coming into his own to be great. He's going to be missed by everybody.
"He was just a good person. I mean, for the short time we were together, you could tell that."
Said Celtics president Red Auerbach: "This is a terrible tragedy. I don't know how things like this happen. I had a hard time believing it when Dave Gavitt called."
The news of Lewis' death reverberated throughout the country, and fell like a thunderbolt in Baltimore.
"I'm just devastated," said Bob Wade, Lewis' coach at Dunbar. "He was taking it real slow and under doctor's care."
Said Herman Harried, a high school teammate of Lewis': "There's no reaction . . . just a cold reaction. I really don't know what to make of this. One minute, he's OK . . . the next minute, he's not."
Lewis, the Boston Celtics star who collapsed with a heart ailment during a playoff game last April, collapsed again while shooting baskets at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., late yesterday afternoon and was pronounced dead at 7:30 last night at Waltham-Weston Hospital.
Lewis had not worked out with his teammates since collapsing during a playoff game April 29. A team of 12 cardiologists at New England Baptist Hospital told him that he suffered from a severe form of heart disease that would endanger his life if he resumed playing basketball.
Lewis sought a second opinion and doctors at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston concluded that he suffered from a comparatively benign neural condition that could be successfully treated with drugs, allowing him to resume his athletic career.
"At the time we were glad because it seemed like a clean bill of health," said Bullets coach Wes Unseld.
Lynn Badham, an assistant coach with the 1983 Dunbar team, praised Lewis as a determined player who made the most of his abilities.
"That was the thing that we were so impressed with Reggie, that he always had the determination and the desire to succeed," Badham said.