BOSTON -- The widow of Boston Celtics captain Reggie Lewis said yesterday that, before he died, her husband had been scheduled to return to Baltimore next week to undergo a basketball stress test under a doctor's supervision to determine if he could continue his career.
In a statement read by Jerome Stanley, a California attorney who recently was rehired by Reggie Lewis to represent him, Donna Harris-Lewis said that even if her husband had passed the test, certain provisions would have had to have been made by the Celtics for the former Dunbar player to resume his career in Boston. A meeting with the Celtics had been scheduled for Aug. 10.
Lewis, 27, died after going into complete cardiac arrest while shooting baskets at the team's practice facility at nearby Brandeis University Tuesday afternoon. His death came less than three months after he collapsed during a playoff game against the Charlotte Hornets.
While funeral arrangements were not made public, Celtics executive vice president Dave Gavitt said yesterday that a "service" will be held Monday at 1 p.m. at Northeastern University's Matthews Arena, where Lewis rose from relative unknown to small-time college star to become the No. 1 draft choice of the Celtics in 1987. He was one of three former Dunbar players to be picked in the first round that year.
There also will be a memorial service Thursday in Baltimore, but the time and site have not been determined.
According to Harris-Lewis, the workout at an undisclosed location in Baltimore was to have been supervised by Dr. Gilbert Mudge, the Boston cardiologist who determined on May 10 that Lewis was suffering from a benign neurological problem that could be treated with medication rather than cardiomyopathy, the career-ending, life-threatening heart ailment that was the diagnosis of a team of 12 cardiologists and heart surgeons here a few days after the incident at Boston Garden.
The Boston Globe reported yesterday that Lewis and his wife had sought a third opinion last month from Dr. William G. $H Stevenson, a California cardiologist who is a specialist in disturbances in heart rhythm at the UCLA Medical Center. Stevenson, in consultation with three other Los Angeles cardiologists, had backed Mudge's opinion. But Stevenson also advised that any strenuous activity by Lewis should be monitored by a heart specialist.
"I agreed with the possibility that his episodes may have been due to neurocardiogenic syncope, but the diagnosis wasn't secure," Stevenson told the Globe. Stevenson said that there was no evidence of any definitive abnormality in terms of cardiac rhythm, but Harris-Lewis said her husband had "a distinctive abnormality in the Apex region of theheart," which could have caused Lewis to faint after physical exertion.
"Even if cleared to play, Reggie's advisers had decided, in conjunction with the third opinion, to allow Reggie to play only if the Celtics provided a defibrillator machine at all practices and games this season and provided a team cardiologist at all practices and games," Harris-Lewis said in a prepared statement that was released during an emotional news conference yesterday afternoon at the Celtics' offices.
"Reggie had not made his decision to return to basketball because his testing was not complete," said Harris-Lewis, who made it clear that her husband was fully aware of the growing conflict that resulted from the widely disparate opinions on his condition. "Reggie did everything that he could to avoid this day ever coming."
They went to California to get a third opinion. It was there that Dr. Stevenson concluded that Lewis shouldn't return to basketball until his heart was monitored during a competitive game setting.
"Reggie and I agreed with this direction," said Harris-Lewis, who did not attend the news conference and remained in seclusion at her home in suburban Dedham. "Reggie did not feel comfortable doing the competitive stress basketball evaluation at the Celtics' minicamp [earlier this month] because of the circus environment that it would have created so he planned to do the basketball testing under the supervision of Dr. Mudge next week in Baltimore. Until that time, Reggie would not and did not engage in any strenuous competitive basketball situations."
Harris-Lewis said that what her husband was doing Tuesday night -- shooting baskets -- was not in violation of "any of the doctors' opinion of safe activity" and that he had done similar things in recent weeks, activities that included shooting baskets and playing with their 10-month-old son, Reggie Jr. Harris-Lewis is pregnant with their second child.
There were early reports that Lewis had been preparing to play a pickup game Tuesday with members of the Northeastern basketball team, but they have not been verified.
Addressing her 3 1/2 -page statement to the "Fans, Friends and Supporters throughout Boston and the United States," Harris-Lewis said that "we have suffered a devastating and traumatic loss. Reggie was much more than one of the best basketball players in the world and the captain of the Boston Celtics. Reggie was one of the kindest and most gentle people ever to walk this earth. He was a loving husband, a doting father and a true friend to many."
That has been evident in what Gavitt called "an outpouring of concern and affection for Reggie and his family" since his death. It was certainly apparent yesterday at the Celtics' office, where everyone from the team's owner, Alan Cohen, to head coach Chris Ford to teammates Dee Brown and Rick Fox expressed their feelings for Lewis and the family he left behind. Few finished their statements without breaking down and even some in the media were wiping away tears by the end.
"Reggie Lewis, from my perspective, was a very special human being," said Gavitt, who along with his wife visited with Lewis' widow and family yesterday morning. "This terrible tragedy had to happen before the fans of Boston could show how they felt about Reggie. Those gentle touches of Reggie haven't been forgotten. It's his legacy that will live on forever."
Said Brown: "This is very tough for me still. This is the first time I've ever had a real close friend pass away. You don't know how to explain it. You go over it 1,000 times in your mind and you can't explain it. He was a different type of superstar. He was quiet. Not too many superstars are quiet. He did his talking on the court. Everything he did was from the heart."
Brown began to choke on his words as he recalled something that a lot of people have remembered about Lewis the past few days -- his smile. "That smile never went away," said Brown. "That's what I'll always remember from being around him. When things got bad, that smile was always there."
As Brown went on, the thoughts became tougher as he was overcome with emotion.
"It's hard for me to comprehend that Reggie won't be here tomorrow, that I won't be able to say hi to him," said Brown, weeping as he spoke. "I love you Reggie. I wish I could spend more time with you."
Fox, the team's No. 1 draft choice out of North Carolina last year, took the microphone as Gavitt went to console Brown. But Fox, nearly from the start, couldn't keep his grief from spilling out.
"Lots of things the last 48 hours, questions and questions, just no answers," said Fox. "I lost a good friend. I'm proud to say he led. We are proud he was our captain. This is hard because I know how great a person he was. I know how much he touched people's lives. I lost a brother."
Ford, who had not spoken publicly since Lewis died, recalled how many times he called plays designed for the team's leading scorer to take the ball to the basket, or post up along the baseline for one of his patented turnaround shots.
Ford spoke of Lewis' contribution to the city, about his care for those less fortunate. Both he and Gavitt said that some of Lewis' charitable activities, including giving out turkeys at Thanksgiving, will continue under the leadership of his widow.
"He was a Celtic, a captain. We will truly miss him," said Ford. "Donna, Reggie Jr. and their unborn child will be part of the Celtics family forever."
Flags will be flown at half-staff at all Maryland state buildings in memory of Reggie Lewis, the former Dunbar star.
Gov. William Donald Schaefer, who ordered flags flown at half-staff until Lewis' funeral, called the Celtics captain a great athlete and role model who "even after becoming a basketball star, was always there for his community."
Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said: "Reggie Lewis was one of the most outstanding young men ever to be graduated from Baltimore City Public Schools. He was a great role model and always gave generously of himself to young people of this city. . . . Our lives were blessed for even the short time he was with us."