The end of the 80’s and the beginning of the 90’s meant the end of an era in Boston.
The Celtics dynasty of the 80’s was pretty much over, but it didn’t have to be. Tragedy ignited the succesful organization twice in a seven year span, when Len Bias and Reggie Lewis suddenly passed away. When a tragedy in sports happens, we are always left with the question; what if? What if Len and Reggie didn’t tragically pass away? Could they have ushered in a new era of C’s basketball?
Bias, who died of a cocaine overdose before playing a single game in Beantown, was a once in a life time talent. He is widely regarded as the first player able to beat you with grace and power. A small forward who could not only shoot over you, but dribble past you as well as finish with phenomenal strength at the rim.
During his final year at Maryland, Bias averaged 23 points a game while pulling down 7 rebounds a game. The former 2nd overall selection (1986) would have been added to a roster that already included the likes of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, Dennis Johnson, and current general manager Danny Ainge.
It’s granted that most of those legends where on the down slope of their respected careers, but regardless, the knowledge Bias could have gained from them is immeasurable.
Just a year after the tragic passing of Len Bias (1987), the Celtics held the 22nd pick in the NBA draft. The team selected a 6 foot 7 small forward out of Northeastern; Reggie Lewis. Lewis didn’t see much court time his rookie season, averaging only 8.3 minutes a game. Reggie’s second year was under new team coaching, and in the absence of a hall-of-famer; Larry Bird. The 1 time NBA All-Star (1992) went on to average 18.5 points a game his “sophomore” season. During number 35’s last two years as a member of the Celtics, he averaged 20 points a game and even went on to average 27+ points during the 1992 playoffs.
Lewis, who had shown symptoms of heart problems in proceeding months, died at age 27 after suddenly going into cardiac arrest during an offseason practice (1993).
There is no denying facts, the history of the Boston Celtics would look tremendously different if Bias and Lewis would not have left us so soon. The Chicago Bulls owned the 1990’s in the NBA, winning six championships. Could the Celtics, with the duo that never was, have had anything to say about that? Think about the match up, Michael Jordan vs. Bias, Scottie Pippen vs. Lewis. There is no way to tell if the Celtics could have been able to top Chicago, and even stripped one of those championships away from MJ.
It truthfully isn’t farfetched to think that with Bias and Lewis, holding onto veteran talent like Parish and Ainge, Boston could have had the best shot in the East at dethroning Chicago. Even if they couldn’t beat the Bulls, they might have just been able to rally past Hakeem Olajuwon’s Houston Rockets in both the ’94 and ’95 finals. This was when “Air Jordan” took his talents to baseball (no LeBron James “The Decision” joke intended).
But of course, the Celtics could have still been terrible. Len Bias could have been a bust or just an average NBA talent. Reggie Lewis could have gotten hurt and never lived up his all-star season of 1992.
–Warning: If crying is not your thing, don’t watch the following video. I have to admit, tears came from my eyes putting in this clip.
Never will basketball fans know just where these two young athletes could have taken the Celtics, we can only glare at the Garden’s parquet and imagine… “What if?”