Naismith exhibit honors three deceased players

June 09, 1994|By Ron Borges | Ron Borges,Boston Globe

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Reggie Lewis made the Hall of Fame yesterday.

The Baltimore-born former captain of the Boston Celtics was among three players honored in a memorial service marking the opening of a six-month exhibition at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, an exhibit that came wrapped in sadness.

Lewis, Drazen Petrovic of the New Jersey Nets and Eric Koszalka, a sportswriter with the Springfield Union and the center on Springfield Central High's 1987 state championship basketball team, all had their lives cut short in the past year, and the Hall decided their passing should not go unnoticed.

With that in mind, Hall president Joe O'Brien and his staff put together yesterday's ceremony.

A recurrent heart problem resulted in Lewis' death last July during a routine workout. The former Baltimore Dunbar High star was 28.

Petrovic was killed in a car accident in Germany last summer. He, too, was only 28.

Koszalka lost his battle with Marfan syndrome, a genetic disorder of the connective tissues that can affect the heart, in March. He was but 23.

So yesterday a moment was taken to remember them.

"In the quietest sort of way, Reggie made the loudest noise I'd ever heard," said Lewis' former coach at Northeastern, Jim Calhoun. "He set a standard for how you should play and how you should live."

It was a standard that was honored yesterday in the presence of his wife, Donna Harris Lewis, Calhoun, Nets general manager Willis Reed and half an auditorium full of Koszalka's friends.

At one point, Calhoun spoke eloquently of a picture of Lewis he still keeps on the wall across from his desk at the University of Connecticut, a picture that hangs there to remind him about what is truly important about basketball.

"At 52 years of age, Reggie Lewis is my hero," Calhoun said. "I put that picture there to remind myself of someone very special."

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