It should be another glorious event in the Boston Celtics' rich history--the retirement of Reggie Lewis' number on the night Michael Jordan returns to Boston Garden.
Instead, tonight's halftime ceremony celebrating Lewis' accomplishments as a player will be tainted by reports that his alleged use of cocaine might have contributed to his death.
"I know there's not a ring of truth" to the reports, Boston guard Dee Brown said after practice Tuesday. "I'll take to my grave (my feelings) about Reggie's character and what Reggie did as a person."
Brown will defend Jordan, who ended his retirement Sunday at Indiana, in the game against the Chicago Bulls. Brown was somber as he defended his former backcourt mate.
"If this was a regular night with Michael coming to town and Reggie getting his number retired it would have been great," he said. "It does put a damper on what's going on."
The Boston Globe on Tuesday quoted Derrick Lewis, a teammate of Reggie Lewis at Northeastern, as saying he and Reggie Lewis used cocaine in 1985 at a bathroom in a McDonald's restaurant with Len Bias, who died of a cocaine overdose two days after being drafted by the Celtics in 1986.
Derrick Lewis recanted those statements in an interview with WCVB-TV Tuesday night.
"I never got high with Reggie, no more than drinking beers," he said in a telephone interview with Boston's Channel 5.
"The Globe and all these reporters are coming down here bugging me, just to try to get some dirt on Reggie."
But the Globe stood by its story, saying its reporter had conducted a 2 1/2-hour taped interview initiated by Lewis last week.
The Wall Street Journal first reported that doctors felt heart damage in Reggie Lewis was consistent with cocaine use.
Lewis died July 27, 1993, the day he collapsed while shooting baskets at Brandeis University, where the Celtics practice. He first collapsed April 29, 1993 during a playoff game at the Garden against Charlotte.
Derrick Lewis was quoted by the Journal as saying he and Reggie Lewis had used cocaine five days before the initial collapse, but Tuesday night he also denied making that statement.
The Boston Herald on Tuesday quoted a self-professed New Bedford drug dealer Tuesday as saying he sold drugs to Reggie Lewis.
"The bombs keep falling, don't they?" Boston Coach Chris Ford said. "We don't know what's true, what's not at this point."
Lewis, who played six seasons for Boston and succeeded Larry Bird as captain in 1992-93, will be the 18th Celtic honored with a banner in the Garden rafters.
M.L. Carr, the Celtic director of basketball operations, defended the decision not to delay the ceremony.
"We'll go on with the special feelings and try to put him up there where he belongs," Carr said. "I've just never seen anyone give so fully of himself to a community."