fbpx
NBA

The Death Of A Dream, 31 Years Later: Len Bias

31 years? It still seems and feels like yesterday. 

Len Bias’ death would become the most socially influential moment in the history of modern sports. Back then, I simply felt pain and loss. I’d never been hurt to that extent before, at the passing of someone I’d only been in the presence of for a mere few seconds.

***

I remember that NBA draft in June of 1986 like it was yesterday. It was a beautiful Tuesday in New York City, a pretty, blue sky welcoming the start of summer vacation that was symbolic of the wide expanse of the promise that lay ahead.

Id spent the morning hours squeezing off some jump shots and playing the NYC playground game we call Utah  at the courts behind P.S. 11 on Greene Avenue in Brooklyn, as MC Shan and The Bridge leaped out of a nearby boombox.

After a quick trip to the barbershop a few blocks away on Grand Avenue, my cousin and I hopped on the A-train, which had us in front of Madison Square Gardens Felt Forum, on Eighth Avenue between 32nd and 33rd Streets in Manhattan, in less than 30 minutes.

The doors were closed. They werent letting anybody else in the Garden to watch the NBA Draft. But a set of speakers were set up outside, giving us the audio of what was going on inside. So we mingled on the sidewalk with all the other hoop fiends, talking about the players, what the various teams needed, and of course, the moves that our New York Knicks needed to make.

It was a wonderful feeling standing out there with the other basketball junkies, young and old alike.

We were also a little extra excited to see where our hometown products and neighborhood superheroes like Syracuses Dwayne Pearl Washington, St. Johns Walter The Truth Berry and Georgia Techs John Spider Salley would wind up.

The crowd was a mix of serious young ballers sporting their Bronx Gauchos or Riverside Church Hawks practice jerseys, suited businessmen whod slipped out the office for an extended lunch break, and fat guys who smelled like hot dogs, knishes, mustard and relish dressed in full Knicks regalia.

Image title

(Photo Credit: cleveland.com)

In the midst of the excited sidewalk banter, the sound of honking horns and the standard workday hustle and bustle of a mid-town Manhattan street, after the Cleveland Cavaliers selected Brad Daugherty with the top overall pick, there was a noticeable hush to the conversations.

And Im rather certain that every Knicks fan was mumbling the same thing I was. Please dont take him. Please dont take him. PLEASE!

And with the second pick of the 1986 NBA draft, Commissioner David Sterns voice floated out of the speakers and over the perpetual honking of taxi cabs on Eighth Avenue, the Boston Celtics select Len Bias from the University of Maryland.

We all sighed.

Loving Lennys game, the majority of the crowd momentarily stared at the sidewalk and shook our collective heads, knowing that Boston, whod just won the NBA championship, was now indestructible. The show in the Boston Garden would go on unimpeded.

And I knew I was in for some serious self-reflection, for there was no way, with him on their team, that I could hate the Celtics with the same vehemence ever again.

Moments later, he came out of the building. Resplendent in his shiny white suit, Lenny B looked like he was walking on sunshine. And I couldnt help but be in awe. He slapped five with some of us youngsters, and then slinked off into a waiting limo.

And then, he was dead.

***

Leonard Kevin Bias was, unequivocally, the greatest talent I ever saw in the ACC. He mightve been the best forward to ever grace the college game. He was easily the most dynamic college player Id ever seen.

Image title

(Photo Credit: theshoegame.com)

And like everyone else with a love and infatuation with our beautiful game, we experienced an indescribable sadness in the summer of 86 when he died. On that day, the sports world stood still.

Even now, all of us who lived through the Len Bias tragedy will never be the same.

With an otherworldly flight game, immense physical stature and an ability to create beautiful symphonies with his bizarre combination of strength, size, coordination and skills, Len Bias skill set embodied the direction that the game was heading in.

He was the sign on the basketball highway that said, Exit 6 LeBron James 1000 miles ahead.

After his senior year at Northwestern High School in Silver Spring, Maryland, Bias struggled with the initial adjustment to college basketball. But in the final game of his freshman year, he held his own against Clyde Drexler and the University of Houstons exceptional Phi Slamma Jamma team.

He returned for his sophomore season in 1984 as a man on a mission. He scored 26 against Duke in the ACC Championship and was named the conference tournaments MVP. As a junior, he was recognized as ACC player of the Year. As a senior in 1986, he won the award again, in addition to making every First Team All-American squad imaginable.

His signature moment came during his senior year, at the Dean Dome against the University of North Carolina. Hed already torched Duke for a scintillating 41 points a month prior. In Marylands 77-72 upset of the superior Tar Heels, Bias scored 31 points. It was North Carolinas first loss in their sparkling new basketball palace.

Near the end of that tight game, Bias splashed the nets with another smooth jumper. On the inbounds pass, he jumped Kenny Smith, seemingly from out of nowhere, stole the ball and went straight up in one fluid motion to deliver whats been called The Jesus Dunk.

Rocketing off the floor, he spun, threw it down backwards with two hands and then extended his arms on the descent back to earth.  

God was with us tonight, said one of his teammates. And God was Lenny Bias.

But Bias, we would soon find out, was not some superman who was immune to lifes disasters while solely soaking in its triumphs. A few short months after The Jesus Dunk, after being selected by the Celtics with the #2 pick in the 1986 draft, he was gone.  

***

As the sordid details of his drug experimentation and last moments came to light, the mistakes of one young man took on an amazing significance. The death of Len Bias forced America to examine, not only its institutions of higher basketball and their educational deficiencies, but also the drug culture as a whole.

Image title

(Photo Credit: pinterest.com)

In the aftermath, academic standards were raised and athletic departments were subject to much more control and oversight. The poor choices of one phenomenal 22-year-old player who died of a drug overdose indicted the hypocritical infrastructure of college sports. But the outcry was only momentary.

If it hadnt been Lenny, and it hadnt been right after the draft, and it hadnt been the Celtics, nobody would have noticed, a longtime Maryland official told Michael Weinreb, author of the fantastic ESPN piece, The Day Innocence Died. I guess thats the good that came out of it.

America couldnt stop thinking about Len Bias, even twenty three years later in 2009 when the 30 for 30 documentary “Without Bias” (Executive Produced by TSL CEO Keith Clinkscales) debuted to much fanfare and acclaim.

Back in the summer of 1986, Congress knee jerk reaction was a set of draconian drug conspiracy laws that demanded mandatory minimum sentences. In a matter of hours, Americas drug problem, viewed through the lens of the Len Bias tragedy, was THE issue in the powerful corridors of the nations capital.

The politicians smelled opportunity and got caught up in the semantics of the prime time drama. Then, Cleveland Browns safety Don Rogers died a similar death, which served to validate the brewing political storm.

Hence, you have todays current state of low-level drug offenders serving more prison time than convicted murderers.

The impact of Len Bias death is still being felt by those who have no idea who he is.

And for those of us who saw him play, who knew what he couldve become, who understood that he was the rarest of talents, were still shaken back to the sadness of June in 1986 whenever we think of a young man whose poor choices cost him the gift of a charmed life.

Tags

Related Articles

86 Comments

  1. Good web site! I really love how it is easy on my eyes and the data are well written. I’m wondering how I might be notified when a new post has been made. I have subscribed to your RSS which must do the trick! Have a nice day!

  2. Terrific paintings! That is the kind of info that are supposed to be shared around the net. Disgrace on Google for no longer positioning this put up higher! Come on over and visit my site . Thank you =)

  3. Hi there. I found your website by the use of Google even as searching for a comparable matter, your site got here up. It looks great. I have bookmarked it in my google bookmarks to come back then.

  4. Hello, Neat post. There is a problem along with your website in internet explorer, could test this¡K IE nonetheless is the market chief and a huge component to other folks will miss your great writing due to this problem.

  5. Hi there I am so delighted I found your weblog, I really found you by mistake, while I was searching on Digg for something else, Anyways I am here now and would just like to say cheers for a remarkable post and a all round enjoyable blog (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time to look over it all at the moment but I have book-marked it and also added in your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back to read a lot more, Please do keep up the fantastic work.

  6. I love your blog.. very nice colors & theme. Did you design this website yourself or did you hire someone to do it for you? Plz respond as I’m looking to construct my own blog and would like to find out where u got this from. thanks a lot

  7. Hiya, I am really glad I have found this information. Nowadays bloggers publish just about gossip and net stuff and this is actually frustrating. A good website with interesting content, that is what I need. Thanks for making this site, and I will be visiting again. Do you do newsletters by email?

  8. I like what you guys are up too. Such clever work and reporting! Keep up the excellent works guys I¡¦ve incorporated you guys to my blogroll. I think it will improve the value of my website 🙂

  9. Very goodAmazingAwesomeSuperbWonderfulFantasticExcellentGreat blog! Do you have any recommendationshintstips and hintshelpful hintssuggestionstips for aspiring writers? I’m planninghoping to start my own websitesiteblog soon but I’m a little lost on everything. Would you proposeadvisesuggestrecommend starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option? There are so many choicesoptions out there that I’m totallycompletely confusedoverwhelmed .. Any recommendationssuggestionsideastips? Thanks a lotBless youKudosAppreciate itCheersThank youMany thanksThanks!

  10. hey there and thanks for your information – I’ve certainly picked up something new from proper here. I did however expertise several technical points the usage of this site, since I skilled to reload the site many times prior to I could get it to load correctly. I were brooding about in case your web host is OK? Now not that I’m complaining, however sluggish loading circumstances times will often impact your placement in google and could harm your high-quality ranking if ads and with Adwords. Well I am including this RSS to my e-mail and could glance out for a lot more of your respective intriguing content. Ensure that you replace this once more very soon..

  11. This is really interesting, You are a very skilled blogger. I’ve joined your feed and look forward to seeking more of your fantastic post. Also, I’ve shared your web site in my social networks!

  12. Hi there, just became aware of your blog through Google, and found that it is truly informative. I’m gonna watch out for brussels. I’ll be grateful if you continue this in future. Lots of people will be benefited from your writing. Cheers!

  13. What i don’t understood is actually how you are not really much more smartly-liked than you might be right now. You’re very intelligent. You know thus significantly when it comes to this topic, produced me in my view believe it from numerous numerous angles. Its like women and men don’t seem to be involved unless it is something to accomplish with Lady gaga! Your personal stuffs outstanding. All the time maintain it up!

  14. Howdy would you mind letting me know which hosting company you’re using? I’ve loaded your blog in 3 different browsers and I must say this blog loads a lot quicker then most. Can you suggest a good hosting provider at a honest price? Cheers, I appreciate it!

  15. Заставьте ее обидеться на вас, например,изобразите поездку на море в компании друзей, которые берут с собой девушек, а послевозвращения (реального или мнимого) не звоните и не откликайтесь на звонки

  16. Hello there. I discovered your blog by way of Google at the same time as looking for a comparable subject, your site came up. It appears great. I’ve bookmarked it in my google bookmarks to come back then.

  17. Great post. I was checking continuously this blog and I am impressed! Extremely useful information particularly the last part 🙂 I care for such information much. I was looking for this certain information for a very long time. Thank you and good luck.

  18. I’m truly enjoying the design and layout of your site. It’s a very easy on the eyes which makes it much more enjoyable for me to come here and visit more often. Did you hire out a developer to create your theme? Excellent work!

  19. whoah this blog is wonderful i love reading your posts. Stay up the great paintings! You know, lots of individuals are hunting round for this info, you can aid them greatly.

  20. I am now not sure the place you are getting your info, but great topic. I must spend a while learning much more or working out more. Thanks for wonderful information I used to be on the lookout for this information for my mission.

  21. Hey there just wanted to give you a quick heads up. The text in your post seem to be running off the screen in Chrome. I’m not sure if this is a formatting issue or something to do with web browser compatibility but I figured I’d post to let you know. The design look great though! Hope you get the issue solved soon. Thanks

  22. милых и обаятельных украинок, пышногрудых армянок и соблазнительных таджичек. Позвольте себе полностью раскрепоститься с ослепительной иностранкой, которую желают все русские мужчины. Эта ночь запомнится вам на всю жизнь и доставит море приятных ощущений.

  23. I have to voice my admiration for your kind-heartedness supporting visitors who actually need guidance on your situation. Your special dedication to passing the message along has been certainly practical and has without exception permitted associates like me to reach their dreams. Your new informative instruction implies much to me and much more to my colleagues. Regards; from all of us.

  24. I was just looking for this info for a while. After six hours of continuous Googleing, finally I got it in your website. I wonder what is the lack of Google strategy that do not rank this kind of informative websites in top of the list. Normally the top sites are full of garbage.

  25. I definitely wanted to type a brief remark so as to say thanks to you for those stunning facts you are giving out at this site. My long internet search has at the end of the day been compensated with reasonable content to go over with my visitors. I would admit that we readers are undoubtedly lucky to dwell in a perfect site with very many marvellous professionals with good plans. I feel very grateful to have encountered your web page and look forward to so many more cool times reading here. Thank you once again for a lot of things.

  26. I do consider all of the concepts you have presented on your post. They are very convincing and can definitely work. Still, the posts are too brief for novices. Could you please prolong them a bit from subsequent time? Thank you for the post.

  27. Hiya, I’m really glad I have found this info. Nowadays bloggers publish just about gossip and internet stuff and this is actually frustrating. A good web site with interesting content, that’s what I need. Thank you for making this web site, and I’ll be visiting again. Do you do newsletters by email?

  28. As I web-site possessor I believe the content matter here is rattling excellent , appreciate it for your hard work. You should keep it up forever! Best of luck.

  29. Very nice post. I just stumbled upon your weblog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed browsing your blog posts. In any case I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon!

  30. I and my pals ended up looking through the best suggestions on your site and quickly I got a terrible suspicion I had not thanked the website owner for those secrets. All of the women became consequently excited to read through them and have in effect very much been tapping into them. Appreciate your being indeed considerate as well as for pick out this sort of extraordinary subject matter most people are really desirous to be informed on. My sincere regret for not expressing appreciation to earlier.

  31. Hello there. I discovered your web site by means of Google while searching for a similar subject, your site got here up. It appears to be great. I’ve bookmarked it in my google bookmarks to come back then.

  32. I spent four years trying EVERYTHING in Online Dating, and through a huge amount of trial and error, I produced a system that I will share for you. This book will take you, step by step, through everything you need to know to double, triple or even quadruple the number of women you meet online.

  33. I’ve been surfing online greater than 3 hours as of late, yet I never found any interesting article like yours. It¡¦s beautiful value enough for me. In my opinion, if all site owners and bloggers made good content as you probably did, the web will probably be a lot more useful than ever before.

  34. Hello! This post could not be written any better! Reading this post reminds me of my good old room mate! He always kept chatting about this. I will forward this page to him. Fairly certain he will have a good read. Thank you for sharing!

  35. You could definitely see your expertise within the paintings you write. The arena hopes for even more passionate writers such as you who aren’t afraid to say how they believe. All the time go after your heart.

  36. Hello! This is kind of off topic but I need some advice from an established blog. Is it very hard to set up your own blog? I’m not very techincal but I can figure things out pretty fast. I’m thinking about making my own but I’m not sure where to start. Do you have any tips or suggestions? Thank you

  37. I simply want to say I’m very new to weblog and honestly loved you’re blog. Almost certainly I’m likely to bookmark your website . You surely have superb articles and reviews. Many thanks for revealing your webpage.

  38. Eskişehir escort ilanlarını bulabileceğiniz kaliteli bir escort bayan arama servisi olup escort eskişehir ilanlarının yer aldığı eskişehir escort ilan sitesi.

  39. Undeniably believe that which you said. Your favorite reason seemed to be on the net the simplest thing to be aware of. I say to you, I definitely get irked while people think about worries that they just don’t know about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top and defined out the whole thing without having side effect , people could take a signal. Will likely be back to get more. Thanks

  40. I am really loving the theme/design of your blog. Do you ever run into any web browser compatibility issues? A small number of my blog visitors have complained about my blog not working correctly in Explorer but looks great in Safari. Do you have any solutions to help fix this issue?

  41. I would like to get across my appreciation for your kindness giving support to those individuals that should have guidance on this one issue. Your real commitment to getting the solution all-around came to be extremely valuable and has constantly encouraged some individuals like me to arrive at their desired goals. Your amazing valuable facts signifies a lot a person like me and even further to my mates. Warm regards; from everyone of us.

  42. I was recommended this blog by my cousin. I’m not sure whether this post is written by him as no one else know such detailed about my trouble. You’re incredible! Thanks!

  43. Awesome post. I am a normal visitor of your website and appreciate you taking the time to maintain the excellent site. I’ll be a frequent visitor for a really long time.

  44. A lot of these e-mail addresses really are tricks! Any IRS . GOV will not transmit a person e-mails, plus unquestionably wouldn’t notify that you the simple fact you’re owed a good discount.

  45. I’d should talk with you here. Which isn’t something I usually do! I love reading an article that should get people to feel. Also, many thanks for allowing me to comment!

  46. whoah this blog is great i like reading your articles. Keep up the great paintings! You know, a lot of individuals are looking around for this info, you can aid them greatly.

  47. I’d like to thank you for the efforts you have put in writing this website. I really hope to view the same high-grade blog posts from you later on as well. In truth, your creative writing abilities has encouraged me to get my own site now ;)|

  48. This design is incredible! You obviously know how to keep a reader entertained. Between your wit and your videos, I was almost moved to start my own blog (well, almost…HaHa!) Fantastic job. I really enjoyed what you had to say, and more than that, how you presented it. Too cool!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Close

Adblock Detected

Please consider supporting us by disabling your ad blocker