The kickoff for Feature Friday this week is a story about the arguably greatest player to never play an NBA game.
Len Bias was a first team All-American his senior year at the University of Maryland. He was a two-time ACC Player of the Year, and he oozed with potential.
So much potential in fact, that Bias had the legendary Celtics General Manager Red Auerbach anticipating his eligibility for the 1986 NBA draft.
Bias attracted many throughout the league. He drew comparisons to Michael Jordan, and many believed that he could be one of the greatest, if not the greatest, to ever play NBA basketball.
So why isn’t he in history books? Was he a bust?
Well, I can’t tell you that he necessarily a bust. Bias never actually played an NBA game. In fact, Bias would never live to see another day after hearing his name called during the NBA Draft.
THE SAD TRAGEDY
Bias was selected with the second overall pick in the 1986 NBA draft. His potential was only matched by Brad Daugherty, selected first by the Cleveland Cavaliers.
As any NBA rookie would, Bias celebrated his big accomplishment. Bias dined with friends at the University of Maryland, and went to another party hours afterwards.
Bias attended the party with teammates Terry Long and David Gregg, along with close friend Brian Tribble. Tribble had brought cocaine with him to the party, and gave Bias some of it during the affair.
Bias overdosed, and eventually collapsed. His panicked teammates called 911, and the paramedics rushed in to save Bias.
However, it was all too little, too late. Bias passed away, and left behind the most shocking and disturbing moment in NBA history.
The NBA had just lost a decade defining player.
The news, not based on the ideas of sensationalism at the time, didn’t reveal how Bias had died. The events were so shocking, that members of the media broke down in tears and couldn’t bear to discuss the tragedy at hand.
The most unexpected happened, and the city of Boston was mortified to hear that its future passed away.
However, upon everyone finding out about the way Bias died, mixed emotions ensued.
Bias was a hero at Maryland, The power forward was viewed as the future of the position. He had Jordan-like athleticism, and was a phenomenal shooter.
But he died a villain’s death. He did the unthinkable, and made a condemnable life choice. His parents, Lonise and James, didn’t know such a dark side to their son.
Besides the cocaine consumption, Bias was a healthy individual. His physicality was unmatched by any at his position, and his potential was unmatched in his draft class.
But where did he stand in terms of morality? As a human being?
Athletes today are commonly perceived as devious. Drugs are almost the common conception, and the media has a tendency to mark athletes as money and power-hungry, ignorant of their surroundings.
Bias was found to have several grams of cocaine in his car, and the worst case scenario became a reality.
People didn’t know how to think of athletes yet, and outrage consumed NBA fans who found out about his cocaine addiction.
Bias revealed a dark side to athletics. The corruption, drugs, crime, and that athletes don’t always hold themselves to standards of integrity. He officially took away the innocence of athletes, and no one knew who to trust.
Without Bias, the NBA would never be the same. Distrust developed out of the Bias incident for everyone; people were beginning to question the actions of athletes, and the media was altered as well.
The NBA’s conspiracy theorists can thank Bias for creating the juicy stories such as the infamous frozen envelope or Tim Donaghy.
Bias didn’t just affect the questionable aspects of the NBA, but what he could’ve done to alter the NBA is remarkable.
The Bad Boys may never have had a title to its name, and Jordan could have been constantly rivaled by his counterpart. The league would have been still dominated by the Celtic green.
He may have been the greatest ever. Nothing is guaranteed, but he had unmistakable potential. Imagine him developing alongside Larry Bird himself.
Bias’ career could’ve been a defining one for the NBA.
Sadly, it was never meant to be.
(Information courtesy of ESPN)