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In Wilbon's World

Revisiting Len Bias

Nearly a quarter-century later some of us are as fascinated now by the story of Len Bias as we were the summer of 1986. Thankfully Kirk Fraser is one of those people. He had to be to create a project as thorough, as compassionate and as enlightening as "Without Bias," the documentary that aired last night as part of ESPN's 30 for 30 series.

It's the most comprehensive treatment yet of not only Len Bias' tragic death but of his life as a University of Maryland basketball All-America, and the introduction of cocaine into the culture in a way that we didn't understand at all when it took Bias' life and subsequently settled into college campuses everywhere.

What stuck out to those of us intimately familiar with the story was the use of video of Len Bias himself, days and hours before his death, talking about his career at Maryland, his career aspirations. Video is something we take for granted now because it's ubiquitous, almost intrusive. But there simply wasn't that much of it in 1986. Game footage is fairly rare, interview footage even rarer. But Fraser's ability to secure it must make Bias seem so much more real to people who didn't know his face, his voice, how clean cut he was.

I covered Len Bias, pretty much every game he played, his first two years at Maryland and selected games thereafter when I'd moved from covering the Maryland beat to the Georgetown beat for The Washington Post. I've written about Bias on the 10th anniversary of his death, on what would have been his 40th birthday six years ago. I've wondered how the history of the NBA would have been changed by his presence. I've written about his brother Jay Bias' murder in 1990. As is the case with a lot of people who were between the ages of 14 and 35 at the time, the Bias tragedy remains a defining episode not just in my career but in my life.

So, it was with special interest that I cooperated with Fraser when he asked to interview me, and even greater interest that I watched the finished product Tuesday night on ESPN. There were new interviews with dozens of people, new light shed particularly by James Bias, Len's dad, and by teammates including Jeff Baxter, Keith Gatlin and Tony Massenburg.

Their sincerity and the pain they've felt all these years is palpable, as is the simple fact that they never knew their son/teammate/friend had at some point gotten into coke.
What parent can't identify with James Bias when he says, "The worst thing that can happen is when a parent buries a child...to have it all just melt away."

There's so much ground to cover and "Without Bias" manages to touch a whole lot of areas, from basketball to our naivete about cocaine use in America. Anybody who watched will find it compelling. Those of us who watched Len Bias closely and were jolted into a new reality by his death will find it riveting.

By

Michael Wilbon

 |  November 4, 2009; 1:56 PM ET  |  Category:  College Basketball , NBA Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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I watched the espn special and it was a bit emotional for me. I was in my early 20s in 1986, at my desk at work when my brother called with the news of Len's death. Of course I couldn't believe it, and asked my co workers if they had heard anything about it. We hurriedly found a radio and heard to the sad news. We were all stunned. The death of Michael Jackson didn't jar me the way Bias' death did.

His death by cocaine was a shock to us all. Having just been in college, cocaine use was not common or wide spread. It was a rich man's drug, so most college students couldn't afford it. Crack was just coming on the scene and it devastation was soon coming. Ball players smoking weed was common, but not getting high on coke. Len’s death opened our eyes and made us feel a little more mortal.


I was fortunate enough to see Len play at MD, I never missed a chance to see him. He is the reason I was a Terp fan even though I grew up in the Hampton Roads area and had a girlfriend that went to UVa. Growing in ACC country I saw a lot of MJ playing at UNC, however if I had to choice the most exciting ACC player I ever saw, it would be Lenny, hands down (didn’t get to see David Thompson) Len Bias was a bigger, stronger version of Jordan. Lenny was just as unstoppable, just as high flying as Jordan. I remember thinking how unfair it was for the Celtics to be able to draft him, and how the Celtics would be unbeatable for years to come. Those of us who saw him play often wonder “what if” he had gotten to play in the NBA, I am sure he and Jordan would have taken turns winning MVPs, scoring titles and championships.

I am saddened thinking about that day 23 years ago. What a lost.

Posted by: Rush63 | November 18, 2009 6:27 PM
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This is how profound Lenny B's death was for me. 3 things i'll never forget and remember exactly where I was and what I was doing, and im 42 years old.

1) My Mom passing in 2003
2) 9/11
3) Len Bias passing in 1986

Posted by: eddie2ya | November 17, 2009 8:06 PM
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I remember it like it was yesterday. I had just graduated from Suitland High in 86.I was on my way to take the asvab to join the military. Everyone on the metro bus was talking about it; and I was calling everyone on the bus a liar, not Len all of ya'll have it twisted Len is in Boston getting ready to do his thing. I kept hearing it but i still wouldn't believe it until i got home and my mom told me I cried. I watched some of the show but could'nt watch it all to painful. As I reflect 23 years later still hard to believe, for those that didn't know of him missed someone special and blessed. The way BB fans see MJ is the way you would have saw Len Bias. PG's finest.

Posted by: eddie2ya | November 17, 2009 7:51 PM
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I was a high school senior living in Cohasset, MA at the time and woke up like a shot in the middle of the night and had no idea what had stirred me. Awoke the next morning to learn that Len Bias had died. Had watched him play numerous times via ESPN's almost obsessive coverage of the ACC (at the time the Big East rivaled it for top-to-bottom competitiveness)and he'd become a favorite of mine. When Red selected him we all knew the Celts would run the table for the next several years in much the way the Russell-led teams had done in prior times. When you lump in the death of Reggie Lewis you start to wonder about how much unrealized history the team, the city and the sport was deprived of with these tragic losses. Rest in Peace, Len and Reggie.

Posted by: ColoradoShu | November 11, 2009 1:59 PM
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I'm glad I found this blog because, for some reason, I thought that I was the only one who felt this way about this tragedy. I was in middle school at the time and I had just gotten into watching sports and even news. Oddly, I don't remember any Len Bias games or highlights, but I do remember him being my favorite college player. I remember Dawkins, Amaker, Alarie, Ferry, Washburn, Shackleford and a whole host of other ACC players' footage, though. Oddly, after his death, I remember continuous footage of that bluish-sliver Nissan ZX that he had. Why would that stick in my mind?

Anyway, I'm from the West Coast, so one would think that I would not be as affected by this, but I was. I moved on to other things that summer as kids often do, I'm sure, but having lost people close to me recently, I guess that I've become more sensitive to the meaning and tragedy of death. I've been telling people my age about this and asking if they remember it, but they just look at me perplexed.

All this retrospective coverage has been so emotional, and like one poster wrote, I'm not an overly emotional person. It's just a waste and it's not even about the sports angle, but the personal angle. A good kid from a good family with everything in front of him made a bad choice, maybe for the first time, and he's gone. Life goes on, of course, but it did seem like the end of innocence...at least to a twelve-year-old in the summer of '86.

Posted by: weasteastke | November 6, 2009 3:18 PM
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I was just 14 years old when Bias died and I was (still am) a huge Lakers and UNC fan. And yet I watched Bias play and he was just one of those guys you had to respect because he was dropping 30 or 40 points at will on your favorite team and there was nothing anyone could do about it.

I remember hearing the news and calling my math teacher, who was a huge Bias fan and actually been drafted by the Celtics in the early 70s. He didn't even believe me, it just seemed impossible. The next day I saw him and he had obviously had a rough night, he looked upset and
depressed, like he was still in shock over the news. I'll never forget how talented he was...he might have been a rival to Michael Jordan as Larry Bird was to Magic Johnson...

Posted by: tommyk7 | November 5, 2009 11:18 PM
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I remember a story about a Bobby Knight speech to high school players about making the best of their abiltiies and lives. He said that the two best college players he saw were Michael Jordan and Len Bias and look how their decisions affected their lives.

Interesting enough which one had the biggest positive impact on our youth??

Len Bias was a BEAST! People don't realize that MJ couldn't stop him either!!

Len was a good kid that made a bad decision and was the Greatest Basketball player I ever saw. Micky Mouse hat and ALL:)

Posted by: LongTimeSkinsFan | November 5, 2009 11:06 PM
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The truth sets all of us free. Yes, it STILL hurts almost a quarter century later... the way Lenny died just doesn't justify the beauty of his family, his fans, the University of Maryland, the Boston Celtics, or life itself. All of his metaphysical gifts such as his toughness, his power, his grace, his artistic beauty, his style, his swagg... spoke the truth of Maryland itself. As much as I ball out and cry thinking of June 19, 1986, I beam with joy when I think of him leading the dark horse Terrapins, with their uniquely colored uniforms of red, black, white, or gold against the rest of the ACC and NCAA. I get tickled thinking of Lefty having a hidden prized gem when facing Dean Smith, Coach K, Tark the Shark, and Jimmy V. I smile thinking of Lenny's shy smile after walking off the court from a willed win at the Dean Dome.

Yes, it STILL hurts! But please University of Maryland, give Lenny his just due. Put Len Bias in the Athletic Hall of Fame at the Comcast Center! His legacy is what it is. Like it or not, his legacy IS part of the history of Terrapin athletics. No need to continue running from the shame of his death. The truth does hurt, but the truth sets all of us free.

Posted by: GJUICE02908 | November 5, 2009 9:20 PM
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TheWingedShield,

I have it on good authority that Tribble, indeed, literally profited from this project. No one in the media (and some do know) wants to address the issue, out of respect for the family. They've been through enough.

Posted by: delphine3 | November 5, 2009 4:01 PM
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There were others in that dorm room using the same 98% pure cocaine, but none of them had seizures and died. Just a terribly bad combination for Lenny. And since they all admitted they were also drinking that night, how is it that the toxicology report said Lenny had no booze in his system? Weird.

Posted by: shanks1 | November 5, 2009 3:11 PM
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I remember I was a student at UMD and it was around 96/97 and I was in a dorm room with this girl from NY. she was hot and we were both drinking, she broke out the coke and wanted me to try it. Never ever had done any drugs in my life but at that moment I thought about it, i mean she was pretty good looking. But I thought of Lenny, and i said, hell no, it aint going to happen to me. so he helped a lot of people that way I am sure.

Posted by: tony28 | November 5, 2009 2:25 PM
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I lived in Boston in 1986, and was at the Celtics championship celebration down at Government Center that June. You could barely get out of the T station and people were climbing the light posts to get a look at the team and be a part of the celebration. When the Celtics drafted Len Bias and Red Auerbach lit that cigar, everyone just knew that the Celtic dynasty would continue. On my way to work the radio announcer said that Len Bias had died. I didn't believe it. The day before he was on the front page of the Boston Globe wearing a Celtics cap and Red was beside him. When I got to work, no one believed it and we called every radio station to confirm it. It was just a devastating feeling. And that was the prevailing feeling in Boston. It was all anyone talked about that day and the years following when Bird, and Parrish, and DJ, and McHale, and Ainge couldn't do it anymore. It was a shame and all we can do is continue to ask what if?

Posted by: kaz3 | November 5, 2009 1:34 PM
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I remember a story about a Bobby Knight speech to high school players about making the best of their abiltiies and lives. He said that the two best college players he saw were Michael Jordan and Len Bias and look how their decisions affected their lives.

Posted by: DodgerDog | November 5, 2009 1:09 PM
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I have no doubt that had he lived Len Bias would be the one receiving the Nobel Prize this year, and it wouldn't be his first.

Posted by: shoveit | November 5, 2009 12:39 PM
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One problem with the documentary: I didn’t know Brian Tribble was the hero of the story. How he bravely called 911, but only after first calling his mother?!?!? This piece of garbage capitalized off of his fame for giving Len Bias the coke that killed him. He parlayed his notoriety into promoting club events and advancing in the world of drug dealers. Now, he is exploiting the Bias event again by courting the attention of this joke of a documentarian, Kirk Evans. Everyone knows, but of course no tough questions were asked by Evans, that Tribble supplied that coke. It was exceptionally pure, end users like Bias don’t get that without a connection. I knew other college drug dealers at the University of Maryland at the time, and they used their access to coke to get access to players on the football and basketball teams (and BTW, their coke was nowhere near that pure). Who doesn’t want to hang out with the most famous, coolest dudes around? Do you think Bias would have been “friends” with Tribble if he wasn’t a dealer? No way my acquaintances get to party with the players, the girls and the crowd, if they don’t have the coke. Tribble was a classic hanger on, but with the looks and style from the era. Get this and get it big people: coke got you girls and access in the 80’s, period. Bias was responsible for making his own choices, but to see this POS drug dealer waxing on about his friendship with Bias makes me want to puke. At the time Tribble was finally busted in 1990, he was moving 10 K’s of coke a month. And he doesn’t know how or why Bias was having a seizure, after he just seeing him snort a mound of 98.4% pure? This was an American tragedy, that hopefully many learned from. Up until Bias' death, many people didn't think coke could kill you. But to see this scum Tribble given a voice and attention makes me want to scream. Even after his friend died from cocaine, he continued to supply it and indirectly caused the death of who knows how many others. It is disgusting that he is being given any kind of sympathetic forum.

Posted by: TheWingedShield | November 5, 2009 12:39 PM
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I had just moved to DC right after college summer '85 and started to get up to speed on the local sports scene. Maryland was a big part of that scene. I was just devastated when Len died - here was someone my age who had so much going for him who died by doing something stupid. Lots of young people in college do stupid things and live to tell about it, me included! I tried to watch the program on Tuesday, but had to stop. Too painful.

Posted by: Section416akatheAlps | November 5, 2009 11:20 AM
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I remember the day exactly, I was a freshmen in college working construction standing on the roof when the news came through the Radio. At the time I had a lot of friends doing the same type of thing and I thought to myself not me I ain't ending up like that. As tragic as it was, how many other folks has Len influenced like? Doesn't bring him back but at the time I believed it was a sign from God.

I also was lucky enough to sit on the floor and see him play Carolina. I've been to a lot of sporting events since and never forget that Buzz he created in the Arena as we were all watching greatness.

I still think tribble knows a lot more than what was said and from watching the show I had forgotten he later went to jail for selling coke.

Posted by: jdb70 | November 5, 2009 10:03 AM
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sorry, I have no sympathy for a guy who overdoses....

Posted by: Durham2 | November 5, 2009 9:59 AM
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I was lucky enough to "gain acess" to Maryland vs. Duke on Jan. 25th, 1986 and Len Bias scored 41 or Maryland's 68 points at Camerion. He was completely unstoppable against arguably one of Duke's best teams ever and they put several guys on him to no avail. Remember this was a Duke team with Dawkins, Amaker, Bilas, Alarie, Ferry, King, Synder that went 37-3 losing to Louisville in the finals. A few years later I attended grad school at Duke and had a chance to ask Coach K if that was the greatest individual performance he had coached against and he said it was definitely in the top three and that Bias was harder to defend than Jordan was in college.
I was digging a ditch when the radio came on and said Bias had a "heart attack" and I still remember it in the way my parent's generation remembers where they were when Kennedy was shot. Hard to believe it has been 23 years.

Posted by: jeddiep | November 5, 2009 9:07 AM
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Had Len not died, the Celtics could have won a few more rings with Bird, McHale, and Parish. Think of him coming off the bench to play with those guys. He could have been bigger than MJ. I watched the ESPN show, it was great to see that old footage..especially to see Len GO ABOVE Jordan for so many shots. Hmmm..wonder why MJ never ever gave any cred to Len after so many years....

Posted by: nowhine | November 5, 2009 8:57 AM
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Had UMD season tickets his four years and agree that Len Bias was the best I've ever seen. I also remember my disbelieve/shock ay hearing of his death. I remember mumbling "I can't believe it" to myself many times that morning and also in later years. Someone else spoke about a pickup game in heaven, what a treat that would be!

Posted by: BwkDawg1 | November 5, 2009 8:25 AM
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One thing often overlooked is what an incredibly strong woman Lonise Bias is. People talk about making something positive out of tragedies, but how many actually have the strength of character to reach out to the kids of the community the way she has? No one knows how many lives she and Lenny have saved together -- God bless her.

Posted by: SmittyATL | November 5, 2009 8:10 AM
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Like JamesJ3, I have a pre-teen daughter. I have a framed photo in my Atlanta basement of Lenny backwards-slamming it over a Duke defender in the '84 ACC Tourney, with the Duke fans gawking in the background. I tell her how I NEVER have seen a greater college basketball player (not David Thompson, not Ralph, not MJ, not anyone since). And I tell her how polite and humble Lenny was, how no one around campus ever had a bad thing to say about him.

Cocaine was just prevalent in society in the '80s, and a great kid made a bad mistake. I tell my daughter that good kids can make bad mistakes, and those mistakes can cost a life. The lesson I hope she takes away: being a good kid does not insulate you from the consequences of a bad choice.

Posted by: SmittyATL | November 5, 2009 7:34 AM
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ARCstats, if you think Wilbon is just promoting ESPN, you have not been paying attention to what he has been saying and writing for the past 25 years. Maybe he's supposed to be a dispassionate reporter, but Wilbon is human like the rest of us. Like me and so many others, Wilbon was fascinated by Lenny's amazing basketball gifts, and stunned by the tragedy of his death. On this topic, Wilbon isn't some ESPN shiller; he is one of us.

It must suck to be a bitter cynic.

Posted by: SmittyATL | November 5, 2009 7:27 AM
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Lenny's death was just a huge impact on the game of basketball, University of Maryland, Washington Metro area, Friends and family. I grew up in Silver Spring and hung out in the gyms and played ball. I knew the driesells. It was sad to see MD implode and Lefty get blamed for his death. It was one of those tragic moments in life that you never forget where you were and what you were doing when the news came.

Posted by: LongTimeSkinsFan | November 5, 2009 5:04 AM
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As a 9 year old boy, I would jump backwards into my bunk bed and stuff my nerf mini basketball over the top railing because my child hood hero did the same thing off an inbounds steal.
I'm now 33, and I've lived and died area sports my whole life. I've watched em all come and go over the last 25 years, and I've had 2 athletes I would say I wanted to always be...#87 "down town" Charlie Brown, and Len Bias.
To this day I still can't help but tear up when watching something like the espn special on Lenny, or even reading about him in articles like this. It's funny because the people that know, admit the same thing, and a lot of us aren't big crier's.
I've never done cocaine, even though I have seen it done, and have had good friends do it. Why...I asked myself years ago, am I so against drugs? Why..don't I just try it? And I figured out that subconsciously Lenny's mistake always stayed with me.
I now have a 12 year old daughter who loves basketball, and over the last couple years I've tried to relay to her who the best I ever saw was, and how choices in life can change things in a matter of moments.
So last night she watched the whole thing with me. And saw the man who's head was almost hitting the rim on some of those dunks. And who's jump shot is perfectly how you try to teach one. I hope to God she gets the same realization when she gets older as I did...THAT SOME MOMENTS CANT BE REWOUND.
Lenny, your life was not in vain...and your memory still lives on, and will continue to be passed on.

P.S. When I die if I don't see you going against Jordan I'm gonna be PISSED!

Posted by: JamesJ3 | November 5, 2009 4:21 AM
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As good a player he was, I would withhold putting him in the HOF. If he was using cocaine, like it seems alot of the players from that draft were, he might've been out of the league in a couple of years. He might have been another Roy Tarpley or Chris Washburn for all we know. BTW I was a Bias fan.

Posted by: mike704 | November 5, 2009 1:34 AM
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Like all other BSPN employees, you're so pathetic with the the addiction of cross-promotion. You wouldn't have written a single word in this space at this time about Bias unless it was to support the mother ship. Obviously you missed (or care to ignore) the concepts of conflict of interest. The Post should have fired you long ago.

Posted by: ARCstats | November 4, 2009 10:34 PM
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yea, we know -- it's whitey's fault

Posted by: bestmick1 | November 4, 2009 9:19 PM
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I still have the SI magazine with the cover "Death of a Dream" about Len Bias. I was a senior at Maryland the summer of '86 at the beach when I heard the shocking news and it hit me hard, and even now brings back strong feelings. When I talk to people about it, they look at me a bit strange but for Terps fans it was a profound loss as he was the best Maryland player Maryland I've seen and a special person. God bless his family.

Posted by: jfmackes | November 4, 2009 8:27 PM
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I remember that day very clearly. I was 19 and had just finished my freshman year in college. I was asleep in my parents' house when my Dad woke me up to tell me he had died. I rolled over in bed and thought it was a dream but soon jumped up and said "What". I ran into my parents room and saw it being reported on the news.

I had met Bias a few times due to the fact that one of Keith Gatlin's best friend from high school lived in my neighborhood so knowing someone personally that had just passed was jarring to me let alone someone who was a star and famous in our area.

Anyone who was fortunate to see him play can tell you just how good he was. To me he is easily the best player ever to play at Maryland. There are 2 things I remember about him and they are that many called him Jordan, only bigger and back in 2002 CBS Sports did a special on his death and the aftermath at Maryland and in the special Coach K said in all his years coaching at Duke there were 2 players that stood out in the ACC, Jordan and Bias, thats high praise and remember he coached Johnny Dawkins among others.

His death still hits me to this day and watching what his passing did to his family, University of Maryland and the entire area is still painful. All we can think about are what ifs when thinking about Len Bias.

Posted by: armorgan2 | November 4, 2009 8:00 PM
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I'm a redneck - grew up on a farm with many steer. I'm also a hillbilly, my father and many fathers before him were coal miners from SW VA/KY/TN. Also, my brothers are 8-10 years older then me. When I was 8-11 I used to fight with my brothers as to who was to be Lenny when playing b'ball in the front driveway. They were teasing me obviously but I took it seriously. God rest his soul; what a loss.

Posted by: sturgcpa1 | November 4, 2009 7:30 PM
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it still hurts.I was friends with Jay Bias played ball with him a week before he died, I talked to Brian Tribble a few years after Len Bias died when we finished playing ball. Tribble seemed like a hanger on type. He seemed like the type that could introduce Len to things he would never have gotten into on his own.Very charismatic refined almost but yet sleezy. Len would have been impressed by the things and people he knew most likely. And getting alittle buzz from coke probably seemed petty to Len back then.

such a waste. I grew up in PG County and cried like a baby when I heard the news of len's death early one morning back in 86 I was 15 and playing ball at my highschool. We worshipped the invincible Lenny B as we called him. Local kid made good. and in a flash it was gone.

I cried looking back on it last night. Watching MJ's whole career play out and thinking about how Len held that promise still seems like a bad dream that in some other alternate reality Len has a long pro career and becomes a mega star.

That this reality isn't real to have someone with so much potential just disappear. I've never gotten over it to tell the truth. Its still something stuck in my soul thats not gonna go away about his passing.

I mean every highlight they show of len it just seems like he's frozen in time never to get old just in his prime as a man.

But we know its all gone. I've never taken a drink or tried drugs in my whole life looking back on it Len's death probably contributed to that.

They talk of all the good things that come out of his tragedy all of the people it might have saved. But sometimes things are just sad and senseless and doesn't do anyone any good to turn out so tragically.I feel that way about len's death.

Seems so cruel to me. there were 4 guys in that room that night and as fate happens the guy with the most to lose loses, thats such a cruel twist on life not that sadness wouldn't have been evident if it had happened to one of the other guys but tragedy sometimes grabs the brightest amongst us. seems so unfair that he was so gifted also that he was so flawed. I guess thats life lesson.

to hear his words bemoaning the trappings a week before he died of drugs and alcohol and then succumbing to them lends to the emptiness of words if they aren't who you are internally.

He knew the trap and still fell in damn still sad 22 years after the fact.

Posted by: jrwalkerivory | November 4, 2009 7:18 PM
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I can relate to scottchallenger's post. In June of '86, I had just graduated high school and had yet to start a summer job so I was taking advantage of the chance to sleep in a bit. When I woke that morning, my Dad, who knew what a big fan of Bias I was, had to break the news of Len's death and I all but swore at my dad (since deceased - miss you, Dad) for trying to pull a terrible gag on me. Of course, he gently suggested that I turn on the TV, where every local station (we hadn't cable TV but I'm sure the cable channels were covering it, too) dropped all other news to focus on the developments at College Park.

Bias was unspeakably talented and smooth on the court. On every rec league basketball team I played on for several years running, I made sure to select the number "34" if it was available or if we were allowed to pick our own numbers. I still have a couple of the old threadbare things; maybe I hang onto them because of Lenny. It's a damn shame what he did to himself because his career could have been transcendant. I couldn't STAND the Celtics back then and would have had to swallow hard to watch him in those green and white (and, now, black) colors, but I might have cheered for him to score 35 a game while the Celtics lost a bunch of games...

I haven't seen the ESPN piece but intend to watch it soon. I still have the SI cover in a drawer somewhere, too. God bless his parents for what they've been through. We missed the chance to watch a special player develop as a pro and as a person - one wants to think he'd have matured once turning pro and said no to the blow.

Posted by: bmcconnell1 | November 4, 2009 6:20 PM
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Two of my own memories: I grew up a few miles from UMD but went to UVa. When he came to play at U-Hall in C'Ville in early '86, I got to see him play up close. He was so much better than everyone else on that court. Move forward to that summer, I vividly remember watching NBC-4 when George Michael had to report this news, and he could barely speak past the tears. A tremendous loss for all of us.

Posted by: kennedys | November 4, 2009 6:02 PM
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it was the day b4 my 11th b'day when i got the call early in the morning about len dying. as a kid growing up in p.g., there was no one larger than lenny. i went to northwestern h.s. like he did and had to walk by that display case everyday. i played against jay a few times and even had dr. bias speak at my children's christening. i own a bias maryland jersey and also a shirt with the s.i. "death of a dream" cover on it. point being, i've thought of him often over the years and i'm so happy that the kirk fraser film was made and aired to such a wide audience. more people needed to hear the story and recognize and remember what we've all lost...

Posted by: vassenterprise | November 4, 2009 5:48 PM
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I was 23 and working at a MD bank when a call came from a friend about late morning. "Len Bias is dead" the voice told me. This knucklehead was known for fabrication, so I blew it off. "You're full of shi*" was my reply. "No, serious business" and again, I said "You're full of shi*." I then turned on the radio on my desk, and the rest is history.

I'll never forget that moment. And my knocklehead friend who told me.

Posted by: ScottChallenger | November 4, 2009 5:18 PM
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Bias' death is a "Do you remember where you were when...?" moment. Home for the summer from college in 1986, and back then the paper in my hometown (later to be Brandon Webb country) was one of the last holdouts as an evening newspaper. I stroll out to the paperbox, get the paper, and the top left corner says simply - I recall even the verb tense - "Len Bias Dies." I dropped down on the sidewalk and read, numb. Utter, disbelieving numbness. And I never again mocked Nancy Reagan's anti-drug efforts, not when even a Len Bias could be struck dead. What a loss.

Posted by: NebraskaGreen | November 4, 2009 4:16 PM
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I’m in my mid-30’s so I was in my early teens when Len Bias died. Basketball was my favorite sport growing up. Len Bias was my idol. I worshiped him. I had tears in my eyes last night watching the video of reactions of Bias’ teammates at the hospital as they learned of his death—and I’m not a crier.

Outside of events in my immediate family, I can only remember “exactly where I was”
when I learned of four events:

-9/11
-Oklahoma City Bombings
-The challenger Accident
-Len Bias Death

That’s it. Len Bias’ death was so incredibly sad and had such an effect on so many people. One thing I noticed about the documentary last night was there appeared to be a little bit of an emphasis on the jolt Bias’ death had in the African American community. While I don’t doubt that many in the black community lost a hero that terrible day, take it from an upper-middle class, private school white kid: Len bias was a symbol of pride to everyone in the DC/Baltimore area. He was the most universally admired athlete I’ve ever seen in this region. What could have been?

Posted by: danog224 | November 4, 2009 4:08 PM
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I was at Duke during Len Bias' career, and I watched him grow by leaps and bounds over his 4 years and had the utmost respect for him. I was a friend of Mark Alarie and Jay Bilas during my time at school - and when you asked them about Bias, they'd just give you a look, or something like a "jeebus". They had to guard him.

I think that watching him almost singlehandedly beat North Carolina to give Duke the 1986 ACC reg. season title was the first time in my life I saw Duke students on their feet (in a bar) cheering for another team's player.

Who knows what could have been - and that's really where the story lies.

Posted by: miken1984 | November 4, 2009 4:00 PM
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I was 17 at the time and still remember that day, how I heard, where I was when I heard and racing home to watch the news coverage in utter disbelief and shock. He is/was a childhood hero of mine as I am a huge UMD fan. Last night's show brought back a lot of memories and a tear or two. I still wonder how great of a NBA player he would have been and how the Celtics dynasty would have probably continued. I still miss you Len. It's such a awful shame.

Posted by: regis429 | November 4, 2009 3:46 PM
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I watched the show on Len Bias on ESPN and once again was saddened by such a senseless death. No one knows what is in a man's heart, but from what little I have heard and seen over the years and especially during the film, we lost a truely extrodinary man. His sports accomplishments might have paled next to what he might have done in his contributions toward the betterment of man kind. My sense is he was a good decent deserving kid, who got causght up in the moment and paid the untimate price for his poor decision. Sad and a terrible waste. We all lost that day. Makes me angry

Posted by: Magee1 | November 4, 2009 3:13 PM
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