Len Bias, The NBA’s Greatest “What If”

June 19, 2022
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Who Is Len Bias?

Len Bias is one of the saddest stories ever coming out of the draft. He is technically the highest drafted player to never play in the NBA. Len Bias was the second pick in the 1986 draft by the Boston Celtics. He was supposed to go to a loaded team with Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parish. But that never happened. Shortly after the draft, Bias died from a cocaine overdose at just 22 years old. It shocked fans, as he had an incredibly high draft profile, and there were no character concerns like this when he was drafted. So, with the draft right around the corner, let’s look at his story and the draft itself.

Why was He So Highly Touted?

Bias was a multiple-time all-American at the University of Maryland. He dominated on the court, getting the eye of legendary coach Red Auerbach’s attention during just his sophomore season. Of course, staying for more than one to two years in college was a lot more common. But throughout his time at Maryland, he was always ready for the NBA. But in the east, there was someone on the come up to be afraid of. A man named Michael Jordan. Bias was seen as a phenomenon, but the biggest reason the Celtics wanted to draft him was his defense.

He stood at 6’8 with what was rumored to be 220 pounds of almost pure muscle. Bias could easily guard everyone against point guard to centers, as he also had a vertical leap well above 40 inches. Bias was a freak who wanted to stop a future top two player of all time.

Jordan had torn up the east in his first two seasons, and it was clear that he would be a problem for years to come. So, in a desperate move to save a Celtics team from falling into the Bulls’ shadow, Auerbach traded for the second pick to get Bias. Some say he was going to be better than Jordan. Some say he could have stopped him. But we will never honestly know, who Len Bias would have been.

What Happened Exactly?

Auerbach was able to strike a deal with the then Seattle Supersonics for the second overall pick. They picked Bias with the selection, and it seemed like that. The day after, however, Bias stayed in New York to sign an endorsement deal with Reebok and finish up some other things. Bias was always seen as a good character, and he was never known to partake in drugs until that night. He opted to ingest a line of cocaine, and he couldn’t handle it. A friend found him unconscious around 6 AM and immediately called the cops.

An ambulance arrived shortly, but the paramedics couldn’t revive him. They sent him to a hospital where they did absolutely everything possible to save his life, but it was to no avail. Len Bias was dead. Later in the day, everyone was swarming the area, hoping to get the story. It was later revealed that the same friend who called 911 was a drug dealer and had provided the drugs to Bias that would kill him. It was also revealed that he was a staggering 21 credits short of graduating despite being in college for four years.

In just one day, the man who was supposed to be the next all-time great had turned into public enemy number one. He was portrayed as lazy, stupid, and a druggy, everything the media could do to slander his name, was done. None to his ability to play, though.

Gone But Not Forgotten

Later, a law would be passed dubbed “Len Bias Law” that also heightened the minimum time for drug-related crimes. This was seen as almost a way to honor him and hopefully prevent other young people from losing their lives as he did.

To this day, people still speculate how good he could have been. Duke legend Coach K said Bias and Jordan were the two greatest players he had seen back in 2003. Everyone thought he had the potential to do it; it’s just a shame he got in his way. For all we know, Jordan never gets through, Bias becomes the goat, and he becomes the first NBA-made billionaire. So, on the anniversary of his death, let’s remember what indeed could have been a great career and what could have been a great man.