Thursday, November 5, 2009

Len Bias - The Great What If?

Tuesdays are really bad nights for me to miss something worth watching on TV. I had to miss a great end to the Lakers-Thunder game because of a meeting in our conference room. I tend to miss stuff on prime-time TV because I'm either writing something last minute, proofreading stuff or out finally getting a dinner break. So I've missed all the ESPN 30 at 30 series.

The one I really wanted to see was this week's feature on Len Bias. Brief recap for those who don't know. Bias played at Maryland from 1983-1986 and was a two-time ACC Player of the Year and All-American. He was a strong forward with great leaping ability who many said would've given Michael Jordan a run for his money. Boston drafted him No. 2 in the 1986 Draft and 48 hours later, he was dead from a cocaine overdose.

I've heard of his story for years and five years ago, when ESPN celebrated their 25th anniversary, more info made sense. His death occurred during the cocaine/crack epidemic of the 80's and in a city (Washington D.C.) that needed its government to act. So he became the face of a problem - a can't miss NBA prospect taken down by drugs.

(The irony of that happening in the 80's. A black kid who became a sympathetic victim instead of painted in a negative light, in the DMV no less - D.C., Maryland, Virginia area)

Watching Youtube highlights of him, I'm in awe of what skills he had. Great mid-range shot, strong as an ox and could jump with anybody. I remember Scoop Jackson calling his famous clip "The Jesus shot" where Bias scored, stole an inbound pass and reverse jammed it with authority, falling with his arms extended like Christ on the cross.

It makes you want to just add him on NBA 2K10 or NBA Live '10 out of respect to see what he could've done. NCAA March Madness should add a legendary team feature just to see what it would've been like to play as Bias.

I really wish I could've seen him play live. Mike Kryzewski of Duke said that the two greatest ACC players he saw were MJ and Bias. And there's no doubt had Bias lived, he would've been a great player who perhaps would've extended Boston's run in the 80's. He and Reggie Lewis would've been two cornerstones - two men tied by their lives cut down too early.

We'll never know what Bias could've done. I wish I could've grown up to either root for him or dislike him. He could've been an All-Star. Whether he really did take cocaine for the first time that night or not, what's true is that my generation was deprived of a potential superstar that night in 1986. If you get a chance, check out the documentary and tell me how it is/where to find it.

His story never gets old and 23 years later, he's still a classic "What if" case. 

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