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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Len Bias
Bias after being selected in the 1986 NBA Draft.
Born November 18, 1963(1963-11-18)
Landover, Maryland
Died June 19, 1986 (aged 22)
Riverdale, Maryland
Nationality USA
Listed height 6 ft 8 in (2.03 m)
Listed weight 210 lb (95 kg)
College Maryland
Draft 2nd overall in 1986 NBA Draft
Awards ACC Athlete of the Year (1986), ACC Player of the Year (1985-86)

Leonard Kevin "Len" Bias (November 18, 1963 – June 19, 1986) was a first team All-American college basketball player. He was selected by the Boston Celtics as the second overall pick in the 1986 NBA Draft on June 17, but died two days later from cardiac arrhythmia induced by a cocaine overdose. He is considered by some sportswriters to be one of the greatest players not to play at the professional level.[1][2]


Early years

Bias was known to friends and family by his childhood nickname "Frosty". He was given the nickname by his good friend and pastor Rev. Gregory Edmond because he was "tall and cool and quiet and unassuming".[3][4]

College career

From Landover, Maryland, Bias graduated from Northwestern High School in Hyattsville, Maryland, and subsequently attended the University of Maryland where he became an All-American player.

Wearing number 34, Bias impressed basketball fans with his amazing leaping ability, his physical stature and his ability to create plays and was considered one of the most dynamic players in the nation. By his senior year, scouts from the various National Basketball Association teams viewed Bias as the most complete forward in the Class of 1986. Bias was favorably compared by some to Michael Jordan,[5] then in his second professional season with the Chicago Bulls.

NBA selection and overdose

On June 17, Bias was selected by the defending NBA champion Celtics as the second overall pick in the 1986 NBA Draft, which was held in New York City at Madison Square Garden. Arnold "Red" Auerbach, as Boston Celtic President and General Manager, dealt guard Gerald Henderson and cash to the Seattle Supersonics for the pick in April 1984. Bias and his family returned to their suburban Maryland home.

On June 18, Bias and his father flew to Boston, Massachusetts, from Washington, D.C., for an NBA Club draft acceptance and product endorsement signing ceremony with the Celtics' coaches and management, as well as with Reebok's Sports-Marketing Division. Bias reportedly signed a $3 million shoe contract with Reebok.

Later that day, his father left Boston to return to Washington in the late afternoon. There he gave a short press conference for the local Washington media at Washington National Airport. The media was at the airport expecting to interview Bias, so his father stood in, reporting on their "day with the Celtics" and their appreciation of the beginning of a new chapter in his and his son's lives.

Bias, who returned home later that night, retrieved his newly-leased sports car and drove back to his room on the campus of the University of Maryland.

However, prior to, and concurrent with, some of the given timelines of his activities at the campus, Bias's vehicle was observed and recorded by undercover agents of the Washington, DC metropolitan police department "cruising" one of the city’s most notorious drug neighborhoods along Montana Avenue, in the northeast section of the city. Although the surveillance did not determine who specifically was in the vehicle, or if the vehicle stopped for any purpose, they did estimate there were at least two people, driver and passenger, in the vehicle, and they recorded its license number.

The campus timeline said he arrived back onto campus at around 11 p.m. and ate crab with some teammates and a member of the football team. He left campus at approximately 2 a.m. on the 19th and drove to an off-campus gathering, which he attended briefly before returning to his dorm in Washington Hall at 3 a.m. Bias took a dose of cocaine which likely induced cardiac arrhythmia.

Bias went into convulsions, approximately 3:30 am, before he drifted off to sleep from taking cocaine. When the 911-call to Prince George's County Emergency Services was made by Brian Tribble (a long-time friend), Bias was unconscious and not breathing. All attempts by the emergency medical team to restart his heart and breathing were unsuccessful. According to the campus timeline, Bias collapsed sometime between 6:25 and 6:32 a.m. while talking with teammate Terry Long. According to Bias's sister, who only had a secondhand account of the story, Bias was sitting on a couch and leaned back as though he were going to sleep, but instead began to have a seizure.

Bias was unconscious and was not breathing when county ambulance attendants arrived at his dormitory suite at 6:36 a.m. — four minutes after they were called and six minutes before a mobile intensive care unit arrived—and he never regained consciousness nor breathed on his own. At the hospital, Bias was given five drugs in an attempt to revive him: sodium epinephrine, sodium bicarbonate, lidocaine, calcium and bretyline. After the chemicals failed, pacemaker was implanted in the heart muscle to try to get it beating. That also failed. [6]

Bias was pronounced dead at 8:55 a.m. in the Emergency Department at Leland Memorial Hospital in Riverdale, Maryland, of a cardiac arrhythmia related to usage of cocaine.[7][8][9][10][11]

Four days after his death, more than 11,000 people packed the Cole Field House, the university recreation and student center where Bias played for the Terrapins, for a memorial service. Those speaking at the service included Auerbach, who said he had planned for three years to draft Bias for the Celtics. Auerbach added that the city of Boston had not been so shocked since the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

Bias is buried in Lincoln Memorial Cemetery in Suitland, Maryland.[11]

On June 30, 1986, the Celtics honored Bias with their own memorial service, giving his never used #30 Celtic jersey to his mother, Lonise.


The Bias Trial, Law, and Second Death

On July 25, 1986, a grand jury returned indictments against Bias' friend Brian Tribble for possession of cocaine and possession of cocaine with intent to distribute and Bias' Maryland teammates Terry Long (possession of cocaine and obstruction of justice) and David Gregg (possession of cocaine and obstruction of justice).[12] Long and Gregg were both suspended from the team on July 31.[12] All three defendants entered not guilty pleas in August.[12]

On October 20, 1986, prosecutors dropped all charges against Long and Gregg in exchange for their testimony against Tribble.[12] On October 30, the grand jury added three more indictments against Tribble—one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice and two counts of obstruction of justice.[12]

Also on October 30, Kenneth Mark Fobbs, Tribble's roommate, was charged with perjury for allegedly lying to the grand jury about the last time he saw Tribble.[12] The state ultimately dropped the perjury charges against Fobbs on March 24, 1987, and a jury acquitted Tribble of all charges related to the Bias case on June 3, 1987.[12]

In 1988, the U.S. Congress passed a stricter Anti-Drug Act that is known as "The Len Bias Law." It was backed by both parties and reinforced the previous drug law with stiffer penalties and created the DARE program.

On December 5, 1990, Bias' younger brother, James Stanley "Jay" Bias III, a promising young basketball talent, was shot to death at age 20 following a dispute in the parking lot of Prince George's Plaza, a Hyattsville shopping mall located just miles from the University of Maryland. Two gunmen had allegedly fired several times into the vehicle Jay and two friends were in, and Jay was shot twice in the back. He was pronounced dead at the same hospital where Len Bias had died, and was buried next to him at Lincoln Memorial Cemetery.[13]

Following their sons' deaths, James and Lonise Bias assumed vocal advocacy roles. Lonise became an anti-drug lecturer, while James became an advocate for handgun control.[14] A film about Bias's life, directed by Kirk Fraser, was promoted at the 2008 Sundance film festival[15] and was released June 19, 2009. The documentary Without Bias premiered on ESPN on November 3, 2009, as part of their 30 for 30 documentary series, commemorating the network's 30th anniversary.


The circumstances surrounding Bias's death threw the University of Maryland and its athletics program into turmoil. An investigation revealed that Bias was 21 credits short of the graduation requirement despite having used all his athletic eligibility.[12] On August 26, 1986, State's Attorney Arthur A. Marshall Jr. stated that in the hours after Bias's death, Maryland head basketball coach Lefty Driesell told players to remove drugs from Bias's dorm room.[12] Two days later, Bias's father, James, accused the University of Maryland, and Driesell specifically, of neglecting the academic status of its athletes.[12] The National Collegiate Athletic Association subsequently began its investigation into the affair that fall.

The controversy prompted athletic director Dick Dull to resign October 7, 1986, with Driesell following suit October 29, after serving as the Terrapins' coach for 17 years.[12] The grand jury presiding over the Bias case issued a final report on February 26, 1987, that criticized the University of Maryland's athletic department, admissions office, and campus police.[12] Following an investigation, the NCAA placed the Terrapin Men's basketball program on a three year probation due to academic and recruiting violations by both Lefty Driesell and his successor, Bob Wade. The Terps were banned from television for one year and stripped of scholarships, beginning the 1988-89 season. The University since then has stricter admission standards for all of its student-athletes and students alike. On June 13, 1989, Maryland hired Ohio State Head Coach and University alumnus Gary Williams (Class of 1968). Williams in his 12th year as coach won the 2002 NCAA Men's National Championship, defeating Indiana, 64-52, and under his leadership, there have been no major violations in the Men's basketball program.

Notes and References

Further reading

Preceded by
B.J. Surhoff
ACC Male Athlete of the Year
Succeeded by
Riccardo Ingram

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