On Twentieth Anniversary, Bias' Death Continues to Loom Large
> 6/19/2006 3:58:59 PM

Last night the Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks played into an overtime period in what was one of the most thrilling games of this year's NBA playoffs. Yet this morning, one of the country's best sports writers, Michael Wilbon of the Washington Post, chose to write about another basketball story: the death of Len Bias on June 19th, 1986. As Wilbon writes, many of today's young basketball stars, and even more of the sport's young fans, probably don't remember Bias, but we should never allow to fade his memory or the lesson to be learned from it.

Bias was, by all accounts, a tremendous basketball player, the type that drew comparisons to many of the all-time greats. Coming out of the University of Maryland, Bias was drafted with the 2nd overall pick in the 1986 NBA Draft. He was set to play second fiddle to the legendary Larry Bird, before assuming the reigns to the Celtic dynasty. But less than 48 hours after the draft ended Bias would be found in a University of Maryland dorm room, dead from a a fatal cardiac arrhythmia that resulted from a cocaine overdose.

In one moment Bias went from idol and success story to disaster and cautionary tale. And as Wilbon discussed in today's retrospective, it is important that we never forget the story of Len Bias, not only to remember the life of a great athlete, but also to ensure that these types of tragedies can be avoided in the future. Wilbon writes:

Charles Barkley, who would have gone head-to-head with Bias for more than a dozen years in the NBA, recalled the morning of June 19, 1986. Having just finished his second season with the 76ers, he was sitting in his apartment in Philadelphia when he saw the words "Breaking News" on the television.

Bias's death hit Barkley hard because his brother had been in and out of drug rehab for cocaine. He had considered trying it, but the news stopped him cold. "It scared me into not trying it even once, not going anywhere near it."

Obviously, Bias' death continues to carry a great deal of weight for those who remember it, but as years pass, we should strive to make sure that this wasted life, once filled with such promise, not fade, forgotten. All too often we read about athletes, many times role models, caught up in drugs. Len Bias' story is proof that anyone's life can not only be ruined, but ended by drug abuse. No matter how physically fit or how wealthy, we are all only human.

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