Len Bias, RIP:

Today is the 20th anniversary of the tragic death of U. of Maryland basketball star and Boston Celtics No. 2 draft pick Len Bias.

Many experts, including Duke Coach Mike Krzywewski in the above-linked article, compare Bias' talent to that of his ACC near-contemporary Michael Jordan. While I doubt that Bias would really have been as great as Jordan, he would very likely have been an All Star-level player who could have extended the life of the Celtics dynasty of the 1980s.

The Drill SGT (mail):
Almost by definition he would not have been in the same lead with Jordan. Bias lacked the discipline to avoid drugs. Discipline and drive were what made Jordan, MJ.
6.19.2006 8:13pm
The Drill SGT (mail):
6.19.2006 8:14pm
Boulderlaw (mail) (www):
Mulling over what kind of basketball player Bias would have been seems trite when one considers how many lives have been ruined by the "war on drugs." Bias's death was the turning point in that struggle against personal freedom and economic opportunity.

It is fine to bemoan the loss to basketball that Bias's death represents, but the deeper impact of his death was on the drug policy of this country. The lesson of his death is not that drugs are dangerous, it is that self-control is important. That the country fixated on the former is more shocking that the death of a promising young basketball star.
6.19.2006 8:23pm
Here's a story about Reggie Lewis, not Len Bias - still, same sort of story...

I worked at the Brigham and Women's Hospital in the latter 80's / early 90's. In fact, the person in HR who officially hired me was Donna Harris - who became Donna Lewis not much later.

Despite what you may or may not have heard, Lewis was informed he would likely never play again. However, his Cardiologist, Gilbert "Punky" Mudge was ordered to make hopeful public statements about Lewis' condition that didn't reflect the realities of his dire conduction defect.

Lewis disobeyed his direct advice to not play, which led durectly to his death. And now his wife has tried to sue Mudge 3 times for his "bad diagnosis."

The irony here is that it was Donna Lewis' own boss, George Kay (known as "the man with the electric tan"), one sleazy, oily SOB, who ordered Mudge to not publically state the realities of Lewis' actual medical situation in the first place. With Donna Lewis' complicity.

In fact, it was the two of them who conspired to defacto hijack Lewis from the New England Baptist Hospital - George Kay drove the vehicle Lewis left the Baptist in (where he was in the care of the Celtic's own Physician). How many people can say they were transported by a VP of a Billion dollar teaching hospital?

Thought you all might find that little story interesting...
6.19.2006 8:44pm
Mr. Bingley (www):
I was at Virgina during the same 4 years that he was at Maryland, and I saw him play in person several times and on tv many times. He was fantastic and rightfully feared throughout the ACC. But his death was not 'tragic'. A six year old kid gets cancer, a car speeds off a road and runs down a pregnant woman, those are tragic. A 22 year old od's on cocaine while celebrating a few days after getting drafted by a pro team? Stupid, not tragic.
6.19.2006 9:25pm
Tennessean (mail):
Mr. Bingley: As you are a Virginia alum, I am sure that your most recent post was in haste. Len Bias's death certainly was tragic, even if you might want to argue that it was not as woeful as the cancer-afflicted six-year-old or the struck pregnant woman.

By typical definition, tragedy is "1 a : a medieval narrative poem or tale typically describing the downfall of a great man b : a serious drama typically describing a conflict between the protagonist and a superior force (as destiny) and having a sorrowful or disastrous conclusion that excites pity or terror c : the literary genre of tragic dramas."

Here we have a fantastically talented athletic star, a great-man protagonist. There is a conflict between his bright future in the NBA (comparable, some have to said, to the great Michael Jordan) and his youthful indiscretion and hubris. A classic tale of the invincible youth! But on the very brink of his greatest moments, he succumbs to the disastrous fate brought about by his foibles, a sorrowful conclusion, and one which induces "tender [and] slightly contemptuous sorrow" for the downed baller.

Len Bias, tragic? Of course! The child and the momma, only in the broader, less nuanced sense.
6.19.2006 9:39pm
Ship Erect (mail) (www):
The tragedy of Len Bias' death, which was completely irrelevant to playing for a state basketball team, is that it led to some of the most insane public (and private) policy of the last two decades.

Why did the Supreme Court decide that members of a school band could be drug tested as a condition for joining their extracurricular activity? Why should a urine test bar someone from a job in which past drug use has no bearing whatsoever? These kinds of intrusions on one's bodily privacy are sad but, of course, perfectly understandable given the "Just Say No" campaign.
6.19.2006 11:12pm
Frank Drackmann (mail):
"This is not a tragedy, a tragedy is 3 men trapped in a mine,or police dogs used in Birmingham, monks burning themselves in protest...."
6.19.2006 11:42pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
Lots of people died of coke 20 years ago and we recall the name of one. Because, I assume, he could have done something for us -- put on a show.

Looks like croc tears to me.
6.20.2006 1:04am
tragically stupid

Have the NBA training camps for the 2006-7 season opened yet?
6.20.2006 1:47am
Ted Frank (www):
he would very likely have been an All Star-level player who could have extended the life of the Celtics dynasty of the 1980s

Much like the #7 pick in the 1986 draft, Roy Tarpley.
6.20.2006 6:36am
Bandit (mail):
Sorry but my empathy level for someone who kills themselves on a coke bender is pretty low. Tragic implies unforeseeable consequences - sucking on a crack pipe and throwing away a multimillion dollar contract implies idiotic. I'm with those who doubt his future even if he hadn't OD'd.
6.20.2006 9:23am
Mr. Bingley (www):
Tennessean, you are completely correct in the classic sense. Bias is indeed the classic tragic figure, brought low by his hubris. Pentheus, just grab the thyrsus and dance, damn you, you stupid idiot, you!

I was posting on tragic through the lens of its modern, cheapened and over-used definition. Tragically, you noticed.
6.20.2006 9:24am
Witness (mail):
I'd just like to echo the sentiments of Boulderlaw and Ship Erect. Some of this country's most absurd laws can be traced directly to the Congressional reaction to Bias's death.
6.20.2006 1:21pm