Where Were You … June 19, 1986?

November 04, 2009 | Tom Federline

Where were you when you heard of Len Bias’ death? For those of you 35+ years of age, bball fans and Terp alum, you know, you remember. ESPN nailed it again last night with their “30 for 30” series and the documentary “Without Bias.” If you missed it, watch it, check website for replays, http://30for30.espn.com/film/without-bias.html. Had a Ravens blog ready to go…..saw documentary……Ravens on hold. The death of Len Bias rocked this area and the entire sports world.

I was at my place of current employ, different location, drafting (by hand), when a co-worker came over and said he had just heard that Len Bias was dead. The phone was on my ear for the good part of the rest of the day. For more insight of Len Bias’ life, events leading up to his death and aftermath, I recommend the book,”Never Too Young to Die”, by Lewis Cole (1989).

“Leonard”……….when I heard Lefty Driesell say his name again last night, that’s all it took. Darn you Lefthander………it’s just how he says it with that southern draw ……….”Leonard”. In an instant I was time warped back to the latter part of my college years, the mid-80’s and memories of watching Leonard Bias play basketball. I was lucky, I got to see it live. You used to be able to stop in Cole Field House and watch the basketball team practice. So sometimes coming back form class, going to class or not making it to class, you could watch. I remember two times specifically – Albert King hitting 59 jump shots in a row from around the top of the key and I remember Len Bias’ gliding up and down the court, soaring and laughing. “Laughing” because he was living his dream and bottom line…..nobody could stop him. He didn’t jump. He didn’t leap. He “skyed”! To this day I have not seen anyone come close to his controlled “skying” ability.

When I first saw Leonard, I remember asking myself, “Who is this guy?” I only recall saying that twice since, Ray Lewis, Oakland opening game ’96 and second, Nick Markakis up in Frederick. Len Bias was on his way to something special.

The documentary was fairly grim, but enlightening. Never knew how strong his mom was. Never realized all the good that surfaced due to Leonards death. The adoptions and modifications of drug laws, drug awareness, drug testing in sports kicked up a notch, everyones own introspection, family strength, etc. We saw the bad, it was thrown in our face, the media had a field day with it. UMCP took a major hit, basketball took a hit, all involved took a hit. ESPN and Kirk Fraser did a nice job. The interviews (all good): His parents, his family, Jeff Baxter, Keith Gatlin, Lefty, Brian Tribble, Jim Nance, Michael Wilbon, etc.

“What If” – (Creed).  What if the Celtics hadn’t drafted him? What if he hadn’t gone to that party that night? What if drugs wasn’t part of the picture? What if Len Bias had made it big? Not for us to ask or answer. Ours to learn, life is fragile, seize the moment. “Leonard”……….thanks for the memories, thanks for making a difference. GO TERPS!