I was ten years old in June 1986 in San Jose, California I believe at my uncle Stan’s house with aunt Susan. My dad took me and my two brothers out to the Bay Area to visit his side of the family, our grandparents, uncle Stan, aunt Susan and everybody. And sometime early that day one of my brothers runs in tells me that Len Bias had died. I started watching college basketball, the Maryland Terrapins and Georgetown Hoyas especially growing up in the Washington area starting in 1984 or 1985. I was a sports junky by the time I was 7-8 years old, so I already knew who Len Bias was, the best college basketball player in America.
A very bright person from a very good family playing for a great head coach in Lefty Drizell at Maryland at a great school. And Len Bias had just got drafted by the Boston Celtics the New York Yankees of the National Basketball Association and the defending NBA Finals Champions with arguably the best player in the league at the time and all-time in Larry Legend Bird. They had the best player in the NBA arguably who was the best player in 1986, this was Larry Bird at his best and most dominant.
And they had just drafted the best player in college basketball and a player that was very similar to Michael Jordan in skills and style of play. But Bias at this point of his career was better, he could play both forward Positions and play the off-guard and maybe point guard as well. Actually similar to Lebron James or even Earvin Magic Johnson as far as versatility and size. 6’8 220 all muscle best player in college basketball being drafted by the best team in the world, Len Bias was set for life.
If you’re the Boston Celtics, Red Auerbach and company in 1986, going into 1987 you’re thinking you’re the best club in pro basketball. You just made your club a lot better by drafting the best player in college basketball going into 1987. You draft Reggie Lewis in 1987, you still have Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, Dennis Johnson. I mean Bill Walton is your backup center for crying out loud. If Big Red stays healthy maybe he’s the best center of all time, the only thing problem or lets call it and issue.
That’s head coach KC Jones has to face who was a great head coach and should be in the Hall of Fame. “Where do I play Len Bias”, because you already have the best front line in basketball with Bird, McHale, and Parish all three of them in the Hall of Fame by the way. “Where do I play Bias, is he my sixth man, do I use McHale as the sixth man again like in the early 1980s”.
Where should KC Jones play Bias, at the off- guard with Dennis Johnson what a problem to have. The 1987 Lakers were a great team and I believe the best ever, but imagine the 87 Celtics if Bias doesn’t die and Kevin McHale doesn’t break his foot then. Imagine the Celtics a few years later had Larry Bird not broken his foot in 1988 and missed the 89 season and Reggie Lewis not die in 1993.
The Celtics front line would’ve moved on anyway where Len Bias and Reggie Lewis had lived to play their whole careers or not, but they would’ve had 4-5 seasons with arguably the greatest front line in NBA history. And then throw in Brian Shaw as the point guard who took over for Dennis Johnson. Plus Kevin Gamble and Dee Brown off the bench, with Ed Pickney even after Bird, McHale and Parish you’re still talking about a great team, with Len Bias, Reggie Lewis and company. And maybe the Boston Celtics are the team of the 1990s or right there with the Chicago Bulls instead of becoming an annual lottery team in that decade.
May 3rd Films-ESPN 30 For 30: Len Bias Documentary