Elmhurst Pub Roundtable

Where the beer is cold and the conversation loud...

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

20 years later: Lenny Bias

I was going to put this with my musings yesterday, but couldn't condense it enough...

You can't predict the future. But if you could, the Celtics would be the ones hanging a final banner in the rafters this year as grizzled veteran Len Bias looks on, having announced his retirement from basketball. Bias was the key, the cornerstone, the bridge that would carry the Celtics into the 1990's and the new century, taking the reigns from Larry Bird. He would have mentored Reggie Lewis, understood what it meant to wear the green and white, and led the team to a half dozen more titles. Wasn't meant to be though. Things changed in an instant that draft night. The church going kid who wanted nothing more than to please all those around him took what is stated as his first hit of cocaine and died that same night. The banners, dreams, and bridge died with him and left the Celtics in the state we see them currently.

Len Bias represents to the NBA, and especially to the Celtics organization, one of the greatest "what-ifs" in basketball history. Many considered Bias to be the perfect complement to the Larry Bird-led Celtics, a potential backup for both Bird and Kevin McHale who would have limited their minutes and perhaps in turn extended their careers. The second overall pick, dressed in a Jalen Rose-esque white suit, was going to be that good. The first "next Michael Jordan." It was the first in a chain of events that the Celtics haven't been able to recover from: extra wear and tear on Bird and company, the death of Reggie Lewis, ML Carr, Tim Duncan, Rick Pitino, Danny Ainge. It's odd, I hadn't realized that Bias' death was that long ago. Hell, I was too young to know much about him. But ESPN classic is back showing some of his games. Watch one, do yourself a favor. He was brash, confident, and knew he was the best. That's all there is too it. Maybe that's why he thought he was invincible, maybe that's why his legacy is what it is - a say no to drugs campaign.

I hadn't spent much time thinking about him or his potential impact on the Celtics until I watched one of those games. Now, I see the potential, I see where they could be and where they are. It doesn't as much upset me as it does disappoint me. It's my same feeling on guys like Chris Henry and Santonio Holmes and Ricky Williams, Roy Tarpley, Steve Howe, and any other you can think of. These guys have the world in the palm of their hands, millions of dollars in their pockets, and there always needs to be more. It makes you realize that athletes are human and have their demons as well, you just wish that they had the means to control them.


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