Skip to content

June 19 marks 26th anniversary of the death of Maryland star Len Bias

Jun 19, 2012, 11:29 AM EDT

Len Bias

His death shook not only the Maryland community, but the college basketball world and the nation. It reached beyond basketball and asked questions about race, class, and drug laws.

June 19 marks the 26th anniversary of the death of Maryland star Len Bias, the 6-8 forward who was drafted No. 2 overall by the Boston Celtics in 1986 and died tragically of a cocaine overdose two days later.

He was 22 years old.

Much of what has become of Len Bias’ story in the 26 years since his death has been a mix of a cautionary tale and a saddening reflection on what could have been for the league, the Boston Celtics, and the man himself, so full of potential in his time at Maryland.

He was the subject of a recent documentary “Without Bias,” that recounted the incident and the aftermath and received widespread critical acclaim.

Bias averaged 23.2 points and 7.0 rebounds in his senior season with Maryland and, when he was drafted, many thought he could be the infusion of youth and talent that could carry the Celtics franchise into the next decade.

Having come from the ACC, he was many times compared to Michael Jordan at North Carolina, with some saying he had the potential to rival Jordan in the NBA, as well.

Were he alive today, he would have been 48 years of age.

His death has become one of the rare “Do you remember where you were?” moments of the last three decades. Bill Simmons of ESPN, a New England native, wrote a piece about what he remembers from that day. Click here to read it, written in 2006.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

  1. yyyass - Jun 19, 2012 at 1:44 PM

    I do indeed remember that morning. Calling my Dad from work to break the news to him. In that day a lot of people waited for the 11PM news to get informed. A few of us Terp fans in the office just sat stunned or phoned other fans around the territory, answered questions from people outside of the area when they called in on business…it was a big deal. Terp fans were crushed and didn’t then realize what was about to become of their favorite basketball program in the wake of his death.

  2. 1historian - Jun 19, 2012 at 2:03 PM

    I was at work and when someone told me about it I just refused to believe it – they knew I was a huge Celts fan and I thought they were pulling my leg.

    The Celtics have never recovered.

    I always thought they should have done something about it – Johnny Most, in his inimitable way, says “This is it folks. The Celts are down by 1 with 2 seconds to go. D.J. inbounds to Bird, BIRD TO BIAS, BIAS SLAMS IT DOWN, THE CELTS WIN THE CELTS WIN!!!”

    Then Bird says “This is Larry Bird – what you just heard will never happen. If you are doing drugs, please get help. Parents – if you think your kids are involved with drugs – get help.”

    Something along those lines – I always thought they should have done that, but they never did.

  3. tomtravis76 - Jun 19, 2012 at 4:35 PM

    I was a young buck, 9, such a big Terps fan. Watching Bias was like watching a super hero play ball as a kid. He dominated. I say him play a bunch live at Cole. Going back and watching old footage, you see how athletic he really was. The NBA truely lost a potential game changer, who knows what the league history might look like, if he had lived.

  4. opiedamus - Jun 20, 2012 at 1:08 AM

    Most times I read and don’t post. I’m a former college hoops player and have love UNC hoops since I can remember…..I still have the Sports Illustrated, cover and all, of Len Bias. I worked on my baseline jumper, left side, til late in the night pretending to be Len Bias tying the game and sending it into overtime vs. my beloved Heels….of course, Jimmy Black hit the game winner.

    Len Bias was a great talent, period end of story. I have seen cocaine use, at parties and such, and I can say without a doubt, his death made me always wonder why anyone would put themself in a situation to use it.

    It scared me straight before I knew what straight was and I, to this day, miss watching him play…

  5. djungrady - Jun 20, 2012 at 8:38 PM

    Read about the vast legacy of Len Bias in the new book, Born Ready: The Mixed Legacy of Len Bias, by former University of Maryland athlete, and longtime journalist and author, Dave Ungrady. Got to for more info.

Leave Comment

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!