Bias was a native of Washington DC, and grew up in a Maryland suburban neighborhood. His parents saw basketball as a way for them to keep him occupied and have something to look forward to. What transpired was something completely different, Len picked up a basketball in middle school and was cut not once, but twice. This was a defining moment in his life where he became fiercely determined to prove everyone wrong. He worked hard and developed his game consistently. Shortly after he seemed to instantly become noticed by others, and clearly a special talent. As an eighth grader in Greenbelt Middle School, bias started his legacy and never looked back. By the ninth grade it was clear he had abilities that surpassed others, these natural talents mixed with hard work made him a standout at Northwestern High School in Hyattsville, and a regional star.
It became apparent by his Sophomore year in high school that Len would be a star. By his senior year Mr. Bias decided to sign with the University of Maryland, and that’s when things really got interesting. Though he only averaged 7 points, 4 rebounds while starting 13-30 games, Len was catching the eyes of basketballs elite. Freshman year had Bias showing glimpses of brilliance, and at 6’8 220 pounds he was banging down low with the likes of 6’11 Brad Daugherty of North Carolina and 6’11 John Salley of Georgia Tech. Bias would hold his own, and even shine against the premier talent of the ACC. His athleticism and strength allowed Bias to do things very few big men could do. Although he was playing out of position with Len being more of a small forward rather than a center or strong forward, Bias always found a way. He had a jump shot that was straight up and down, and consistent with range. Athletically he could jump higher and leave the ground faster than most players, and a work ethic that pushed everyone around him to be better.
Len did it all but it was his turn around jumper that made him unstoppable, the same jumper would make him a breakout star by Sophomore year with the Terps. His production spiked to 15.3 points per game on 56.7 percent field-goal shooting, and by the time he saw Michael Jordan he was the brightest star on the court. In his junior year, Bias averaged 18.9 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game, earning him ACC Player of the Year honors. He and senior running mate Adrian Branch led the Terps to a 25-12 record, and Maryland reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.
Bias would go on to average 23.2 points and 7.0 rebounds per game as a senior. He repeated as ACC Player of the Year, and became a consensus First Team All-American. That season Maryland had limited scoring depth with the graduation of key players like Adrian Branch, there was little scoring support outside of point guard Keith Gatlin’s 10 points per game. The Terps started ACC play 0-6, but Bias lifted his team to a 19-14 record (6-8 ACC) and a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Len wasn’t going out without a bang, that season Bias scored a career-high 41 points at No. 2 Duke, and even though Maryland lost, Duke Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski maintains that it was the greatest performance by a visiting player he’s ever witnessed. Shortly after that on Feb. 20, Bias dropped 35 points to spearhead an upset of No. 1 North Carolina on the road; it was the Tar Heels’ first loss inside the newly opened Dean Smith Center.
He was special and the NBA knew it, that year in the 1986 draft team president Red Auerbach made sure the Boston Celtics selected Len Bias as the number two pick to join the defending champs. Bias would be on a team loaded with NBA stars to teach and help him grow as a star himself. He was staring down the barrel of a perfect storm to take the NBA by surprise as everyone saw him as a formidable foe for the great Michael Jordan. With Hall Of Famers like Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish on the back end of their careers, Len was a perfect fit to keep the Celtics dominance alive. After the draft he took press conference after press conference, and even had a meeting with Reebok to sign a sneaker deal.
Unfortunately we know all too well what the ending is to such an amazing, young, and promising life. Len would never make it onto an NBA court, he would pass away one seemingly innocent night of celebrating. Mr. Bias passed out and never woke up, there were traces of cocaine in his system that was said to have stopped his heart. It was an innocent one time mistake that cost him his life. His mother, family, and an entire basketball community was grief stricken.
Bias’ wake at his family’s church had lines stretching two blocks and mourners waiting for hours. The State troopers stopped traffic for his funeral at Maryland’s Memorial Chapel. The memorial service at Cole Field House drew 11,000 people, a crowd fitting to many Maryland games. Bias had become not just the biggest star on campus, but the biggest hero in the area. His death shook the entire community unlike anything before or after.