Spotlight: Len Bias

By Anthony Caruso III | Publisher

In this story, we’ll look into the basketball career of Len Bias. He was born in Landover, Maryland on November 18, 1963.

His parents James Bias Jr. and Dr. Lonis Bias had four children. He had a sister named Michelle and two brothers, Eric and James Bias III, who also went by “Jay.”

Former Maryland Terrapins basketball star Len Bias with two basketballs in his hands
Len Bias (Getty Images)

Bias attended Northwestern High School in Hyattsville, Maryland. Following high school, he spent four seasons at the University of Maryland.

As a freshman, he came off the bench. He appeared in 30 games, including 13 starts. He averaged 7.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 0.3 steals, and 0.5 blocks per game in 22 minutes.

From his sophomore through senior years, he was a starter for the team. In fact, he only missed one start in those three-years, which came during the 1983-84 season.

In his junior and senior seasoms, he was named the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Player of the Year. Bias also was a two-time first-team All-ACC selection. He also was named the ACC Athlete of the Year in 1986.

As a junior, he was a consensus second-team All-American in 1985. The following season, he was a consensus first-team All-American.

With the second overall pick in the 1986 NBA Draft, he was selected by the Boston Celtics. However, he never played a single game for the team.

The Celtics previously traded guard Gerald Henderson and cash considerations to the Seattle SuperSonics in the 1984 Draft on June 17th. Boston received the draft pick, which would turn out to be the second overall pick two years later.

Just two days after being drafted into the NBA, he returned to Maryland and drove to his room on campus. At approx. 2 am, according to reports, he attended an off-campus gathering, but was back in his dorm between 2:30-3 am.

Once back on campus, Bias and his friend Brian Tribble took cocaine in his dorm. Then at some point between 6:25-6:32 am, Bias suffered a seizure and collapsed when he was talking to Terry Long.

A 911 call was make to the Prince George’s County emergency dispatch by Tripple to get aid to Bias. At this time, he was unconscious and not breathing.

The medical personnel attempted to revive him were not successful. He died at Leland Memorial Hospital in Riverdale, Maryland at 8:55 am of a cardiac arrhythmia due to cocaine usage.

Four days following his death, more than 11,000 people attended his memorial service at Cole Field House. Red Auerbach, who helped the Celtics in drafting Bias, was one of the speakers.

Boston also honored Bias in their own memorial service on June 30th. His No. 30 jersey, which was never used, was given to his mother.

Bias is buried at Lincoln Memorial Cemetery in Suitland, Maryland.

Tribble was indicted by a grand jury in July 1986 for possession of cocaine and possession of cocaine with intent to distribute following Bias’ death. In addition, his former teammates Terry Long and David Gregg were also charged.

They were chaged with possession of cocaine and obstruction of justice. Long and Gregg were also suspended from the team after their arrests.

On October 20, 1986, the charges against Long and Gregg were dropped with their testimony against Tribble. Ten days later, Tribble was hit with three new charges, including one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice and two counts of obstruction of justice.

Also, on Oct. 30, Kenneth Mark Fobbs, who was also Tribble’s roommate at the time, was also arrested. He was charged with perjury, as he allegedly lied to the grand jury when he speak to them about the case.

On March 24, 1987, the charges against Fobbs were dropped. Three months later, Tribble was acquitted of all charges in this investigation.

Tribble was later arrested in 1990 for a drug charge following a two-year undercover investigation. He received ten years and one month in this case.

The Maryland House of Representatives wrote an anti-drug legislation following his death. The House was successful in passing the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 and the bill then went to the Senate.

It was then signed by President Ronald Reagan in October 1987. This law provided that if an individual distributed drugs to another person and it resulted in the death of the person, who used the drugs, would receive life in prison.

This is also known as the “The Len Bias Law.”

Also, following Bias’ death, Maryland investigated its basketball team. Through the investigation, it was determined that Bias was 21 credits shy of a degree.

In addition, it was also determined that during his senior year, he did not receive a single credit despite being at the school. He failed three courses and withdrew from two others.

State Attorney Arthur A. Marshall Jr. also claimed that Terrapins head coach Lefty Driesell allegedly told players to remove drugs from Bias’ dorm room. Marshall Jr.’s statement was later determined to be false.

James Bias claimed that Driesell neglected his athletes. The NCAA then started an investigation into the team. This lead to Athletic Director Dick Dull to resign in October 1986.

In addition, Driesell also resigned 17 days later, also in October 1986. He had been the school’s head coach for 17-years.

The final report from the NCAA’s investigation criticized the Terrapins athletic department. Plus, it also criticized the school’s admissions office and campus police.

In Nov. 2009, ESPN released a 30 for 30 documentary on Bias called “Without Bias.” Besides his parents and living siblings, the documentary also included interviews with Tribble, Keith Gaitlin, Driesell, among others.

Journalists Michael Wilbon, James Brown, Steve Buckhantz, and Jim Vance also participated in the documentary.

Bias was also profiled in Len Bias: The Legend You know, the Story You Didn’t.

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