Following their incredible '86 championship season the Celtics held the #2 position in the '86 NBA draft and used it to select the big forward from Maryland. He was quick, strong, had a nice scoring touch and could leap over tall buildings with a single bound. Unfortunately he also had an affinity for cocaine and on June 19th, just two days after being selected by the Celts and one day after signing an endorsement contract with Reebok for a reported $3 million, he died suddenly from cardiac arrythmia brought on by cocaine ingestion.
The University of Maryland and many close to Bias attempted at first to mask the truth by fabricating a tale of how he'd spent a quiet evening on campus with friends. They argued that he'd died of natural causes and stuck with that fairy tale for quite a while. But the reality was that his car had been spotted and his license plate number noted by police during the evening of the 18th cruising Washington DC's drug neighborhoods and more than a few people were aware of his coke habit (it was rumored by never proven that Maryland coach Lefty Dreisell had other players do a coke sweep of Bias' dorm room after his death). It also came out after the fact that he was 21 credits short of being eligible to graduate, a fact that had been hidden from the media.
Put in the tough position of having to honor someone who misrepresented himself, died from drugs and left them with myriad problems going forward the Celtics did the only thing they could from a PR perspective; they held the requisite memorial and gave the family his number 30 jersey which he'd never actually worn, then moved on.
But where they moved on to was not exactly the fabled halls of Mount Olympus they'd envisioned when they'd drafted Bias. Instead, they hobbled into the 1987 Finals on crutches only to lose to the Lakers in 6 and after that the slide began in earnest. 10 years after their '87 Finals appearance they would post a record of 15-67 and it would be another 10 years after THAT before the C's returned to something resembling their historical selves when Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen were brought on board to compliment Paul Pierce.
|(left) Len Bias on June 17, 1986 and (right) his funeral a few days later.|