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NBA – 1986 – ESPNs Bob Ley Reports On Celtics #1 Draft Choice Len Bias Is Dead From Cocaine Overdose


Leonard Kevin Bias (November 18, 1963 – June 19, 1986) was a first-team All-American college basketball forward at the University of Maryland….who was selected by the Boston Celtics as the second overall pick in the 1986 NBA draft on June 17….and died two days later from cardiac arrhythmia induced by a cocaine overdose. He is considered by some sportswriters to be the greatest player not to play at the professional level.

On Tuesday, June 17, 1986….Len Bias was selected by the Boston Celtics as the second overall pick in the 1986 NBA draft….which was held in New York City at Madison Square Garden.  Red Auerbach, the Celtics’ president and general manager, had previously dealt guard Gerald Henderson and cash to the Seattle SuperSonics for the pick in 1984. After the draft, Bias and his family returned to their suburban Maryland home.  

On Wednesday, June 18, Bias and his father flew to Boston, Massachusetts, from Washington, D.C….for an NBA club draft acceptance and product endorsement signing ceremony with the Celtics’ coaches and management….where Bias had discussions with Reebok’s sports marketing division regarding a five-year endorsement package worth $1.6 million.  

After returning home to Maryland, Bias retrieved his newly leased sports car and drove back to his room on the campus of the University of Maryland….where he then dined with some teammates and a member of the football team….after which he left campus at approximately 2 a.m. on Thursday, June 19….and drove to an off-campus gathering….which he attended briefly before returning to his dorm in Washington Hall sometime between 2:30 and 3 a.m.  For the next three to four hours, Bias, longtime friend Brian Tribble and several teammates repeatedly snorted cocaine in the dormitory suite shared by Bias and his teammates….and according to the campus timeline….Bias had a seizure and collapsed some time between 6:25 and 6:32 a.m. while talking with teammate Terry Long.  At 6:32 a.m., when the 911 call to Prince George’s County emergency services was made by Tribble….Bias was unconscious and not breathing…..as all attempts by the emergency medical team to restart his heart and breathing were unsuccessful.  After additional attempts to revive him at Leland Memorial Hospital in Riverdale, Maryland, Bias was pronounced dead at 8:55 a.m. of a cardiac arrhythmia related to usage of cocaine. It was reported that there were no other drugs or alcohol found in his system after his death. 

Four days after Bias died, on June 23, more than 11,000 people attended a memorial service at the Cole Field House, the university recreation and student center where Bias played for the Terrapins. Those speaking at the service included Red Auerbach….who said he had planned for three years to draft Bias for the Celtics. On June 30, 1986, the Celtics honored Bias with their own memorial service….while giving his never-used #30 Celtics jersey to his mother, Lonise.

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