I’ve heard countless Celtics stories. Usually, it’s some half true folk tale about Bob Cousy crossing over a traditional point guard so bad that he left his Converse on the floor and walked all the way out of the Boston Garden, which supposedly had 100,000 people in it all getting high. Any fans of a great franchise like the Celtics understands the built up lore and tradition of passing down stories that could only be true in “Space Jam.” It’s human nature to embellish, but one Celtics story I know is true is Len Bias’s. In case you didn’t here about it, in 1986 the Celtics had the second overall pick. With that pick they drafted Len Bias, a 6’8’ forward that scouts considered a lock to succeed in the NBA. He was quiet, humble and gracious. His build and skill set reflect the modern star, big, smooth and explosive. Bias had a future mandated from up above. He was going to play with the best franchise in basketball, on the same team as Larry Bird, but a day after the draft, Bias died of Cardiac Arrhythmia because of cocaine use.
On the night of June 19, Bias went back to his University of Maryland dorm, he was found dead early the next morning. His story is one that haunts anybody who has heard it. By all accounts, Bias was a good kid who wasn’t a regular drug user. He partied because he was living his dream, and he died because of it. It’s a microcosm for the dangers of stardom and how it changes people.
Celtics fans speculate just how great they would’ve been had Bias played with Bird and the rest of those dominant Celtics. The whole Magic-Bird rivalry could’ve been different. I thought about that, and thought about just how tragic it was for a 22-year-old kid to die a night after he was informed he was available to accomplish his wildest dreams. Then I read about Tony Parker. He got his eye cut in the Drake-Chris Brown fight where bottles were thrown and dignities were lost. Parker wasn’t a participant in the adorable, little boy’s fight that filled my twitter timeline, but it begs the question, what is the line for appropriate partying for pro athletes?
They’re adults that are 21, and as long as there abiding by the law it’s difficult to pass judgment, but athletes need to realize that they’re setting an example. Len Bias probably thought doing a line or two was OK that night. Shit, he earned it right? That’s the lesson we absorb when we see LeBron James at the club, drinking from a bottle of Ace of Spades that could hydrate Tanzania. Until the system changes, we’ll continue to see exorbitant amounts of DUI’s mixed with incidences like Bias’, and with more trouble comes more criticism from spectators. Yet in the end, we’re the ones looking at the pictures from LIV after the Heat won the championship. We’re the ones laughing at Dennis Rodman’s story. We’re obsessively intrigued by controversial behavior, but we condemn it at the same time. Tony Parker was a centimeter away from losing his eye, he escaped in tact. Len Bias wasn’t so lucky. Who knows what happens after Thursday’s draft in the late hours where no one’s watching and no one’s judging. A kid who’s had nothing his whole life is about to be handed everything. It’s about time we taught him how to deal with it.