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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 865

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This is the grave of Len Bias.

Born in 1963 in Landover, Maryland, Bias became one of the great college basketball stars of the 1980s. He starred in high school and then went to the University of Maryland. He wasn’t an immediate star in College Park, averaging 7 points a game as a useful but still only supporting freshman. He improved significantly each year, averaging 15 as as sophomore, 19 as a junior, and 22 as a senior. This was a huge NBA star in the making. He was such a monster, a versatile forward who could do it all.

In 1986, the Boston Celtics had lucked into a great scenario. Two years earlier, they had traded Gerald Henderson to Seattle for the Sonics’ 1986 1st round pick. In 1986, the Celtics were still at the top of their dynasty, with Bird, McHale, Parrish, Johnson, and Ainge making up one of the best starting five units in NBA history. The Sonics were terrible in 1986. And so the Celtics, despite already being awesome, had the #2 pick. Cleveland drafted first and chose Brad Daugherty, the center from North Carolina. It was a defensible pick. Daugherty had a very nice career. But this was also the era where NBA teams thought a dominant center mattered more than anything else. As a Blazers fan, trust me, I know the down side of this obsession (Bowie over Jordan or Barkley, Oden over Durant). Bias was almost certainly the best player in that draft. Boston took him second. This was the ticket for another ten years of domination.

A couple of days later, after visiting Boston, Bias decided to party in celebration. He snorted a metric ton of cocaine. His heart stopped and he died.

Bias was 22 years old.

This was the sad draft where several top picks destroyed their lives through drugs, including the #3 pick, Chris Washburn, and the #7 pick, Roy Tarpley.

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

If you would like this series to visit more basketball players drafted in the 1980s, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. Quite a few members of the 1986 draft class have died, but the only one who has a known grave is Dwayne Washington, who is in Queens, New York. Among those from the 1985 class who have died is Steve Harris, who was the Rockets 1st round pick. He’s in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. Previous posts in this series are archived here.

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