Len Bias

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Len Bias
Bias after being selected in the 1986 NBA draft
Personal information
Born(1963-11-18)November 18, 1963
Landover, Maryland, U.S.
DiedJune 19, 1986(1986-06-19) (aged 22)
Riverdale, Maryland, U.S.
Listed height6 ft 8 in (2.03 m)
Listed weight210 lb (95 kg)
Career information
High schoolNorthwestern (Hyattsville, Maryland)
CollegeMaryland (1982–1986)
NBA draft1986 / Round: 1 / Pick: 2nd overall
Selected by the Boston Celtics
PositionSmall forward
Career highlights and awards
Stats Edit this at Wikidata at Basketball-Reference.com
College Basketball Hall of Fame
Inducted in 2021

Leonard Kevin Bias (November 18, 1963 – June 19, 1986) was an American college basketball player who attended the University of Maryland. During his four years playing for Maryland, he was named a first-team All-American. Two days after being selected by the Boston Celtics with the second overall pick in the 1986 NBA draft, Bias died from cardiac arrhythmia induced by a cocaine overdose.[1] In 2021, Bias was inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame.[2]

Early life[edit]

Bias was born and raised in the Prince George’s County area in Maryland, just outside of the Washington, D.C. area. He was one of four children born to James Bias Jr and Dr. Lonise Bias. He had a sister, Michelle, and two brothers, Eric and James III (James III was known as "Jay").[3]

From Landover, Maryland, Bias graduated from Northwestern High School in Hyattsville, Maryland.[4][5]

College career[edit]

Bias attended the University of Maryland. As a freshman, he was viewed as "raw and undisciplined," but ultimately, Bias developed into an All-American player. He led the Atlantic Coast Conference in scoring in his junior year and was named the ACC's Player of the Year. His senior season was highlighted by his performance in an overtime victory against top-ranked North Carolina, in which he scored 35 points, including 7 in the last three minutes of regulation and 4 in overtime. Bias collected his second ACC Player of the Year award at the end of the year and was named to two All-America teams.[6]

Bias impressed basketball fans with his amazing leaping ability, physical stature, and ability to create plays, and he was considered one of the most dynamic players in the nation. By his senior year, scouts from various National Basketball Association teams viewed Bias as the most complete forward in the class of 1986. Celtics scout Ed Badger called Bias an "explosive and exciting kind of player" and compared him to Michael Jordan.[7]

NBA draft, drug overdose, and death[edit]

On June 17, 1986, 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 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.[citation needed] On 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. Bias had discussions with Reebok's sports marketing division regarding a five-year endorsement package worth $1.6 million.[8]

After returning home to Maryland, Bias drove back to the campus of the University of Maryland. He left campus at approximately 2 a.m. on June 19, drove to an off-campus gathering, and returned to his dormitory between 2:30 and 3 a.m.[9] For the next three to four hours, Bias, with longtime friend Brian Tribble and several teammates, snorted cocaine in the dormitory suite shared by Bias and his teammates.[10][11][12] Bias reportedly had a seizure and collapsed while talking with teammate Terry Long.[9][13] At 6:32 a.m., when Tribble called 911, Bias was unconscious and not breathing.[12] All attempts by the emergency medical team to restart his heart and breathing were unsuccessful.[9] 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.[14][15][16][17]

Four days after Bias died, more than 11,000 people attended a June 23 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 to draft Bias for the Celtics for three years. On June 30, 1986, the Celtics honored Bias with their memorial service, giving his never-used #30 Celtics jersey to his mother, Lonise.[18]

Bias was interred at Lincoln Memorial Cemetery in Suitland, Maryland.[19]

Later developments[edit]

Criminal charges[edit]

On July 25, 1986, a grand jury returned indictments against Brian Tribble for possession of cocaine and possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. Bias' Maryland teammates Terry Long and David Gregg were charged with possession of cocaine and obstruction of justice. Long and Gregg were both suspended from the team on July 31.[20] All three defendants entered not guilty pleas in August.[20]

On October 20, 1986, prosecutors dropped all charges against Long and Gregg in exchange for their testimony against Tribble. On October 30, the grand jury added three more indictments against Tribble—one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice and two counts of obstruction of justice.[20]

Also on October 30, Kenneth Mark Fobbs, Tribble's roommate, was charged with perjury for allegedly lying to the grand jury about the last time he had seen Tribble. The state ultimately dropped the perjury charges against Fobbs on March 24, 1987, and a jury acquitted Tribble of all charges related to the Bias case on June 3, 1987.[20]

In October 1990, Tribble pleaded guilty to a drug charge following a two-year undercover sting operation. He cooperated with the government and was sentenced to ten years and one month in prison.[21]


On December 5, 1990, Len's younger brother, Jay Bias, was murdered in a drive-by shooting at age 20. The killing followed a dispute in the parking lot of Prince George's Plaza, a Hyattsville shopping mall just a few miles from the University of Maryland.[22] He was pronounced dead at the same hospital where his brother Len had died and was buried next to him at Lincoln Memorial Cemetery.[23]

Following their sons' deaths, James and Lonise Bias assumed vocal advocacy roles. Lonise Bias became an anti-drug lecturer, while James Bias became an advocate for gun control.[24][25] Lonise Bias, in the memory of her children, opened the Len and Jay Bias Foundation, which served to encourage better examples for youth.[26]

Len Bias Law[edit]

A few weeks after Bias' death, committees in the United States House of Representatives began writing anti-drug legislation.[27] The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 was signed by President Ronald Reagan on October 27, 1986. The law provided a mandatory minimum prison term of 20 years and a maximum life sentence, along with a fine of up to $2 million for cases of drug distribution that led to the death or serious injury of a person. It is also known as the "Len Bias Law".[28]

University of Maryland investigation[edit]

The circumstances surrounding Bias' death threw the University of Maryland and its athletics program into turmoil. An investigation revealed that Bias was 21 credits short of the graduation requirement despite having attended the university for four full years; in his final semester, he earned no academic credits, failing three courses and withdrawing from two others.[29] On August 26, 1986, State's Attorney Arthur A. Marshall Jr. stated that in the hours after Bias' death, Maryland head basketball coach Lefty Driesell told players to remove drugs from Bias' dorm room. Two days later, Bias' father, James, accused the university and Driesell specifically of neglecting their athletes' academic status.[20]

The controversy prompted athletic director Dick Dull to resign on October 7, 1986, with Driesell following suit on October 29 after 17 years as coach. The grand jury presiding over the Bias case issued a final report on February 26, 1987, criticizing the University of Maryland's athletic department, admissions office, and campus police.[20]

Career statistics[edit]

  GP Games played   GS  Games started  MPG  Minutes per game
 FG%  Field goal percentage  3P%  3-point field goal percentage  FT%  Free throw percentage
 RPG  Rebounds per game  APG  Assists per game  SPG  Steals per game
 BPG  Blocks per game  PPG  Points per game  Bold  Career high


1982–83 Maryland 30 13 22.0 .478 .273 .636 4.2 .7 .3 .5 7.1
1983–84 Maryland 32 31 34.5 .567 .767 4.5 1.5 .4 .8 15.3
1984–85 Maryland 37 37 36.5 .528 .777 6.8 1.8 .9 .9 18.9
1985–86 Maryland 32 32 37.0 .544 .864 7.0 1.0 .8 .4 23.2
Career 131 113 32.8 .536 .273 .795 5.7 1.3 .6 .7 16.4

Film and media[edit]

A film about Len Bias' life, directed by Kirk Fraser, was promoted at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival[30] and released June 19, 2009.

The documentary Without Bias premiered on ESPN on November 3, 2009, as part of their 30 for 30 documentary series.

Bias was portrayed by actor Jamie Jones on the FX original series Snowfall.[31][better source needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Legend of Len Bias". ESPN.com.
    "Original Old School: We Reminisce Over You". Slam Online. June 19, 2009. Archived from the original on October 9, 2010. Retrieved February 8, 2011.
  2. ^ "Len Bias To Be Inducted Into College Basketball Hall Of Fame On Sunday". CBS. November 18, 2021.
  3. ^ C. Fraser Smith (1992). Lenny, Lefty, and the Chancellor: the Len Bias Tragedy and the Search for Reform in Big-time College Basketball. ISBN 9781610880015. Retrieved March 20, 2017.
  4. ^ Robinson, Jake (April 9, 2020). "The Len Bias Story—A Cautionary Tale". howtheyplay.com. Retrieved June 28, 2020.
  5. ^ Frandsen, Mike (June 21, 2012). "Remembering Maryland Basketball Star Len Bias". bleacherreport.com. Retrieved June 28, 2020.
  6. ^ Rick Maese (November 20, 2005). "Rise and fall of Len Bias". Archived from the original on October 15, 2012. Retrieved May 3, 2013.
  7. ^ Sally Jenkins (June 18, 1986). "Celtics Make Bias Second Overall Pick of Draft". The Washington Post.
  8. ^ Weinberg, Rick. "Len Bias dies of cocaine overdose". ESPN. Archived from the original on October 20, 2012.
  9. ^ a b c "Maryland Basketball Star Len Bias Is Dead at 22". Washington Post. June 20, 1986. Retrieved March 20, 2017.
  10. ^ "Ex-Teammate Tells Of Bias Drug Role". The New York Times. Maryland. May 28, 1987. Retrieved March 20, 2017.
  11. ^ Taylor, Phil (June 30, 1986). "The Cruelest Thing Ever". Si.com. Retrieved March 20, 2017.
  12. ^ a b "David Gregg Len Bias | Years later, Len Bias' death continues to trouble many lives – tribunedigital-baltimoresun". Articles.baltimoresun.com. June 19, 1991. Retrieved March 20, 2017.
  13. ^ Schmidt, Susan; Kenworthy, Tom (June 25, 1986). "Cocaine Caused Bias' Death, Autopsy Reveals : Dose Said to Trigger Heart Failure; Criminal Inquiry to Be Pressed". The Washington Post – via Los Angeles Times.
  14. ^ "Celtics Draftee Len Bias Dies of Heart Attack : Maryland Star Had Come Out of Physical 'Perfect' 2 Days Ago". Los Angeles Times. June 19, 1986. Retrieved June 9, 2020.
  15. ^ Keith Harriston; Sally Jenkins (June 20, 1986). "Traces of Cocaine Found in System". The Washington Post.
  16. ^ "The Len Bias Tragedy". The Washington Post. August 4, 1998. Retrieved February 8, 2011.
  17. ^ Bill Simmons (June 20, 2001). "Still haunted by Len Bias". ESPN. Archived from the original on June 3, 2010. Retrieved June 9, 2020.
  18. ^ "Lonise Bias Holding Celtics Jersey". Getty Images. Retrieved May 11, 2022. (Original Caption) College Park, Md.: Lonise Bias, mother of Len Bias, holds a Boston Celtics' jersey given to her by Celtics' president Red Auerbach during a memorial service at the Cole Field House. The former Maryland basketball star died early June 19th of an apparent cardiac arrest.
  19. ^ Wojciechowski, Gene (June 23, 1991). "Death Be Not Proud : Five Years Later, Aftershocks From the Len Bias Case Still Can Be Felt". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 9, 2020.
  20. ^ a b c d e f "Triumph to Turmoil". The Baltimore Sun. June 18, 2006. Retrieved June 9, 2020.
  21. ^ Paul W. Valentine (October 16, 1993). "Tribble Sentenced to 10 Years for Dealing Cocaine". The Washington Post.
  22. ^ Maureen C. Gilmer (October 26, 2014). "'Blind Side' mom will speak in Indy". Indianapolis Star.
  23. ^ "Len Bias' Brother Dies in Shooting". The New York Times. December 5, 1990. Archived from the original on June 3, 2010. Retrieved February 8, 2011.
  24. ^ Villareal, Luz (February 10, 1992). "Len Bias' Mom Pushes Sobriety After Son's Death". Orlando Sentinel. Archived from the original on November 6, 2013. Retrieved June 11, 2013.
  25. ^ "Father Of Len Bias Wants Stricter Gun Regulation". Orlando Sentinel. December 9, 1990. Archived from the original on October 21, 2010. Retrieved June 11, 2013.
  26. ^ Timothy Sandoval (February 27, 2013). "Proposal to create statue honoring Len Bias is withdrawn". The Washington Post.
  27. ^ Stolberg, Sheryl Gay; Herndon, Astead W. (June 25, 2019). "'Lock the S.O.B.s Up': Joe Biden and the Era of Mass Incarceration". The New York Times. Retrieved June 25, 2019. His death created a media frenzy amid a national panic over crack, a cheap, smokable form of cocaine that was alarming drug-abuse experts and fueling a wave of violent crime in American cities, especially black neighborhoods. Mr. Biden convened a hearing the next month.
  28. ^ McDonald, Thomasi (October 31, 2017). "How the 'Len Bias Law' of 1988 is being used to get longer prison sentences today". The Raleigh News and Observer. Retrieved June 28, 2020.
  29. ^ Simon, Roger (September 13, 1988). "Sadly, It's The Way The Ball Bounces". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on March 8, 2017. Retrieved September 21, 2021.
  30. ^ Nancy Doyle Palmer (February 26, 2008). "Len Bias Movie Promoted at Sundance". The Washingtonian. Archived from the original on December 12, 2009. Retrieved February 8, 2011.
  31. ^ "'Snowfall' Season 5 Episode 1 Uses Len Bias' Death To Begin Crumbling Franklin's Drug Empire". cassiuslife.com. February 24, 2022. Retrieved March 2, 2022.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]