SI Vault
 
The Cruelest Thing Ever
Jack McCallum
June 30, 1986
Such was the reaction to the death of Len Bias, a Maryland All-America and Celtic-to-be. An autopsy showed that cocaine was involved in the tragedy
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
June 30, 1986

The Cruelest Thing Ever

Such was the reaction to the death of Len Bias, a Maryland All-America and Celtic-to-be. An autopsy showed that cocaine was involved in the tragedy

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2 3 4

Bias had a lot to be excited about, and people were excited for him. Now they are sad for him. On Sunday evening some 2,000 mourners waited as long as two hours to file past his open coffin in the small brick Pilgrim African Methodist Episcopal Church near Capitol Hill, of which Bias was a member.

Bias had been a symbol to many people, particularly young blacks, in the D.C. area. Some compared him to Sugar Ray Leonard, who's from nearby Palmer Park. "I'd say Len was even bigger," Wagner said last Friday in the North-western gym, "because in this area, basketball is the sport. Kids looked up to Len." A few minutes later a young boy appeared at the gym. He was wearing a Celtics T-shirt. Wagner smiled ruefully. "You know, the Celtics are hated down here, absolutely hated," he said. "Before Lenny got drafted, you wouldn't have seen that shirt."

And now, all his celebrity, all his hopes, all his potential wealth, all his dreams are gone. "Here was a kid who did what he was told and who did work hard," says Wagner, "and something bad still happened."

His friends and family will try to remember Len Bias as he looked on that Tuesday afternoon in New York City. He was a kid with a crooked smile on his face, a Celtics cap on his head and the world at his fingertips.

1 2 3 4