Two years after Michael Jordan was selected by the Chicago Bulls in the 1984 NBA Draft, another player who played his college ball in the Atlantic Coast Conference like Jordan was regarded as one of the top prospects available heading into the 1986 draft. At 6-foot-9, 210 pounds, Len Bias was coming off of a season at the University of Maryland where he was named a First-Team All-American, First-Team All-ACC, and the ACC Player of the Year.
The Cleveland Cavaliers had the first choice in the 1986 NBA Draft and they opted to go with big North Carolina center Brad Daugherty. Next on the clock was the Boston Celtics.
Despite the fact that they were coming off a season in which they won their 16th NBA championship, the Celtics had the second pick in the draft thanks to a trade they made with the Seattle SuperSonics in 1984.
Boston made their decision and were hoping to land a young player who could help lead the franchise to even more championships over the next decade. League commissioner David Stern went up to the podium and announced that with the second overall selection in the 1986 NBA Draft, the Celtics had opted to pick Mr. Bias.
Bias, donning a gray and white pinstriped suit with a black tie, was then given a green Boston hat as he made his way to the stage at the Felt Forum in New York City to be congratulated by Stern. Following his handshake and small-talk session with the NBA’s commissioner, the Celtics’ newest player sat down with TBS Sports analyst (and Basketball Hall of Famer) Rick Barry and spoke about getting drafted to such a talented team like Boston.
“They’re a good team and they (have) got good supporting players. I can go up there and sit on the bench (and) whether I go in and play or not, I’ll learn a lot from the players there or learn a lot from playing myself.”
The next day, Bias and his father flew out to Boston to meet with some representatives from Reebok and sign a million dollar endorsement deal with the company. Once the meeting had concluded, he and his father returned back home to Maryland and shortly after, Bias headed to the University of Maryland to celebrate with his friends at teammates back at school.
During the early hours of the following morning, he left to go and party at a location that was outside of the school’s campus. Over the course of a few hours, Bias and his friends threw back a few drinks and also decided to use a bit of cocaine.
Bias and others in the room had apparently experimented with the drug in the past, so this was not just a random dude giving him cocaine for making it to the NBA.
Around sunrise that morning, Bias’ dream of playing professional basketball ended as a seizure knocked him unconscious and stopped his heart. On Thursday, June 19 at 8:55 a.m., the life of Len Bias was no more thanks to a cocaine-induced heart attack.
His career in the NBA came to a tragic end after just two days. Two days that fans of the Boston Celtics have not, and will never, forget.