18 Nov 1963 1
Landover, Maryland 1
19 Jun 1986 1
Riverdale, Maryland 1

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Personal Details

Full Name:
Leonard Kevin "Len" Bias 1
Also known as:
Len Bias, Frosty 1
18 Nov 1963 1
Landover, Maryland 1
Male 1
19 Jun 1986 1
Riverdale, Maryland 1
Cause: Cocaine Overdose 1
Mother: James Bias 1
Father: Louise Bias 1
Race or Ethnicity:
African American 1

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Leonard Kevin "Len" Bias

  Leonard Kevin "Len" Bias (November 18, 1963 – June 19, 1986) was a first team All-American college basketball forward at the University of Maryland. He was selected by the Boston Celtics as the second overall pick in the 1986 NBA Draft on June 17, but died two days later from cardiac arrhythmia induced by a cocaine overdose. He is considered by some sportswriters to be one of the greatest players not to play at the professional level.

  Bias was born in Landover, Maryland. He was known to friends and family by his childhood nickname "Frosty". He was given the nickname by his good friend and pastor Rev. Gregory Edmond because he was "tall and cool and quiet and unassuming"

  From Landover, Maryland, Bias graduated from Northwestern High School in Hyattsville, Maryland, and subsequently attended the University of Maryland.

As a freshman, he was viewed as "raw and undisciplined", but developed himself over time into an All-American player. In his junior year, he led the Atlantic Coast Conference in scoring 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 3 minutes of regulation and 4 in overtime. At the end of the year, Bias collected his second ACC Player of the Year award and was named to two All-America teams. [5]

Bias impressed basketball fans with his amazing leaping ability, his physical stature and his ability to create plays, and 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. According to Celtics scout Ed Badger, "He's maybe the closest thing to (Chicago guard) Michael Jordan to come out in a long time. I'm not saying he's as good as Michael Jordan, but he's an explosive and exciting kind of player like that."[6] Jordan was then in his second professional season with the Chicago Bulls.

  On June 17, Bias was selected by the defending NBA champion Celtics as the second overall pick in the 1986 NBA Draft, which was held in New York City at Madison Square GardenArnold "Red" Auerbach, as the Boston Celtics President and General Manager, had previously 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.

On June 18, Bias and his father flew to BostonMassachusetts, 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. [7]

After returning home to Washington, Bias retrieved his newly leased sports car and drove back to his room on the campus of the University of Maryland. He then dined with some teammates and a member of the football team. He left campus at approximately 2 AM on June 19 and drove to an off-campus gathering, which he attended briefly before returning to his dorm in Washington Hall at 3 AM. It was at this time that Bias and some friends used cocaine. According to the campus timeline, Bias had a seizure and collapsed sometime between 6:25 and 6:32 AM while talking with teammate Terry Long. At 6:32 AM, when the 911 call to Prince George's County emergency services was made by Brian Tribble (a long-time friend), Bias was unconscious and not breathing. All attempts by the emergency medical team to restart his heart and breathing were unsuccessful.[8] After additional attempts to revive him in the Emergency Department at Leland Memorial Hospitalin Riverdale, Maryland, Bias was pronounced dead at 8:55 AM of a cardiac arrhythmia related to usage of cocaine. It was reported that there were no other drugs or alcohol found in his system after his death.

Four days after his death, more than 11,000 people packed the Cole Field House, the university recreation and student center where Bias played for the Terrapins, for a memorial service. Those speaking at the service included Red Auerbach, who said he had planned for three years to draft Bias for the Celtics. Auerbach added that the city of Boston had not been so shocked since the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Bias is buried in Lincoln Memorial Cemetery in Suitland, Maryland.[13] On June 30, 1986, the Celtics honored Bias with their own memorial service, giving his never used #30 Celtic jersey to his mother, Lonise.

Maryland Basketball Star Len Bias Is Dead at 22 Traces of Cocaine Found in System

University of Maryland all-America basketball player Len Bias collapsed in his dormitory suite early yesterday morning and two hours later was pronounced dead of cardiac arrest at Leland Memorial Hospital in Riverdale.

Evidence of cocaine was found in a urine sample taken at the hospital as an emergency medical team labored from 6:50 to 8:50 a.m. to revive him, police sources said. Maj. James Ross, head of criminal investigations for Prince George's County police, said even if cocaine had been detected, it would not be possible to tell if that had contributed to Bias' death without further tests.

Medical experts said sudden cardiac arrest in a 22-year-old in apparent top physical shape could have been caused by cocaine, by a heart ailment that even frequent examinations might have missed, or by a combination of the two.

Sources said Bias passed a physical—including a urinalysis to test for drugs—administered May 27 by the Boston Celtics, who Tuesday made him the No. 2 overall pick in the National Basketball Association draft. Bias showed no sign of a heart ailment in yearly team physicals, including a special study to look for hidden heart disease, and no evidence of drug use in urine tests late last season, according to University of Maryland physicians.

From interviews with Bias' family, teammates and friends, a picture of his last hours emerges: He flew in from Boston with his father, went to the family home in landover about 11 p.m., arrived at College Park around midnight, ate crabs in his dormitory suite with teammates and a member of the football team until about 2 a.m., drove off alone and was seen at an off-campus gathering, and returned to his dorm about 3 a.m. He collapsed some time after 6 a.m., while talking with teammate Terry Long.

Bias was unconscious and was not breathing when county ambulance attendants arrived at his dormitory suite at 6:36 a.m.—four minutes after they were called and six minutes before a mobile intensive care unit arrived—and he never regained consciousness nor breathed on his own, said Dr. Edward Wilson, chief emergency room physician at Leland Memorial.

Bias's body was taken to the state medical examiner's office in Baltimore yesterday for an autopsy. Dr. John E. Smialek, Maryland's chief medical examier, said it would be seven to 10 days before complete autopsy results are obtained.

"We are not releasing any preliminary results,' said Smialek. "We will wait until everything is properly evaluated."

The county's homicide unit is investigating, as is routine, but a spokesman sad no foul play is suspected. All five teammates who shared the suite with Bias will be questioned, Detective Paul Noblitt said. Keith Gatlin was taken in shortly after 11 o'clock last night.

Bias' sister Michelle said she was told her brother was talking with Long on a couch in their dormitory suite in Washington Hall when he collapsed. A fire department spokesman, Maj. Thomas Brinkley, said Long was administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation when the county ambulance arrived. It could not be determined who placed the call for assistance.

"He was sitting on the couch with Terry Long," said Michelle Bias, who was not at the dorm, "and he laid back like he was going to sleep and he started to have a seizure."

Details of what Bias did between midnight and 6:30 a.m. were vague. His sister said Bias and their father, James, flew in from Boston and drove directly to their home in Landover. "He (Bias) left home at 11:30 p.m. to go back to the dorm," Michelle Bias said.

Keeta Covington, a defensive back on the Maryland football team, said he was in the dorm suite when Bias arrived. Covington said he, Long, Bias and basketball players Gatlin, David Gregg and Jeff Baxter ate crabs and talked about the Celtics and Bias' future until about 2 a.m. at which point Bias left.

"He got tired of all the questions," Covington said. "He'd had microphones in his face for two days. We were just like the reporters. We were curious, only without pencils and microphones."

Covington said he walked with Bias to the parking lot, where he said Bias told him "I'm getting away from here." Covington placed the time at "2 or 2:15."

Covington said Bias was merely tired of all the attention, not ill. "As far as feeling sick, bad—nothing," he said. "He was trying to get away from the phone."

Bias drove off alone in his newly purchased Nissan 300ZX, Covington said. "I was under the impression he was going to see a lady," he said.

David Driggers, a friend with whom Bias often played pickup basketball games, said he saw Bias at a small gathering on Cherry Hill just off campus. "He stopped by and said how excited he was and talked for a while," Driggers said.

Driggers said there was no alcohol or drugs at the gathering. "Just soda," he said.

Driggers placed Bias at the party "around 2, 2:30," and Covington was quoted as saying Bias returned to campus about an hour after his departure—which would have been about 3 a.m.

What happened between then and the time of Bias' collapse in the suite (shared by him, Baxter, Long, Gatlin, Gregg and teammate Phil Nevin) could not be determined. Long was not available to comment and Gregg declined to discuss it.

Nevin said he was out for most of the night and early morning, and when he returned he immediately went to bed, without seeing anyone. He said he awoke when the paramedics were taking Bias out.

Asked if he had seen any evidence of drug use, Nevin said, "I didn't see anything, but the police are going through it (the suite) with a fine-tooth comb."

Baxter and Gatlin both said they fell asleep earlier in the evening, and Gatlin said when he awoke he saw Bias on the floor and paramedics in attendance.

"I was in a state of shock," Gatlin said. "I was worried about Lenny, he was on the floor. All my teammates and I just rushed up, got dressed, shorts or anything, and followed him to the hospital. I called his mother and just told her that Len had a seizure and they were taking him to the hospital, and she said, 'Okay, I'm going.'"

Neither of Bias' parents was available for comment yesterday.

At the hospital, Wilson said Bias "was unconscious . . . he never spontaneously began breating on his own. He had no organized heartbeat."

Wilson said Bias was given five drugs in an attempt to revive him: sodium epinephrine (which he described as "basically adrenaline"), sodium bicarbonate (to normalize the acidity in his bloodstream), lidocaine (to control hyperactivity and any irregular heartbeat), calcium (to stimulate the heart muscle) and bretyline (a "secondary drug to control irregularity of the heart").

After the chemicals failed, Wilson said, a pacemaker was implanted in the heart muscle to try to get it beating. That also failed, he said.

Outside the hospital, Reginald Adams, a friend of Bias' and a player at Drexel University in Philadelphia, said he received a phone call at 7:30 a.m. from a mutual friend who said she was with Bias when he was stricken. "The only thing she said was he had problems breathing. He was breathing hard, getting cramps, then he just keeled over."

The woman's identity could not be determined.

In the medical examiner's office in Baltimore, Smialek said only the "initial phase" of the postmortem was completed.

Smialek said he had heard reports the hospital had found traces of cocaine in Bias' urine, but refused to say whether the medical examiner's office had found anything to suggest drug involvement.


"We obtained some of the urine sample that the hospital got and we are in the process of testing it, along with other samples obtained during the autopsy," said Smialek. "I'm not going to give any preliminary indication of anything so there are no misconceptions."

The Strange Final Weeks of Len Bias' Life : As His Date With Fortune--and Death--Drew Near, He Was Different

WASHINGTON — In the investigation of Maryland basketball star Len Bias' death, people in dark glasses go in and out of a small-town courthouse, friends become suspects, mystery women appear and disappear, a local nightclub becomes prominent. None of which provides the answer to what made a good guy come to such a bad end.

Perhaps not even Bias knew what caused him to ingest a lethal dose of cocaine in his dormitory on the Maryland campus June 19.

Was it the result of the persuasion of someone else?

Or did he do it himself, uttering, according to sources, a now-chilling phrase the moment before he collapsed and lost consciousness: "I'm a bad . . . and I can handle anything"?

Bias, at 22, may have just begun to solve his personal mysteries, and several different pictures of him have emerged in the weeks since his death. According to Bias' oldest and closest friends, as well as family, he remained a relatively clean-living, born-again Christian.

Such sources speculate that Bias may have experimented with cocaine in a moment of euphoria resulting from his selection by the Boston Celtics in the first round of the National Basketball Assn. draft two days earlier.

The darkest scenario has him being set up by a drug dealer looking to develop a customer.

Others, however, say Bias changed in the last months of his life, the once-gracious star athlete becoming arrogant, careless and even unpleasant on occasion.

He spent large amounts of money on clothing and jewelry, spent as many as four nights a week at a Southeast Washington nightclub, and was warned that he was hanging out with the "wrong element."

The consensus among friends is that if Bias did become involved with drugs on a regular basis, it would have happened in the last months of his life, as he spent increasingly less time on campus and more time dealing with the pressures of a potential NBA superstar.

The facts are these: Police say three people were with Bias when he collapsed at about 6:30 a.m. in Washington Hall--basketball players Terry Long and David Gregg, and close friend Brian Lee Tribble.

All have been indicted on drug charges, and Prince George's County (Md.) State's Atty. Arthur A. Marshall Jr. has said "evidence will show" Tribble provided the cocaine that killed Bias.

Medical examiners originally said it was Bias' first experience with cocaine, then amended that statement, saying there is evidence that he used the drug before.

Those who knew Bias best are struck by the differing views of him that have emerged from the grand jury investigation at the Upper Marlboro, Md., courthouse.

Said someone who has known Bias as well as anyone the past eight years, "I don't know what's real and not real anymore. I thought I knew him."

One thing that confuses friends is that if Bias was a regular drug user, it almost surely would have taken a toll on his physical condition.

But Maryland trainer Frank Grimaldi said the morning of his death, "Len could play a 40-minute game, then play an overtime, then give a 10-minute interview and never even breathe hard."

Terrence Lewis, one of Bias' closest childhood friends, said the two, shortly before Bias' death, had played basketball together at Columbia Park Recreation Center in Landover, Md., the neighborhood gym where both learned the game.

"Sometimes I'd say afterward, 'Let's go get a drink,' " Lewis recalled. " 'He'd say, 'No, I'm not drinking right now.' He was very strict about what he put into himself; he was proud of his physique. He'd joke about it, say, 'I'm not taking anything to hurt this body, this physical specimen.' "

Adrian Branch, Bias' teammate and close friend at Maryland, said Bias was as protective of his reputation as he was of his body.

"Len's nobody's drug user," he said. "You don't build the reputation he had when you're doing drugs. He knew everything he did was magnified, everyone was looking in the cracks and crevices. He was a very private person. If he was going to do something to harm himself or embarrass himself, he'd stop and think about it."

But Barrette Palmer, a Maryland student and friend of some members of the team, said she smoked marijuana with Bias, Terry Long or David Gregg about 10 times. She said she used the drug about twice as many times with Long and Gregg.

According to Palmer, Tribble had offered her cocaine on one occasion during a phone conversation. They did not use the drug, and Tribble did not offer it again, she said.

But Palmer, who testified before the grand jury last month, said she never saw or heard of Bias using cocaine.

Tribble and Bias both enjoyed the nightlife at Chapter III, a popular Southeast Washington club. Lewis also went to Chapter III on a number of occasions this spring.

"Every time I went, Len was already there," Lewis said. People who work at the club say Bias came in as many as four nights a week: Wednesday (ladies night), Thursday (free barbecue), Saturday and Sunday (come-as-you-are night).

He rarely left before closing and usually with a woman. He frequently sat in front of the club asking women for age IDs and introducing himself. Always at his charming best.

Partying at Chapter III most of the spring semester didn't leave a lot of time for studying.

Although Bias was 21 credits short of graduating, that did not necessarily mean he didn't intend to finish. As late as the end of May, he made arrangements with an academic counselor to get help on a paper due in summer school.

Walter Hill, who taught him in an Afro-American studies class as a sophomore, said, "I knew there were pressures on him as he blossomed. I think after a while Len realized he could get on with being a pro basketball player. He had his own agenda (academically)."

One thing seems clear: The better Bias became on a basketball court, the more that agenda changed. His first two seasons, the Terrapins were Branch's team. Also, Patrick Ewing was playing across town at Georgetown. Ralph Sampson (Virginia) and Michael Jordan (North Carolina) were the stars of the Atlantic Coast Conference. Len Bias was not a star, not yet, at least.

He had picked up a reputation in high school, however, for having "an attitude." He'd whine about foul calls he didn't like and was accused of quick retaliation.

But Bias worked hard to eliminate that behavior from his game. By his sophomore year, referees, reporters and opponents found him very likable.

By the end of last season, however, Bias seemed to revert to his earlier behavior, as the pressures of senior year in college mirrored those of senior year in high school.

One oft-told story is of the time Bias went to his high school coach in tears because no one would talk to him about anything but where he was going to college.

The same happened this past season, but with irritability instead of the tears, and he was sometimes described as surly.

Palmer described Bias as "frustrated" by increasing obligations. Often it seemed, according to one source, as if "everyone wanted a piece of him." He took a weekend off at the end of May and went to Virginia Beach, Va., to regain his composure, but as the draft approached, he became cranky again.

"He was frustrated, confused;, it was very stressful," Palmer said.

"A lot of girls were calling him, they all wanted to be the one because he was going to be rich and a star. That bothered him a lot. He'd say, 'I don't trust any women anymore. All they're interested in is money, money, money.' "

But Bias was not shy and he was known to revel in his new status as one of the best three players in college basketball.

Former football player Donald Brown, a one-time roommate and friend, acknowledged that Bias became aware of his reputation. Brown remembers Bias saying, "This time next year we'll both be making some cash. I bet you $1,000 I'm the No. 1 pick."

"There was no question he was the man," Brown said. " . . . It's like, who runs the yard, who has the most girls? He was the man. He made all the preseason All-Americas. They made a life-sized poster of him. Around the guys, he'd be pretty outgoing, he'd ham it up, brag on himself. But he was still an everyday athlete."

By the end of the season, the pattern of Bias' life, postcollege in effect, since he had all but stopped going to class, had developed, and he acquired the style of one about to become rich and famous.

He did dozens of radio and television interviews and a number of charity appearances. He worked at two basketball camps and had meetings with a number of NBA team officials. He selected an agent. He hung out with Brian Tribble--a lot.

"They were very close," Palmer said. "They'd go clubbing, picking up girls. Like a normal group of college people trying to have some fun."

In April, Palmer played in a pickup basketball game on campus with Bias, Tribble and Johnnie Walker, a childhood friend who became a Washington police officer.

She remembers numerous phone conversations between Bias and Tribble. Six months ago, Tribble--who raises pit bulldogs as a hobby--presented Bias with a puppy as a gift. Bias named it Ebony and bought it a red leather collar with spikes.

When Tribble was preparing to pick out a silver Mercedes-Benz, Bias accompanied him on at least one occasion to look at the car.

On May 16, Tribble was stopped on Maryland's Campus Drive in the Mercedes and was found to have a suspended license, so he was not allowed to drive off. The other passenger in the car, Bias, drove it away.

Some of Bias' closer friends now say they wondered about the company he was keeping. But many, including Lewis, chose not to mention it to him.

"I believed in Len's judgment," Lewis said. "I knew he wasn't that type. He'd say, 'When people see me I'm always with Johnnie Walker and he's a cop, so how can people think I'm doing anything wrong?' "

Walker, who drove Bias' car and removed his belongings from the dormitory suite the morning of his death, testified before the grand jury.

His attorney, Robert Matty, said Walker "feels sort of betrayed by his friend (Bias). He had absolutely no knowledge of any drug use. They talked about it. Their discussions were like, 'Look what's happened to X, Y or Z; that's what drugs will do to you.' Johnnie feels like this is another side to (Bias) that he had never seen."

About five months ago, Tribble accompanied Bias to Silver Spring Jewelry Manufacturing, where Bias had made a number of purchases over four years.

Ramon Garcia, the store's owner, said he made several sales to Bias in the spring, including a heavy 14-karat gold chain in May for $1,300 on a layaway plan.

Bias, who said he wanted to have the chain in time for a TV interview, put down some cash and arranged to pay $200 a month. He still owed $300 when he died.Bias also had a $150 nameplate made for a female friend and paid $400 at another store to have a nameplate made for his diamond ID bracelet.

There were lots of women for whom to buy jewels. So many, in fact, that Keith Gatlin, who roomed with Bias on the road, said, laughingly: "I'd just say hi and wave to them. Because I didn't want to call her Mary if her name was Sara."

Bias' extravagance was no secret.

The money from two personal loans for $21,000 that he acquired this spring went quickly. He leased a Nissan 300ZX sports car, paid insurance on the car, obtained two $1-million disability insurance policies, bought several new suits and a stereo worth between $500 and $600, and even paid some veterinarian bills for Ebony.

Bias also could be frugal. He'd save meal money to buy clothes or jewelry, and even wanted to work for more money.

Lewis recalled Bias saying two weeks before the draft that he wanted a job: "He said, 'I want a real job, like you guys.' He had a lot of free time and he was tired of waiting for the draft, and he was a little bored, I think."

Only a few days before he was to be drafted and become an instant millionaire, Bias went to John Brown, the owner of Bentley's, a restaurant near campus, and told Brown he was running low on funds.

"I need some work," he said.

"Why don't you get a loan, borrow some money from a bank?" Brown said he told Bias.

"That comes too easy," Brown remembered Bias saying. "I want to earn some."

Brown gave Bias some yardwork to do at a nearby office building he owns, watering the lawn and trimming hedges.

"People would call up and say, 'Do you know Len Bias is out here watering the lawn?' " Brown said. "It got to be kind of a joke. In a week he was going to be a millionaire, and he was doing yardwork."


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