Opinion Corner: Lessons to be learned from BiasI recently watched the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary “Without Bias” and learned the tragic, but inspirational story of Len Bias.
By: Ben Rodgers, The Jamestown Sun
I recently watched the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary “Without Bias” and learned the tragic, but inspirational story of Len Bias.
Bias was a basketball player who had achieved his lifelong dream only to have it snatched away in the blink of an eye because of a mistake.
Bias, a big man from the Maryland Terps, was drafted as a player with tremendous potential. He died two days later of a cocaine overdose.
Tragic because he died before he had a chance to be great. He was the first round pick (No. 2) of the Boston Celtics in 1986 (the team lost in the 1987 NBA Finals without him and did not return for 30 years).
Inspirational because he worked hard, never gave up and achieved his goal of becoming an NBA player, even if only for a short amount of time.
In a way that shocked the sports world Bias shed a blinding light on America’s substance abuse problem. This also served as an example for youth to not waste opportunities.
True, Bias had guys like Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Red Auerbach waiting in anticipation to see what he could do at the pro level. The trio was also the first to send flowers to his mother following his death.
But in sports it has to start somewhere. Whether fresh out of college or a freshman in high school, the point remains the same: Youth should not waste opportunities with drugs or alcohol.
With high school athletics under way this message should be echoed.
It’s disputed whether Bias used cocaine prior to that fatal night on June 18, 1986. But he did use that night — later he died.
Bias archived the dream of every young hoopster — the dream he had since high school. He dedicated years of his life to the game — that same life vanished in a blink of an eye.
The aftermath was enormous. It kick started the War on Drugs. It served as a beacon for legislators in an election year to get tough with drug laws.
It set a tragic example that no matter how talented an athlete is, poor choices can end that athlete’s life and ruin countless others.
Poor choices also happen in Jamestown. This small North Dakota town doesn’t have the same cocaine problem that Washington D.C. had in the mid ’80s.
However, as The Sun’s police reporter I can tell you there is a problem with underage and binge drinking. Not a week goes by when I don’t see a minor in consumption charge in the court report.
Alcohol is not as deadly as cocaine, but the growing number of fatalities on North Dakota highways and roads prove it’s a dangerous drug. Those are the hardest cases to report on.
What’s going through the minds of Jamestown’s youth? Aren’t there better things for young people to do today than get intoxicated?
When did boozing become more popular than hitting the weight room, or shooting free-throws, or God forbid — hitting the books?
Bias was a few mere steps away from the fame and fortune that come with NBA championship rings. Bias threw it away.
Not everyone, maybe not anyone in this state has the athleticism that Bias possessed. He still had to mold that raw talent. He still worked hard and honed his craft. In the end he proved it can be lost.
The Bias tragedy truly is a cautionary tale that any young athlete should take a lesson from.
A lax attitude toward underage drinking and drug use greatly dampens any athlete’s chance to achieve a fraction of what Bias had and lost.
Rodgers is a news writer at the Sun and frequent contributor to the Opinion Corner