Monday, June 19, 2006

20 years ago...

Len Bias died. I was going to do a "What if," but it's just too depressing. Outstanding articles by Michael Wilbon and Bill Simmons. Some excerpts:

Ever since, we've been forced to wonder: Would the Celtics have remained a force with Bias in uniform? Wouldn't he have added years to the basketball lives of Bird and Kevin McHale and ultimately succeeded them as the next franchise player and face of the Boston Celtics? How many of the four titles won by the Pistons and Lakers in the late 1980s would they have won had Bias lived? How many of the Bulls' six titles would they have won if Bias had lived? Would Jordan have had the rival and true equal many of us suspect Bias would have been? Can you miss if Bird and Magic swear to your potential greatness at 22? How many people did his cocaine overdose discourage and how long did his death impact would-be users? Would Jay Bias, Len's younger brother who wandered into the wrong crowd and was shot to death, still be alive had his brother lived?

It happened slowly. The champions limped through the regular season in '87, with Bird and McHale logging big minutes from October to June and carrying them to another appearance in the Finals (a painful loss to the Lakers in six, and yes, the Celts were a player short). McHale injured his foot during the last month of the season, returned for the playoffs, fractured that same foot and, incredibly, kept playing on it. He was never the same player again. And Bird's body was never the same after that season; over the next few years, he started to break down like the Bluesmobile. How many titles would Bias have been worth? How many years would he have added to the careers of Bird and McHale? Is it safe to argue that the addition of Len Bias to the '86 Celtics would have locked up at least two or three more titles in the '80s? We'll never know.
We'll never know.


The Godfather said...

they talked about this a lot of sports radio today. it is a very depressing story.

Josh Centor said...

More depressing is that guys like Roethlisberger and Redick are still putting their lives, and other people's lives, in jeopardy, by doing irresponsible things. What happened with Len Bias is a tragedy, albeit one that could have been prevented. On the official NCAA Blog, I wrote a post discussing the fact that athletes are role models and guys like Redick and Roethlisberger need to be thankful for their second chances, because Len Bias wasn't as fortunate.

Patriotsy2k said...

Josh, that last statement you wrote is very true.
Anyone see the FoxSports "Top 5 Reasons you can't blame Len Bias?" Good stuff there, although Alan's post about this topic clearly shows it did heavily contribute to the demise of the Celtics. Before this tragedy, they were the favorites in the East nearly every year. Since then, they have no titles and 1 conference championsip - the next year, '87.

The Godfather said...

I don't think Len Bias was the reason for the demise of the Celtics. First of all, he never played an NBA game, so all expectations are mere speculation. Other incidents can be contributed to the Celtics demise such as the unfortunate death of Reggie Lewis and in general personnel moves that they made or didn't make.
Teams deal with adversity all the time. Drazen Petrovic was a solid contributor on the Nets until his death and they have obviously since recovered. Teams lose players and to think Len Bias was the guy that was going to hold everything in place and continue the dynasty is being optimistic.

As far as Josh's point goes. I agree to a point, but disagree as well. In my opinion, what Roethlisberger did was stupid. But he is a 24 year old in the limelight. He has an obligation to his employer not to partake in such actions, but he owes nothing to the fans. We've all done stupid things in our lives. The difference is that our decisions are not constantly in the spotlight and we don't ahve the same public pressure on us that these athletes do. I'm not a Steelers fan, but if I was, I would be upset that Ben risked everything. But it is his life and his livelihood that he put in danger and it should be up to him to make his own decisions. We all have opinions on what he probably should or shouldn't do, but it is no different than an opinion on whaty anyone else does and it should not be because he plays a sport and owes it to the fans.

Alan said...

It is all hypothetical, but a healthy and clean Bias would have made a big difference in the years immediately follwing 86. Depth and injuries was the problem in 87 and the following seasons. Even up to McHale's retirement the Celtics were very competitive. Even if Bias turned out to be just a good player, that may have been enough to put them over the top and possibly prevent injuries of overused players.

If Bias turned out to be up there with Jordan, which some believed he would, then maybe there would be a dynasty. More importantly the NBA would have been better off because Jordan could have had a legitimate rival for his whole career.

I'm not saying the deaths of Lewis and Bias are the only things to blame for the Celtics' 20 year drought. The Petrovic case is a good example. New Jersey made good moves after their adversity; the Celtics made terrible moves after theirs.

The Godfather said...

It's just a lot of speculation whether he would have been as good as Jordan, not to mention he would have been playing against Jordan in his prime.

I don't know. It most likely affected them (I can't say definitely because he never did play a NBA game so it is just speculation). I just think 20 years is enough time to rebuild which the Cletics just have had trouble doing. Some bad luck and some bad decisions.