Outlook: Why basketball star Len Bias should be inducted into the Maryland Hall of Fame

Jun 20, 2011

Author Dave Ungrady will be online Monday, June 20 at 12:30 p.m. ET to chat about his latest Outlook piece, in which he defends his belief that on the 25th anniversary of Len Bias's death, the University of Maryland basketball star should be inducted to the Maryland hall of fame despite never having played at the professional level.

Greetings all who have joined the chat today. I am here to discuss my article in Sunday's Outlook section of the Post about why Len Bias should be selected into Maryland's Athletic Hall of Fame.

A bit about me...I was a soccer and track athlete at Maryland in the late 1970 (captain of the track team in 1980) and am familiar with the high level jock mentality, so I hope that comes through is some comments today. I have written two books about athletics at Maryland, which has helped me as I am writing a book now on the Legacy of Len Bias..it will be published in the fall. Go to facebook.com/lenbiaslegacybook for updates.

Based on the reaction in the Post story on Sunday, I expect and welcome a lively discussion.

Mr. Ungrady I couldn't agree more that he should be in the hall. I do have a problem with one of your arguments- "Bias's decision to consume cocaine would have been an indiscreet act of drug use and would have harmed only himself." That seems to me overstated. It is impossible to know what the repercussions would have been to Maryland, his family, the Celtics, et al for his drug use. In your own story you reference a man that lost his family and job because of drug use. The victims of addiction frequently extend much farther than the abuser him/herself. Absolutely let him the hall for what he did on the court, but let's not assume that the only person that would have been hurt by his drug abuse would have been him.

This is a very good point and in retrospect I should have expanded that thought. His coacaine use would have affected mostly himself, those close to him--friends, family, perhaps the university if he had not died...but I don't think had he lived his cocaine use would have had the impact on pro basketball and Pete Rose's betting on games he played and coached did on the integrity, and perhaps the outcomes, of games.

What do you think we could have expected from Len Bias if he were in the NBA today?

First, Bias' career would be over by now, but he is farly compared to the talents of Michael Jordan...both could leap out of the building, and many experts have told me that Len had a better shot than Jordan from 15 feet and in. Think about this...Before Jordan there was Magic and Bird..Can you imagine how much more dynamic the NBA would have been if the rivalry of Jordan-Bias gathered the same interest as Magic-Bird, especially at the end of Magic-Bird? There was no real personal rival to Jordan.

Why do you think it is that he hasn't received the recognition?

Here's the by-law that has prevented him from being selected:  Nominees must have good character and reputation, and not have been a source of embarrassment in any way to the University.This is a pretty clear statement, but some wiggle room: is this based on when he was a student athlete? Student? Len was no longer a student athlete, although he was registered for summer classes when he died. At that time, he was more focused on preparing for a pro basketball career than finishing his college degree. It will take some committee members to interpret this by law in a way that would allow Bias to be selected, by putting in prespective the level of embarassment he committed while alive, and whether his character while he was alive was appropriate to be selected. I feel strongly that the way the university reacted to his death had as much to do if not more with his legacy as the way he died.

Since he died because he chose to go against everything he was taught and knew right from wrong, why should he even be considered. What kind of message would this send to our already troubled and misguided teens. I say, no.

How many young men of his age have done stupid things, against what we were taught. I could take a half  hour explaining all the stupid things I did as a college student athlete. And that came in part from an inflated idea of myself as a college athlete, even as a lowly athletes on a non-revenue sport.

Athletes of Len's caliber often feel infallable, that they can and should do things others can't because of their status and stature.  Not saying it's right, but that's reality.

The message you send is that we all make choices, and to think long and hard about choices that might seem dubious even in your own mind. Because one bad choice can surely kill you.

Wow. Extremely well written and argued. Based on the information you presented, I'd vote for admission to the Maryland Hall of Fame for Len Bias.

Thank you, and of course I agree. Someone on the committee has told me that he thinks he will be selected, so let's stay tuned when the committee reconvenes the end of this year.

How is the family doing? The loss of two talented sons in such a short period of time must be terrible. Have they made the case for Bias to be added to the Hall of Fame? Are they working towards that?

I'm not aware of the family trying to push for Len's selection. I would doubt it because at least soon after his death they felt a lot of animosity toward Maryland because they feel the school did not take proper care of their son.

I can't imagine a family going through what they've been through. To the best of my knowledge, they have stayed married, a testament to their relationship to endure and stay together. They have a son Eric in his late 30s or early 40s and a daugher Michelle who has four children, one of whom is planning on playing Division III college basketball next year.

The Bias family has  turned down all requests for discussion for this book, so I can't tall you anything more than that. I hope they change their minds before I finish the book in the next couple of months.

I did see Lonise Bias speak in Pennsylvania in early January and I can tell you that she still brings a strong performance after all these years. And she appers to be making a comfortable living off of her appearances, from what I've been able to find out.

You make some good points about admitting Mr. Bias, but I'm not clear what purpose it would serve. He's not alive to enjoy it; he has no children; I can't imagine his mother cares. Is this a physical place people visit? Would his exhibit include how he threw it all away?

No, it is not a physcal exhibit, although if he were selected someone would be invited to accept the honor in his absence. That would be interesting. I'm not sure how his parents would react. They were mad at the university for many years after Len died, and I don't know how they feel now about Maryland.

I think his selection goes beyond whether Len is around to enjoy it. It's about offering what I feel is  fair acknowledgement of his accomplishments as a Maryland athlete.

Thanks everyone for spending the time to talk about a compelling topic, even after 25 years. Plan to have the book out by the start of the college basketball season.

Dave Ungrady

In This Chat
Dave Ungrady
Dave Ungrady has been a journalist for more than 25 years, working in print, broadcast and online. He is a best-selling author and a contributing writer to the New York Times and ESPN.com. His work has also appeared in such publications as the Washington Post and Sport Magazine and on such national broadcast networks as NBC, CNN, ESPN and Voice of America.

Dave has traveled the world to document stories and write about compelling issues and personalities. He is an editorial manager at the Travel Channel and is finishing a book about the legacy of former basketball star Len Bias, scheduled for a 2011 release.

A former collegiate athlete, Dave is still passionate about fitness and sports. He's an avid runner and soccer player who someday hopes to run his third marathon.

Read Dave's recent blogs and review some of his other work, including recent coverage of the 2010 New York City Marathon for the New York Times.
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