What Should Have Been…
“It’s the cruelest thing…”-Larry Bird.
‘This Len Bias documentary broke my heart…stay away from drugs and violence in any form! I don’t care how that sounds today. Stay away’. That was my tweet not two days ago after an ESPN ’30 For 30′ documentary marathon that saw me watch Magic Johnson’s inspiring ‘The Announcement’ followed by the heartbreaking ‘Without Bias’. So let me put the writers pen down for a second and speak to you honestly as a man. I didn’t see this day coming. Really! I was just coincidentally watching this documentary, following the Magic one because it came to mind, but special day or not it still matters. At press time Len Bias would have been 50 this week and one of the NBA’s greatest players (top 50 as well…if not more), but tragedy took all of that, the man and the sons (this is not a typo but tragedy) of loving parents James and Lonise. The justice of what this man could have been and the injustice of what happened can not be measured in words, not by this article, not even by Scoop Jackson’s incredibly fitting ‘God Blessed’ tribute or even the powerful punch of the defining ESPN documentary. Still as life goes on we must continue to write and share his young legend and the legacy of what could have been and the lesson learned from his life. It’s the least we could do for a man that was so much even before he got so near but so far to his and the leagues dream of him playing in the National Basketball Association. It’s the least we could for players following in his footsteps for better or worse.
When Len Bias basketball play exploded on the scene with every emphatic dunk, block and rebound he truly made his mark before drugs tainted his tragic life and what should have been. Leonard Kenneth Bias was a true All-American for the University Of Maryland. The nicknamed “frosty” was so cold on the court, with ice-water running through his veins. He became the ACC player of the year after leading the conference in scoring and his potent point play was matched by his all-round prototype play-making skills as a player that can influence as many box-scores as he does hearts of the brass-band led college crowds. Like the pied-piper he led those in attendance to follow too with punctuated play in a professional manner that had “league ready” wrote on every scouting report and “we’re not” on every opponent coach’s dry erase. He even showed some kid called Michael that he could match-up with his peer in both class and what could have been the graduation. After the redefining, redemptive NBA in the 80’s searched for a new show to take them to the golden era of the 90’s, Len and Mike could have been the next Larry and Magic. Sure Michael Jordan is the greatest of all-time, but even M.J. knows (like greatest scorer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar who called late, streetball legend Earl ‘The Goat’ Manigult (who once responded to most dominant Wilt Chamberlain’s “welcome to the big leagues schoolboy taunt” in a streetball game with his own “welcome to Harlem…mother#*%$#?” play) the greatest competitor he ever faced) that Bias was the truth. Bias even beat Mike’s top ranked North Carolina to the tune of 35 points in an overtime thriller once.
Explosive and as exciting as Dominique Wilkins, but able to compete with Jordan on more than the slam-dunk. lay-up line, Bias could have been one of the 90’s best. This dynamic 6 foot 8, 210 pound kid was ready for the NBA, so much that the most storied franchise in league history, the Boston Celtics would bet even Red Auerbach’s last cigar on him. Drafting him second overall in 1986 they where as happy as Bias big grin in that bright green draft cap. The future looked that illuminating, Larry Bird said he would have retired and handed the parquet floor to this man. That’s how big he could have been. He could have carried on the historic Celtic legacy from the defining glory days of lord of the rings Bill Russell to Larry’s legend. Still just as tragic as fellow cursed Celtic great Reggie Lewis, Bias would lose his life far too early and never get a chance to don a Celtic uniform and number 30. A jersey Bobby Brown rocked in tribute in Ja Rule’s ‘Thug Lovin” video and that legendary hoops writer Bethlehem Shoals questioned the respect levels of this throwback. A jersey that Red passed to Len’s mother like a folded flag of a fallen soldier during his Maryland memorial. The best ever NBA team never saw glory again until two decades later when Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce’s talents where brought together for the first of a new ‘big-three’ generation. Still, even through all of this the take no prisoners Celtics weren’t mad, just sad at the loss of their star son. A mans name that will always belong in the rafters in place of the championship banners he would have won.
There’s too much tragedy today in the league and the entertainment world as a whole, people gone too soon, living only in legend. Like Malik Sealy, Bobby Phills, Bison Dele, Eddie Griffin, Drazen Petrovic and more. Or musics Static Major, Aaliyah, Left Eye, Jam Master Jay, Tupac, the Notorious B.I.G. and so many more we forget and other individuals that touch peoples lives not in the public eye that are just as important to their family and friends. Whether it be due to disease, war, accident or anything that can happen it’s all tragedy. Still, when young people are taken too early by things like drugs and violence it’s just far too of a tragic mistake and destructive road to go down. Especially in this desensitized ‘GTA’ age where we watch T.V. shows about cooking crystal meth, while our kids play first-person shooters like ‘Call Of Duty’ upstairs, while listening to guys like Eminem. Not that there is anything particularly wrong with these defining forms of entertainment…albeit if they are used and not abused the right way. We shouldn’t preach too much about violence in entertainment when it’s been around for generations, just like we shouldn’t use someones personal tragedy as too much of a life lesson. Still, as per his parents charitable and foundation wishes if other people can see what’s happened here and not give in to the peer and other pressures of drugs and also violence than Bias will save as many lives as Magic Johnson’s HIV awareness in the wake of adversity mission can. That’s what makes more than his ’30 For 30′ ESPN documentary just as potent and powerful. Apart from the lesson, in a day and age where more American fans prefer their college teams and exciting, passionate play rather than the professional level Len Bias will always go down as a legend even if he only logged time on the NBA rosters rather than minutes on court.
After a celebratory night of partying Len would never play in for the Boston Celtics or in the NBA, even though he still should always be remembered as making it. After taking cocaine with friends Len suffered seizures and died in hospital due to cardiac arrhythmia shortly after that. That’s how quick and tragic that was. So let’s not scapegoat here like everyone tried to back then during a same age where people made fun and hatred of Magic’s major life event. Sure, too cocaine should have never been used by these future pro-athletes but this again was a time where people didn’t know the real dangers of this drug like people do today with marijuana. This was just an event and time we’d like to forget, but shouldn’t out of respect. Just like we don’t need to see the press shots of Len’s crying family and friends because it does not make for emotional or dramatic entertainment and it is just not anymore necessary in showing how deeply saddening and bad this end of this kids life was. Sure we must hear what the friends and family want, need and have to say via documentary, but it’s just too disrespectful to do anything but just tell it like it is without invading too many peoples personal lives and privacy. Just like the honest and heartbreaking mistake of Bias’ father referring to his son Jay as Len after his death and his unnecessary but felt embarrassment after, some things just don’t need to be broadcast. Some things are just too sad. You see it’s bad enough that it just happened to one kid, but this tragedy happened to another Bias brother and Basketball prodigy.
Remember when the Formula One world was rocked by the late legend Ayrton Senna’s death? Well as horrific and tragic as this was many people forget another talented driver by the name of Rolan Ratzenberger was killed in a similar wall collision just days before. Yet, in articles and even documentary films only little is mentioned. In this day too, no matter how talented someone is tragedy is tragedy and what happens to others should not be ignored, just like nothing should be taken away from the greats who are honored after their loss too. Sure, Bias would have been one of the best and his death was as shocking to an American generation almost as much as President John F. Kennedy’s assassination was to some-he was just that good and great a legend and cult icon-yet his brother was a talented ball player too, yet alone another great kid and son to the Bias family. You can see just how much this all meant from the haunting, harrowing tears-that again don’t need to be show but still resonate-from Jay at his big brothers funeral. Or you can hear it in Jay’s simple but subtlety moving tribute of how his brother would do anything for anybody, immediately and without delay at how great these kids where and should still be today as middle-aged men. Still, Jay had a lot to look forward to and make in his life, basketball and beyond just like Len. Still, after rightfully walking away from an argument in a shopping mall his awful aggressors did not do the same. They waited outside for James Bias and in this horrible age of conflict drew out weapons and shot this 20 year old boy to death in his car. Unfathomable to some and unquestionably horrible all it leave us asking ourselves and each other is that why does this type of thing still happen to millions of people, rich or poor, let alone this young family?
Now father James is an advocate of gun-control and mother Lonise is an anti-drug lecturer in honor of their two lost sons and against the drugs and violence that took young Len and Jay’s lives so soon and so short. It’s not only what they do to keep going, but to keep others away too. Today all we can do with all due respect is remember, not think of the great player he would (not could) have been but the great player he already was, because whether it’s the NCAA or the NBA, basketball is basketball and great players are just that. More than this we should honor and respect the fact that beyond hoops Len Bias was a man too, someones brother, son and friend. Sure people will view this late, legend with the same tragic tribute as say musics Tupac or movies Heath Ledger but these men born into a 90’s entertainment era and gone but not forgotten in the new millennium are much more than just cultural figures. What happened to Len is a mistake and a tragedy and it should not either be joked about or glorified. It’s just too tragic. If all we can do is just learn from this experience and warn others off violence and drug, not only in his name but the forgotten lives of others than believe me this is THE very best we can do with all respect meant. The fickle fate of a cruel end of life here and everywhere is a subject we could go on about for even more paragraphs and articles, tweets and conversations…but frankly it’s far too heartbreaking and not just selfishly for us. This is for them.
RIP OKC. Dame Time Clocks Thunder’s Reign From Way Downtown PDX
Even two games down the Thunder bolt boys joked like the last laugh that was yet to be delivered, like this what’s the 4-1 punchline. Zero to zero for the best series of these NBA Playoffs so far, Russell Westbrook rocked the baby at Damian Lillard, before mocking his wrist watch celebration like he did Laker meme Lance Stephenson’s air guitar strumming one with D’Angelo Russell ice in his veins. All before Paul George double pumped a dunk as time expired on a game that was already decided way before the horn blared.
“It is the unemotional, reserved, calm, detached warrior who wins, not the hothead seeking vengeance and not the ambitious seeker of fortune.”
But then last night before posting that Sun Tzu quote on Instagram in this art of war. In the face of P.G. the PDX P.G. beat the buzzer as Dame Time struck from way downtown RIP City. With an Austin 3:16 bottom line to give OKC the history engraved tombstone and the Portland Trail Blazers a legendary storied, legacy making championship belt for this classic series in hardwood history.
Reminding us of that time Charles Barkley responded to a Nike barbershop ad featuring former Golden State Warriors Chris Webber and Latrell Sprewell joking about dunking on him by putting all the points on them in the following game and running past them on the bench draped in dejected towels shouting, “put that in a f###### commercial!”
Colder than February. More ruthless than a convertible in Summer.
37 feet high and rising from deep. Deep as the halfcourt abyss. With the this time of season cherry blossoms blooming outside Portlandia’s Moda Center, the City of Roses was handing everyone from basketballs Oklahoma home funeral flowers. And leading the precession, hearse wrapping it up like his killer bars, Dame D.O.L.L.A was right on the money like exact change only please, waving goodbye. Even if Paul George walking off in defeat like LeBron James and getting his Vlade Divac on in a press conference more awkward than a blind date with an ex called it a “bad shot”. To which the great Dame simply replied with a tweeted “lol” (see also, laugh and last). He better Big Shot Bobby Horry check a newspaper or something. Dame Time didn’t just beat the buzzer. He took baby powder to it. As Dame had all the Louis Armstrong time in the world with ten on the clock and the last shot in this final frame to dribble drive or dish. But instead, toying with George like a cat does a mouse, as David beat Goliath like Jerry did Tom, Lillard had the sand to set up shop, his spot and his shot from what looked like a bunker. A hole in one, with the cocksure confidence of Tiger Woods putting for Masters glory in Augusta and embracing his kids, two decades after doing the same with his pops all for the green jacket.
From this master, like a tap in putt with no Mulligan to carry, this was always going in. Nothing but net. All water like those Thunder tears. O.K. now that was a 3.
And to think I swore I wouldn’t go back on social media until after the new Avengers movie came out, but DAMN Dame Time! Spoiler alert, this is the new ‘Endgame’ now.
Cousy. Pettit. Sam Jones. Wilt. Chuck Barkley. M.J. And now the Dame train as the legendary Lillard goes hard to join this lineage as the only players to hit 50 in a playoff clinching game. And what a way to do it, fading away to clock out of the game and series 118-115 for the greatest Portland playoff moment since the G.O.A.T’s shrug. As mobbed by teammates on the floor he sank into, telling Russ to ‘Get Out’ his house. Peeling off like Jordan, Damian all on his own like a devil, GIF turned into an instant meme, as he turned the Thunder into a memory (you know the one were everyone loses their mind around that smirking kid with glasses in the raincoat? Well now guess which superheroes face is super imposed?). Staring into the camera with that look you know was for Russell Westbrook.
What a whole mood.
Whose left holding the baby now?
Dame didn’t even have to check his watch. Why? Him, her, them. They all knew what time it was. His. As Dame Lillard just did it in the Oregon home of Nike. Shoe dog like Phil Knight, running off victory for the courtside crowd, including legendary comedian Cedric the Entertainer for this last laugh lap. As this Gladiator hit one of the best and biggest shot fired in NBA history. Subliminal and literal.
Are you not entertained?
Two-time U Sports MVP Kadre Gray declares for NBA Draft
Two-time U Sports basketball player of the year Kadre Gray of the Laurentian Voyageurs has declared for the 2019 NBA Draft.
Gray, a 6’1″, 190 lbs junior guard from Toronto, Ontario has been terrorizing Canadian university basketball since his freshman season — cementing his legacy as a two-time MVP and scoring champion with a ridiculous 26.3 points per game career average in three full-seasons with the Voyageurs.
The 2016-17 U Sports rookie of the year award winner took the league by storm — leading the country in scoring as a freshman with 23.2 points per game. He finished second in his sophomore season with 24.4 points per game and led the nation in assists total with 141.
He took his game to a different stratosphere in his junior season — increasing his league-leading output to the third highest scoring average in Canadian university hoops since 1981-1982 with 31 points per game.
Calgary Dinos’ all-time great’s Richard Bohn and Karl Tilleman both led the nation with higher and ironically, identical scoring averages.
Both Bohn and Tilleman averaged 32.8 points per game. Bohn doing it during the 1995-1996 season and Tilleman, a two-time Canadian Olympian and NBA draft pick dominating the league in 1981-82 — before Canada’s adoption of the three-point line.
Not a one-trick-pony, Gray averaged 7.4 rebounds and 6.2 assists, 1.6 steals in 34.1 minutes per game.
Gray erupted for a career-high 48 points in a 101-81 win over the Lakehead Thunderwolves — shooting 13-of-23 from the floor and burying 19-of-20 shots from the foul-line on November 3rd, 2018.
He delivered his third 40-plus point game of his career with another impressive performance — 16-of-29 shooting against the Ryerson Rams on February 9th, 2019 — his lowest scoring output of the season was 23 points on multiple occasions.
Gray also represented Canada during the FIBA Basketball World Cup process playing in games against Venezuela and Brazil.
Prior to Laurentian, Gray honed his skills as a two-time athlete at Eastern Commerce Collegiate for three-years — leaving track and field (high jump, 100 meters) in the rear-view mirror and transferring to rival Oakwood Collegiate to conclude his high school career.
Additionally, with a record number of Canadian players in the NCAA tossing their names in the draft process we should expect 2019 to be the biggest year for
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