For four hours Tuesday night, ESPN is honoring and examining the legacy of former Maryland basketball star Len Bias. The network’s lineup features a one-hour SportsCenter special, one of Bias’ most legendary performances and the 30 for 30 documentary on Bias first released in 2009.
Bias blossomed into a superstar during his four years at Maryland, winning ACC Player of the Year twice and graduating as the program’s all-time leading scorer. He was selected by the Boston Celtics with the No. 2 overall pick in the 1986 NBA Draft, but died of a cocaine overdose two days later, becoming one of sports’ greatest tragic unknowns.
Previously during this pandemic, Testudo Times ran a 64-player bracket of all-time Maryland men’s basketball greats, with Bias cruising to the tournament championship. I closed the series with a feature story on how his greatness and impact live on — I was incredibly fortunate to speak with Len’s mother, Dr. Lonise Bias, for this story, and she helped make it as powerful as anything I’ve ever written. We also held a live stream last month as ESPN re-aired a 1984 matchup between Bias’ Maryland and Michael Jordan’s UNC featuring multiple former Terps.
This thread is your space for observations, commentary and more as you watch these programs with your fellow Maryland fans this evening. The rundown is below. Have fun and stay classy.
7 p.m. — SportsCenter Special: Remembering Len Bias
Hosted by Rece Davis, Jay Bilas and Michael Wilbon, this special “will take a look at his impact as a player, what he may have done as a teammate of Larry Bird, and the potential rivalry with Michael Jordan,” ESPN said in a press release. Bilas played against Bias while at Duke, while Wilbon covered Bias while at The Washington Post.
The show will feature guest appearances from former UNC center Brad Daugherty — who played against Bias for four seasons and was the only player drafted ahead of him in 1986 — and longtime Boston Globe writer Jackie MacMullan.
8 p.m. — Maryland at North Carolina (Feb. 20, 1986)
This is perhaps Bias’ defining game as a Terp, as he poured in 35 points to lead Maryland to an upset victory over the No. 1-ranked Tar Heels. This was North Carolina’s first-ever loss in the Dean Smith Center, which had opened in January.
Bias repeated as ACC Player of the Year in 1986 after averaging 23.2 points and 7.0 rebounds per game despite facing double- and triple-teams virtually every night. Maryland, which had lost star scorer Adrian Branch to graduation, had limited scoring depth and started this season 0-6 in ACC play, but rallied to finish 6-8 in the conference and earn a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
10 p.m. — 30 for 30: Without Bias
This deep dive into Bias and his death was directed by Kirk Fraser and released in 2009 as one of ESPN’s first 30 for 30 documentaries. Interviews with multiple family members — including Dr. Lonise Bias — former teammates and media members paint a picture of what happened leading up to Len Bias’ death, and how the ensuing fallout altered the country.