30 for 30" Without Bias (TV Episode 2009) - IMDb


  • GRADE: A
  • The idea for the 30 for 30 documentary series on ESPN came from then ESPN.Com columnist Bill Simmons and Connor Schell from ESPN. ESPN would be soon celebrating its 30th anniversary- the idea was 30 films to celebrate the anniversary- with an exploration of the biggest stories from ESPN’s first 30 years on air- with 30 one-hour films made by 30 different filmmakers. From the first four episodes certainly the Gretzky trade would have fit that 30 biggest stories in the 30 years. The other three while the films were interesting and I liked them -no. This one covering the death of basketball’s rising star Len Bias-without question fits the bill.
  • I loved college basketball from the mid 70’s- to mid 90’s- not like MLB or the NFL but I was an avid fan. The death of Len Bias was one of those ” I remember where I was.. moments. I had just gotten off work from a summer job. I was coaching baseball and stopped to pick up a few of my players and then heading to a game. When I got there the first thing one of my players said was “Len Bias died.” It took me ten seconds to so for what he said to sink in. The early reports were a heart attack which didn’t seem possible but you never know about these things maybe he had a defect that hadn’t shown up before?
  • In the spring of 1986 the future of Len Bias seemed unlimited. The documentary does a great job in the first third of the film tracking the rise of Bias from a promising freshman at the University of Maryland to a major force by the end of his college career as a senior. The player he was often compared to was Michael Jordan- that is indeed rare air.
Watching Len Bias vs. Michael Jordan with former Maryland basketball  players - Testudo Times
  • The Boston Celtics GM Red Auerbach had his eye on Bias for a couple years and due to a previous trade the Celtics who had earlier that spring won the NBA Championship- had the second pick in the NBA Draft. When the Cleveland Cavs as expected took Brad Daugherty from North Carolina- the Celtics pounced on Bias. It was viewed at the time that the Celtics were re-loading and with Bias they would continue to win who knows how many more NBA Championships. They already had Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parrish, Dennis Johnson and Bill Walton all players who would end up in the Hall of Fame- and their record in the 1985-86 season had been 67-13. It seemed almost criminal that they would be adding Len Bias to that team.
Will we ever learn the lessons of Len Bias' death?
  • As mentioned before the first 1/3rd of the film was devoted to the Bias the rising star and covering his being drafted by the Celtics. The film then turns to the events just hours after the draft. Bias returns to his suburban Washington, D.C. family then is quickly back to college to celebrate with his friends and teammates at the nearby University of Maryland.
  • They do a great job also in the doc on covering what happened that night. Brian Tribble who would be the central figure in this party- was extensively interviewed in this doc. He would end up spending some time in prison. He spoke of what went down- drinking beer and doing coke. Bias lying back on the bed quit breathing- the 911 call etc. By the time he got medical attention it was too late Len Bias was declared dead at the hospital.
  • As I mentioned earlier the first reports were a heart attack but the word gradually was leaking out that that wasn’t the true story. The final verdict after the autopsy -cocaine intoxication. Turns out it was pure cocaine. There has always been some dispute as to whether Bias had been a previous user or was this the first time. Tribble said that Bias wasn’t a heavy user- but would occasionally indulge in the drug. No one noticed any signs previously that he had a real problem. Of course there are those who testify that they never saw him doing drugs -but of course people are known to hide things from certain people. I think he was an occasional user- who got into some really bad stuff that night. He was 22 years old, he probably felt bullet proof. The doc had a lot of footage from outside the hospital that day as people gathered around.
  • The parents of Len Bias were interviewed for the documentary. Both James and Lonise Bias have become advocates – James for gun control and Lonise as an anti -drug lecturer. Tragically they would lose another son- Jay- a promising basketball player in 1990- a victim of a drive by shooting outside of a suburban Washington, D.C. mall.
  • There was a lot of fall out over Len Bias’s death at the University of Maryland- 17 year head coach Lefty Driesell was fired, the Athletic Director Dick Dull resigned. What could have they done to have prevented this?
  • The death of Len Bias had a ripple effect. In basketball circles in the 70’s and early 80’s cocaine use was a problem. The Bias death had to have woke a lot of young people up- inside and outside of basketball. How long did his death have an effect? Who knows.
  • The Boston Celtics- the big what if? If Bias had stayed away from cocaine… They were coming off a championship- adding a potential superstar to the mix they would have only been better. Len Bias had the potential of being a Hall of Fame player- chances are he would have had a great career and the Celtics would have won at least a few more titles. As it was after 1986 they would go 21 years before winning another championship.
The Day Innocence Died - ESPN

6 responses to “ESPN 30 FOR 30: #5 WITHOUT BIAS

  1. I remember this well and it shocked me. I know they were 8 years apart and different sports but I remember Len Bias and Lyman Bostock…but Bias was much earlier in his career just totally heartbreaking.

    • The Bostock one- the wrong place at the wrong time.. so sad– and the guy who did it was out on the streets in like 6 months….

    • I forgot about that… you are right he was out in no time.
      They just paralleled to me but back to the subject I want to see this.

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