Former Terps star and longtime NBA player Walt Williams says one of the unfortunate results of Len Bias' tragic death in 1986 is that his full impact on the game of basketball was never realized. Williams and Tony Massenburg, also a former Maryland star and NBA player, both believe Bias could have transformed the sport in ways similar to Michael Jordan.
But Bias did leave a lasting impact on basketball that can still be seen today, both say. They joined the 'Wizards Talk' podcast to look back on Bias' life during the week that marks 34 years since his untimely death. Bias wore No. 34 at the University of Maryland.
As someone who grew up in Prince George's County who was just seven years younger, Williams can attest to the example Bias led for him and others.
"Growing up in P.G. County, Len Bias actually he showed me that getting to the NBA is a reality. Back in the day, they didn't publicize where everybody was from and all that. So, I just watched the game for just the pure entertainment of it, because I loved the game. I didn't recognize where guys were from, so going to the NBA wasn't a reality for me. I didn't know that people where I'm from could play on TV or in the NBA until I saw Len Bias," Williams said.
Bias was drafted second overall by the Boston Celtics in 1986, but never played an NBA game. He died of a drug overdose just days later.
He still has fingerprints on the league, however, from the grassroots of P.G. County.
"Now you see the [P.G. County players] who didn't go the NBA, you see them as high school coaches and AAU coaches and trainers," Williams said. "I think it's ingrained from back in my era, those guys in the 80s and playing high school in the 80s; those guys are the teachers now."
"What you're seeing come out of P.G. County right now is a result of Len Bias," Massenburg said. "The influence is the coaches who were close to Lenny's age, guys [of my generation], who were teaching the Mike Beasley's and the Kevin Durant's and some of these other guys that came through the area. These guys were influenced by Len Bias, so in their coaching that influence gets passed on to a Kevin Durant. Like, yeah you can be 6-foot-8 as a skinny freshman in high school and have a wet jumpshot."
Massenburg and Williams had much more on Bias in their interview with Chris Miller, including stories of the first time they played in one of his legendary pick-up games. You can listen to the full episode right here.
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How Len Bias' influence can still be seen in P.G. County and NBA today originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington