As you know, the documentary Without Bias debuted on ESPN last night.
I’m going to resist the urge to write a bunch of flowery prose about “Everyone Knows Where They Were When They Heard Len Bias Was Dead,” “He Could Have Been Better Than Jordan,” etc. It feels a little superfluous at this point. I’ll just say that it was sad, is sad, and will continue to be sad. I think what will always grab people is the timing, happening just two days after the draft. It’s a little like if someone won the lottery, decided to celebrate by going skydiving, and died in the air before they could cash the ticket. It was a promising life snuffed out as it passed through the doorway to greatness.
Okay, I said I would resist. I didn’t say I would be successful.
As for the movie, I thought it was pretty good, even if it generally lacked fresh insight. The reporting was comprehensive, and included a lot of familiar faces for D.C. dwellars — John Thompson, Michael Wilbon, Jim Vance, Steve Buckhantz and, of course, one Charles “Lefty” Driesell. After reading countless column inches on Bias over the years, it was interesting to see the story told in pictures. Here are some of the pictures that will stay with me for a while:
— The game footage. If he had played baseball, he would have been a “five tool” player. He was ferocious around the rim on both ends, his legs were industrial springs, he played tough defense, and he was a good teammate. And finally, the jump shot, which I had forgotten about. That thing was pure sugar.
— The stoicism of Bias’s mother
— The wrenching, almost convulsive weeping of Len’s brother Jay at Len’s funeral
— The reminder that Jay was murdered in a local mall parking lot just a couple years after Len’s passing
As for the film itself, there is some commentary about the harsh, knee-jerk drug sentencing policies that came into place after Bias’s death. Many of these policies, often referred to as Len Bias Laws, remain on the books. But other than that, the movie didn’t really offer any new perspectives. On the other hand, I’m not sure a new perspective is necessary. The story and its characters are all as compelling as ever, and that’s probably, and rightfully, the way it will always be.