Saturday, October 4, 2008
The BEST Basketball Player I have EVER Seen
We all have our favorites. Certainly, the Internet and improvements made in other mediums have made most every modern player instantly accessible. The dearth of footage from the past is due to that eras technology. The greatest college basketball comeback I ever saw was when the UNC Tarheels were down by 8 points with 17 seconds to go in 1974. Walter "The Greyhound" Davis drilled a jumper to send the game into OT, where UNC eventually won 96-92. This game is known well in Tarheel country, but not by many others due to its now grainy footage and is just an example of something over looked due to the era in which it transpired in.
Though I only have witnessed footage of Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson, I have often said the Magic Johnson was the best NBA player I have seen. Taking nothing away from legends like Jordan, Bird or the future legends shaping the game today, there is something to be said for a PG to play C in the NBA Finals due to injuries. On top of having this ability, Magic posted 42 points, 15 rebounds, 7 assists and 3 steals against one of the NBA's best defensive centers, Caldwell Jones, and maybe the NBA's strongest centers, Darryl Dawkins. Of course, the 76ers also had Bobby Jones, and Dr. J, and many other excellent players on that roster too. Replacing the NBA's All Time scoring leader and perhaps even playing his position better than him is to be respected. I guess I like guys who can be an All Star at all 5 positions. Magic is the only player I can think of who fits this description.
The best basketball player I have ever seen, though, is Len Bias. Other than David Thompson, I have never seen anyone jump as high. Len had unlimited range. He was virtually unstoppable when facing the basket. Elvin Hayes used to rock to and fro in the post while deciding which way to go with his patented jumper. Len could do this same feat from anywhere on the floor, no matter how far the distance. The only weakness (which wasn't too weak) in his game was the catch and dribble. After a few weeks of learning from the likes of Bird, McHale, Walton, Dennis Johnson, and others, this probably would have been fixed. Len was a physical specimen. He had less than 8% body fat on his 6'8" 210 lbs frame. If he had lived, the Celtics would've started another dynasty.
Bias was considered by many draft experts to be the most complete forward to have ever come from college basketball. Mike Krzyzewski stated that Bias was one of the best players ever to come through the ranks of the ACC. Bias was gifted, but he was a hard worker as well. He took Lefty Driesells suggestion to shoot at the apex of his leap, thus making it nearly impossible to be defended. He perfected this shot and it became an unstoppable weapon in the Terrapin game plan. Bias had to play more of a post game in his last year, due to the dearth of post players ready to play that year on the team. He then became a even better shot blocker and rebounder. Bias is the only Terp to be named ACC Player of the Year twice. He was the schools all-time leading scorer with 2,149 points from 1986 through 2002. Bias was a unanimous choice as a first-team All-American in 1986 and also led Maryland to the 1984 ACC Championship. He finished also with 745 rebounds, which currently ranks 12th All Time in school history. If you look at his stats, you see his hard work through the yearly improvement is scoring, rebounds, and other areas like free throw percentage. Great things were surely ahead after he finished playing college basketball. Sports Illustrated called him a bigger, stronger, and better version of Jordan. The saying that went his senior year was,"I don't want to be like Mike. I want to be Bias."
I don't really want to expound on his death 2 days after being drafted 2nd overall in the '86 NBA Draft. What the media has printed is different from the versions from those actually at the party the night he passed. There are several stories revolving around this night. Some have said 8 grams of cocaine were found in his body. This may imply that it was ingested. Many other theories still circulate from the actual passing of Bias, to the actions of the police immediately upon their arrival. The fact is, he died, no matter what after all speculation or opinion on what transpired.
This is all I want to say: Len Bias was, without question, the best basketball player I have ever had the privilege to watch. The memories will always be a part of me and those lucky enough to have seen this young man play the game of basketball.