Growing up in Howard County, a prestigious county, I have privilege; but before my class, education, or anything else, I am a black man.

Stories of Len Bias, who grew up in Prince George’s County — only 20 miles from my community — were frequent in my area. I grew up idolizing players like Muggsy Bogues, Dudley Bradley and Len Bias.

Lefty Driesell speaks highly of his former player, choking up when speaking on his passing. He emphasizes that Bias wasn’t a drug addict.

“He was a wonderful person and a great, great basketball player,” Driesell said.

This hits home for me, someone who calls Baltimore, Maryland, home.

The opioid crisis devastates our community, and Bias — being a special talent — wasn’t immune.

Bias’ story will pull at heartstrings because of the opportunity he had to make an impact at the University of Maryland. Some players didn’t get that chance. Their lives were cut short before they could reach college, much less the expectation that Bias’ NBA career held.

Seeing people like Bias have their lives changed forever, or ended, has forced me to stay on the straight and narrow. Any mistake can be my last.

This is something that my father has instilled in me since I was young. Altercations with the police, drugs, alcohol and women are all instances that my father cautioned as life-changing or, in Bias’ case, canceling.

My father faced pressures in college to try the “Hollywood” drug of the 80s and 90s — cocaine — but because of Bias, he was deterred. That was passed down to me.

Bias was compared to Michael Jordan. Another player with that same stature was Dwight Anderson, “The Blur.” Anderson allowed me to tell his story at Ohio University.

The next Jordans had their careers cut short because of drugs.

— Ethan Sands

 

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