If there was ever a player suited to play the role of foil for Michael Jordan, Len Bias was atop the one-player list.
"He's maybe the closest thing to (Chicago guard) Michael Jordan to come out in a long time," said Celtics scout Ed Badger. "I'm not saying he's as good as Michael Jordan, but he's an explosive and exciting kind of player like that."
A rock-solid 6'8, 210-pounder, Bias emerged as one of the top college players in the nation, earning both Atlantic Coast Conference basketball and overall athlete of the year in 1985-86. His thunderous dunks and aggressive style on the glass made Maryland basketball must-see games on a then-still fledgling ESPN, which helped raise Bias' status across the nation.
We all know the rest of this tragic tale:
*Bias is drafted second overall in the 1986 draft to the defending World Champion Celtics.
*Bias dies of a cocaine overdose on the morning of June 19, leading to one of the biggest "What ifs?" in NBA history and becomes the first domino to fall (including the 1993 death of Reggie Lewis) that leads to a 22-year titleless drought for Boston.
*His death becomes the rallying cry to the war on drugs, leading Congress to enact more rigid sentences for those caught and/or using them.
*The eventual investigation leads to the resignation of longtime Maryland coach Lefty Driesell and athletic director Dick Dull. The program is then placed on probation, leading to a decline in the Terrapins' program until Gary Williams arrives.
More than 25 years later, the name Len Bias still leads to shutters, tears and heartache for a young man who—like the others on this list—had so much in front of him.