Just two days after the Celtics took him second overall in the ’86 NBA Draft, the 22-year-old University of Maryland star collapsed in his Washington Hall dormitory suite on the College Park campus. Two hours later, he was pronounced dead due to an overdose. So instead of talking about him as one of the NBA all-time greats, Bias’s name tops the list of gone-to-soon basketball players.
But what if the tragedy never happened? What if the 6-8 forward got to play with the Celtics? Would that have changed the trajectory of Boston’s dynasty from the ’80s? How would Bias have impacted the NBA’s greatest rivalry? According to Michael Cooper, an integral part of the Showtime era, it would’ve made the Lakers‘ job a lot harder.
Had Boston got Len Bias, and they played against us, they would’ve beaten our ass every time. That’s how good Len Bias was.Michael Cooper, The No Chill Podcast
Having Bias in a Celtic uniform would have kept Boston as a contender for years. In fact, according to Coop, it would’ve kept the Lakers from winning the title in ’87 – their last Finals matchup of the ’80s. An athletic, all-around, 6-8 forward would’ve been just what the doctor ordered for the Celtics; something even Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Co. wouldn’t have had the answer for.
Len Bias was a better player, or just as good a player, as James Worthy. This kid could jump out the gym, could shoot a jump shot, run the floor, block shots with the best of ’em. Had Boston got him, it would’ve been hard for us to beat them. I don’t think we’d ever beat them again.Michael Cooper, The No Chill Podcast
With Bias coming off the bench, the Celtics wouldn’t be forced to play their superstar veterans as much. That would’ve made them healthier by the time the Finals came around. It would’ve also extended their prime, while improving what was already one of the best frontcourts the league has ever seen.
Him, Larry Bird, Robert Parish, Kevin McHale. That probably would’ve gone down as the best front line that you could ever have in the history of the game.Michael Cooper, The No Chill Podcast
This is all speculation, of course. But Michael Cooper is the one speculating. He’s played through the rivalry and witnessed the talent Bias had. Hearing him talk about it makes it even harder to deal with the fact Len never got the chance to put on the Celtics jersey.