In a piece featured in Complex titled “The 30 Greatest basketball players to never play in the NBA”, he was listed as number 1. He was drafted as the no. 2 pick by the Boston Celtics in 1986 and an endorsement deal with Reebok was in the works. Simply put, he was regarded as the best College basketball player in the US at the time. Days after he was drafted, he was found dead in his College dorm room due to a drug overdose. The first time I heard his name, Len Bias, was while reading a journal article. The author referred to him like one would refer to Rihanna or Lebron James- there is no need to explain who the person is or what they do…everyone knows. I googled him and read a few of the write-ups that came up and his story is one of the saddest I’ve ever heard. An ESPN piece said “How could someone that could do that die like this,” with “that” being a reference to his undeniable proficiency in basketball. He was good, really good. To the nation, he was a 22-year-old on the verge of superstardom who was found dead with cocaine in his system, but his mother does not see it that way. She sees her son as a martyr-a boy who died to give life to others. To her, the story of Len Bias serves as a cautionary tale to young people. During a speaking gig in Greenwood, she said to the student athletes, “there are consequences that are going to follow you.”
Her words and Len Bias’ story got me thinking about another cautionary tale and the commentary by the director who made a documentary about it. In 1989, 10 students of a high school in Texas, David W Carter High School, were found guilty of 21 armed robberies in their neighbourhood and were sentenced to prison. Six of the students were student athletes with promising careers in football, with one of them, Derric Evans, having a full scholarship to College in his hand, probably on the way to the NFL. According to the director of the documentary, ‘What Carter Lost’, “To this day, they don’t have an explanation for it. I don’t think they understood how serious or dangerous what they were doing was.” This remark really made me sad because how often do we see and hear this? Young people doing things just because, without really thinking of the consequences of their actions.
When I think of these stories, I think of decision-making and how one bad decision could change everything. Someone asked Len Bias’ mother if she knew her son was doing drugs and she said “it has been said that it was his first time”. His friend said of him that he did not even drink at clubs. He was image conscious and considered himself, “a role-model for children.” Also, none of the Carter High boys returned to prison after they were released. They were not bad people; they just made one bad decision that ended up costing them a lot. I know things are easier said than done, but I promise you that there is value in thinking before you act. There is wisdom in weighing the consequences of your decisions before you make them. “You only live once”, “This is the time to make mistakes” and “Life is short” are never good reasons to do anything that is potentially harmful to you. We should not forget ourselves in trying to “enjoy life”. Let’s think of our goals and future. Let’s think of our health. Let’s think long-term. I do not share any of these stories to judge or condemn anyone; who am I to do so? I hope Len Bias is resting peacefully and I hope the Carter boys are getting on with their lives just fine. As Derric Evans said and as Len Bias’ mother has implied, these stories need to be told. They serve as reminders that decisions are powerful and we owe it to ourselves to be careful in making them. Your decisions today could shape your life tomorrow; let them shape it for good.
“Life is not that short. If you are 20 today, you’ll be 30 in 10 whole years. If you [mess] it up now living very fast because you think you are still young, it might end in tears. Live an eventful life, but with purpose too. Make great decisions today.”- Adekunle Gold
“Don’t just jump into action just because people are taking action. Know and understand the next real action and reaction that will follow the action before you take any action.”
― Ernest Agyemang Yeboah
“Obviously, as you grow up, no one’s ever 100 percent proud of every decision that they’ve made, and that’s OK. I think as long as you learn from your mistakes and don’t make them over and over again, you’re on the right path.”-Kim Kardashian West
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