On the 26th anniversary of Len Bias’s death Cameron takes a look back at the things that could have been for the Boston Celtics and looks forward to a rich future filled with many a Rajon Rondo triple-doubles.
26-years ago this day, somewhere in a dorm room at the University of Maryland a shimmering star was taken away from the basketball world. Len Bias, a highly touted first-round draft pick by the Boston Celtics in 1986, suffered a cardiac arrhythmia brought on by a cocaine overdose, Boston fans all over were rocked and the cocaine epidemic had finally come to fruition in the NBA.
The ’86 Celtics were NBA Champions and looking to repeat, an injection of top-quality young talent was just what the doctor ordered, when Bias died it stunted an already all-star caliber roster, with Kevin McHale, Larry Bird, Danny Ainge, and a withered Bill Walton helming the pack. They were all great in their own regard but the best teams still need to get better, and that’s what everyone thought Bias would’ve brought to the table. Bias easily could’ve helped those Celtics teams win a few more championships and also could’ve established dominance in the great debate that is Lakers vs. Celtics.
This is the same feeling some Celtics fans have nowadays, when news broke before this NBA season that Jeff Green would be missing the season because of a heart irregularity automatically we cringed at the factor that an old team just lost some of its youthful legs and in a lock out shortened season that just wasn’t needed. In the playoffs, Avery Bradley, another young player finally lost the will to play before the Eastern Conference Finals because of a separated shoulder. Oh, and by the way, he played the last two-rounds with that same separated shoulder, so he more than earned the right to finally have surgery.
The Celtics looked primed in both seasons for a possible championship run yet horrible twists of fate were the only thing that were able to derail what seemed like an unstoppable train of championship glory.
This year I would like to believe that if the Boston Celtics were 100% healthy, and weren’t just being carried by an aging Kevin Garnett, a-little-past-his-prime Paul Pierce, and my-ankles-are-riddled-with-bone-spurs Ray Allen they probably would’ve been able to pull out another championship, they were honestly two players away from being able to keep up with the Heat, Jeff Green and Avery Bradley were supposed to be those players. They had a five game plan in the Eastern Conference Finals and you could tell if the Celtics don’t get screwed in game-two they close out the Heat in five and in Miami. It would have been an utter embarrassment of Miami’s big three and everyone would’ve been talking about blowing them up instead of the day-long session we had to put up with about a week ago on ESPN, on if a group of very old players who have made two-of-the-last-five NBA Finals and seem to be on their way out should blow it up. Which in a way can maybe make sense but doesn’t really.
If you re-sign Garnett, keep Pierce, re-sign Green and maybe bring in some role players this group of old bastards can probably pull out one more championship and further cement two legendary careers in Pierce and Garnett.
This all sounds nice in print but the reality is that basketball isn’t that easy. It also seems that the Bias death hung a dark cloud over the Celtics, a cloud that seemed to disappear in 2008, the first Celtics Championship since ’86. Since ’08 though it came back when another possible championship bound team was crushed when it’s defensive anchor and team-leader Kevin Garnett went out with a knee injury prior to the NBA Playoffs, an injury that still seems to bother him to this day but as any warrior does he fights through it. In 2010, against the rival Lakers in the Finals, their then center, and also centerpiece in the trade that had the Celtics acquiring Jeff Green, Kendrick Perkins went down with a knee injury in game-six completely changing the complexion of the series and allowing the Lakers to take game-seven in Los Angeles. In 2011 Rajon Rondo had his arm broken on a freak play in which Dwayne Wade fell to the ground and tried to keep himself up by using Rondos arm as a brace for the fall this changed the entire complexion of the series and also left the Celtics without their best player.
So here’s to the things that could’ve been, as I watch the Heat and Thunder duke it out tonight I won’t be able to help but think that maybe the Celtics could’ve been there, much how in ’87 Celtics fans watched the Lakers win in seven and thought, “maybe we could’ve won this one if we had Bias.” However it is better to not focus on the things that could’ve been but to focus on the things that could be. With someone like Rajon (triple-double) Rondo, a defensive stopper like Avery Bradley and the possibility of re-signing an excellent swingman like Jeff Green maybe the horrors of the past can right themselves and banner 18 can be raised to the rafters soon.