- 06/02/2011, 02:05PM ET
GoNets 2.0 said 06/02, 02:08 PM
FFTI - Best Player to Have Career Derailed Due to Illegal Drug Use
He was the 2nd overall pick in the 1986 draft, going to the defending champion Celtics. He never played an NBA game, because 2 days after the draft, he died from an overdose of cocaine. Boston was never more shocked over this incident, except for the JFK assassination. They even went so far as to give his #30 Celtics jersey to his mother, and that number has never been used to this day.
He was compared to MJ (even though MJ was still in the early part of his career at the time), and he was a unanimous first team All-American. Red Auerbach had intentions of drafting this guy for 3 years. And Red Auerbach knew how to spot talent. Examples: Bird, McHale, Parrish, to name a few.
His career college stats:
His senior year stat line, which garnered him All-American honors.
He was considered one of the most dynamic players in the nation. If you compare the draft class also, he went ahead of such players as Roy Tarpley, Ron Harper, Johnny Dawkins, John Salley, Dennis Rodman, Drazen Petrovic.
YODA said 06/02, 06:47 PM
Each year, NBA draft picks are compared to MJ. The same phenomenon occurs with Gretz in the NHL. Fans are compelled to try and identify the next great star.
Len's 16 pts, 6 boards in college might have put him on the MJ track. However, hindsight shows us very clearly that while some top draftees achieve greatness, many others fizzle out.
I do agree that coke is an insidiously powerful drug. It can take you out quickly or creep up slowly.
My TD choice: MLB pitcher, Steve Howe
Howe proved he had what it takes for the pro stage.
He won Rookie of the Year in '80. The next year, he was one of the World Series heroes for the Dodgers.
But by 83-84, his coke addiction started to get the best of him. Howe embarked on the Darryl Strawberry/Dwight Gooden career track of revolving door rehab.
He never fully recovered...and died years later when he rolled his truck while twacked out on meth.
Len Bias is a tragic cautionary tale about wasted potential...A shiny new train that never even got to leave the station.
Howe is a train that flew out of the station, chugged along at full speed, and then completely derailed.
Best o' luck, GoNets.
GoNets 2.0 said 06/02, 08:10 PM
Very good pick. Nearly went with Steve Howe myself.
Sure, every draftee is compared to MJ. But think about this: back in 1986, MJ was still a nobody: no rings, no superstardom, and he was still trying to find his niche in the NBA. It was early enough in MJ's career that any comparisons to MJ would actually be considered legitimate.
And that's how great Len Bias was.
He was legit, and the comparisons to MJ were legit.
Now sure, we are talking potential vs actual career, but imagine how history would have changed, should have changed, for the NBA if Bias got to play with the likes of Bird and McHale. And playing in a league simultaneously with MJ could have made for a Kobe vs LeBron type scenario 25 years ago.
Bias was the real deal. There is no denying that. His death shook the Celtics and the Univ of Maryland to their very foundations. So much so in fact that in 1988, the US Congress, the highest legislative body in the country, instituted the Len Bias Law, which furthered the Anti-Drug Law and spawned such programs as the DARE Program.
No other athlete's death from drug use spawned that kind of reaction.
Bias was wasted potential, sure. BUt so was Steve Howe.
YODA said 06/03, 03:01 AM
All Top 5 draftees have big potential. But we only know how well a team drafted and if comparisons are "legit" after we see him on the pro stage.
We simply don't know how "history would have changed" and if Bias would become "the real deal". As optimists, we like to believe that the sky's the limit. But equating it to a lost "Kobe vs Lebron scenario" is romanticizing things. If Bias hadn't overdosed, he may also have continued abusing coke. It's addictive as hell.
Sadly, the Bias family also lost another son (Jay) to murder. But in each case, I don't consider it a "career derailed" by drugs or by violent crime. Their careers - and their adult lives - hadn't even begun. And that's precisely what makes any youngster's death so tragic.
The effectiveness (or non-effectiveness) of gov't run anti-drug programs is debatable. But sadly, it often takes a tragedy before institutions and gov't officials take action on serious issues. If there is a positive to be found in the Bias story, it's the hope that the case has steered a lot of people away from hard drugs.
Howe, though, DID make it to the top...and (as the topic states) derailed.
GoNets 2.0 said 06/03, 02:31 PM
Sure Howe did make it to the top. But not once, several times. You see, coke didn't derail his career, per se. Sure, he was suspended multiple times, but on almost every re-instatement into the league, he would show "flashes of his former brilliance," to quote Wiki.
The proof of this? His numbers pre-1984:
1980 - 7-9, 2.66 ERA, 1.77 K/BB, ERA+ 134
1981 - 5-3, 2.50 ERA, 1.78 K/BB, ERA+ 135
1982 - 7-5, 2.08 ERA, 2.88 K/BB, ERA+ 169
1983 - 4-7, 1.44 ERA, 4.33 K/BB, ERA+ 251
1984 was his first suspension, then again in 1986. He was banned from 1988-1990 before being re-instated in 1991.
He stunk it up in 85 and 87, but he put up some of the best numbers of his career post-1990.
1991 - 3-1, 1.68 ERA, 4.86 K/BB, ERA+ 249
1992 - 3-0, 2.45 ERA, 4.00 K/BB, ERA+ 164
1993 - 3-5, 4.97 ERA, 1.90 K/BB, ERA+ 84
1994 - 3-0, 1.80 ERA, 2.57 K/BB, ERA+ 258
1995 - 6-3, 4.96 ERA, 1.65 K/BB, ERA+ 94
1996 - 0-1, 6.35 ERA, 0.83 K/BB, ERA+ 80
He had a career-best in ERA+ in 1994 after all his suspensions. He also had his highest K/BB ratio in 1991, after his suspensions. How does this show derailment? Sure, his drug use shortened his career, but it by no means derailed it.
YODA said 06/03, 11:16 PM
By your logic, Mike Tyson's career didn't "derail" since he made a partial comeback yrs later.
Only TWO yrs in that list of stats support your contention about Howe. His did NOT get back on the old track.
4 yrs into the MLB, Howe was on top (ROY, WS ring, All star). He was due for a nice big contract.
Instead for the next EIGHT yrs, he floundered in drug abuse. He was a serial offender and even got a lifetime ban.
There is your derailment.
Howe's appeals let the Yanks give him a few more "2nd" chances (on multiple short contracts). The "flashes" he showed just reminded us "what would have been" if the layoff hadn't happened. Mike Tyson showed "flashes" too. But both were shells of their former selves.
Instead of an Agassi comeback, we saw another sad one. The extra cash gave him more rope to hang himself. No-shows, Yr over yr inconsistencies, and ongoing personal problems. Couldn't get clean.
Howe ended up in the minors, near broke, then died later in a meth related accident.
The Bias story is a cautionary tale.
Howe's story is a textbook case of drug abuse career derailment.
Good luck, GoNETS.
- Awful Announcing
- Free Darko
- Pro Football Talk
- The Big Lead
- Joe Posnanski
- The Sporting Blog
- Big League Stew
- Bugs and Cranks
- Every day Should Be Saturday
- Mr. Irrelevant
- With Leather
- The Sports Hernia