Do you remember Len Bias? I can tell you emphatically that I do, but not because of what he did while alive. I remember Len Bias because of the way he died. For those of you don’t have a clue about who I am talking about or why, I’ll fill you in. Len Bias was a college basketball superstar. An All-American. A phenomenon. Bias, a forward at the University of Maryland from 1982-1986, was so good in fact that he was selected by the NBA’s Boston Celtics as the number 2 overall draft pick. That was two days before he died. He was 22. The cause of death? Cardiac arrhythmia induced by a cocaine overdose. In short, he and friends were snorting cocaine, a very pure cocaine at that, and his heart couldn’t take it.
I was 19 when Len Bias died. Immediately following his death, reports indicated that this was the very first time Bias had tried the drug (this turned out not to be true). Those initial reports had a great impact on me. I remember thinking that my heart gets racy when I take a Sudafed, what might happen if I tried cocaine? It could explode, just like Len Bias’ did. I never tried cocaine.
You might be wondering why I am writing about someone who died 23 years ago. Brittany Murphy’s death yesterday at the age of 32 reminded me. As of this moment, the death of the actress primarily known for roles in Clueless and 8 Mile, is listed as being due to “natural causes.” Initial reports mentioned cardiac arrest. Internet rumors, include tales of cocaine use and battles with eating disorders. I don’t know why Brittany Murphy died, but I do know that my 16-year old daughter is feeling the loss. She says Murphy was one of her “favorite actresses.” If it does turn out that drugs were involved, I can only hope that Brittany Murphy becomes my daughter’s Len Bias.