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Celtics Draftee Len Bias Dies of Heart Attack : Maryland Star Had Come Out of Physical 'Perfect' 2 Days Ago

June 19, 1986|Associated Press

RIVERDALE, Md. — Len Bias, the second selection in this week's National Basketball Assn. draft, collapsed in his college dorm early today and died of an apparent heart attack days after passing a physical in which he "came out perfect."

The 22-year-old University of Maryland basketball star, drafted Tuesday by the Boston Celtics, was brought to Leland Memorial Hospital in Riverdale at 6:50 a.m. and pronounced dead two hours later.

Bias was eulogized on the floor of the House of Representatives. In Boston, Celtics star Larry Bird, who had urged the team to draft Bias, said: "It's horrible. I am too shocked to respond. It's the cruelest thing I ever heard."

Emergency room physician Edward Wilson said he understood a college teammate had given Bias cardiopulmonary resuscitation after the collapse, but neither that attempt nor the hospital's own efforts at reviving Bias produced any response.

'Major Damage' to Heart

"Everything was done that could have been done for him," Wilson said. Bias' heart sustained "major damage, but we don't know what was causing the damage," he added.

Prince Georges County police spokesman Robert Law said homicide detectives were investigating the death, as is routine under such circumstances. He said an autopsy is scheduled either today or Friday.

Bias had returned from Boston about midnight, said a former roommate, football player Keeta Covington, and had stayed up to talk with several others about his new career.

"At about 2 o'clock, he said he was tired of all the questions and just wanted to be alone," Covington said.

'Great Promise, Character'

Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) eulogized Bias on the floor of the House as a "youth of great promise, great character."

To which Rep. Brian J. Donnelly, (D-Mass.), added, "I would like to extend to the Bias family on behalf of Celtics' fans our sincere condolences over this incredible tragedy."

In Boston, Celtics coach K. C. Jones said Bias had undergone a team physical "and he came out perfect."

Celtics President Red Auerbach, who had been one of Bias' major boosters, said Bias was "a kid . . . who just had his main goal in life, which was to be drafted by the Celtics. . . . He was one of the most happy people."

Dream to Play in NBA

After he was drafted, Bias had told reporters:

"It has always been my dream to play in the NBA. Now I have a present within the dream--to play with the Celtics."

Bias, Maryland's all-time leading scorer, was a two-time Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year. The 6-foot-8, 210-pound forward averaged 23.2 points as a senior and was named to the All-America team.

A test before the start of basketball season indicated that Bias did not suffer Marfan's Syndrome, a heart ailment that often causes sudden death in otherwise strong athletes.

Bias is the third University of Maryland basketball player to die suddenly, either while still a student or shortly after graduating, in about the last 12 years. Both of the others were found to be suffering from Marfan's Syndrome.

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