It remains one of, if not the biggest, «What Ifs» in Celtics franchise history.
What if Len Bias hadn’t died of a drug overdose just two days after being selected with the second overall pick in the 1986 NBA Draft?
What if, just 10 days after winning the 16th championship in the team’s storied history, the Celtics were able to add a college superstar like Bias onto a roster that already featured Larry Bird (coming off his third straight MVP season), Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, Danny Ainge, and Dennis Johnson?
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The questions can never be answered, but former NBA player Tony Massenburg thought Bias and the Celtics would have been a match made in heaven and would have continued the Celtics’ tradition of excellence.
«There’s no question in my mind he would have been one of the all-time greats,» Massenburg said recently on NBC Sports Washington’s Wizards Talk Podcast. «Every year it would have been the Celtics and the Chicago Bulls. The debate would have been who is the greatest, who is going to inherit this mantle: Michael Jordan or Len Bias?… There is no doubt in my mind that the Boston Celtics would have won championships. There’s no doubt that the Chicago Bulls would not have won six.»
Massenburg went on to describe Bias as Dominique Wilkins with a better outside shot, a player who could have tapped into his great potential while studying under Bird and McHale.
Former Celtics GM Jan Volk had a different comp for Bias when discussing the former Maryland Terrapin with NBC Sports Washington’s Chase Hughes: «We had a comparison to Michael Jordan. Three inches taller with a better outside shot. That’s how he was characterized.»
Volk agrees with Massenburg about the Celtics adding to their haul of championships had Bias not overdosed.
«That ’86-’87 team we had that did get to the Finals was one player short,» Volk said. «I think if [Bias] had been on our roster at that time and had gotten some time during the season, which I hoped he would have, he would have been a contributor and maybe we would have gotten another championship… Larry Bird was very enthusiastic about his game and about melding his game with the players that we had. He really thought it was an opportunity for him personally, Larry, and the team to prolong their run, our run.»
Bias’ death remains a heartbreaking tragedy 34 years later, and Volk recalled a story from Bias’ pre-draft visit to Boston that demonstrated that he was just as excited about playing in Boston as the Celtics were to draft him.
«I do remember a conversation we had as he was leaving to go to the airport to go home. He just looked at me and said, ‘Please draft me, I really want to play here.’ «
Would Michael Jordan, Bulls have won fewer NBA titles with Len Bias on Celtics? originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston