Tomorrow, at the Samuel Riggs IV Alumni Center, seven Maryland alumni will be inducted into the University’s Athletic Hall of Fame for the class of 2014.
There’s former men’s basketball legend Len Bias; men’s lacrosse player Bob Boneillo; former football and track and field star Edward G. Cooke; field hockey and lacrosse player Maureen “Bean” Scott Dupcak; women’s lacrosse player Alex Kahoe; women’s basketball player Debby Lytle; athletic trainer Sandy Worth; and former football player Charlie Wysocki.
There’s no question that Len Bias will remain the most controversial figure to be inducted into the Hall of Fame at the University of Maryland, given his tragic death and his past. But now, over 28 years after his death, Bias and his legacy will finally be given the courtesy that such hallowed numbers as he achieved deserve: enshrinement and closure.
Bias set 15 schools records by the time his four-year career was over in 1986. He had career points (2,147), single-season points (743), and career double-figure scoring games (108). Bias was twice the ACC Player of the Year and his teams went to four straight NCAA tournaments. His resume is the stuff of legends.
But since his death two days after being taken second overall by the Celtics in the 1986 NBA draft, the discussion about Bias has never been about his athletic performance. It’s always been about what could have been, recollecting his cautionary tale; never a celebration of what he accomplished during his time as a Terrapin.
By putting Bias in the Maryland Hall of Fame, he may finally get the same treatment that collegiate legends deserve. We’ve never been able to simply look at what Bias accolades in a similar manner as we do, say, Pistol Pete Maravich. Tons of younger basketball fans have never seen Maravich play in person, and yet we remember him through the numbers he left behind. We learned to respect his creative game by pouring over the astounding scoring records he set during his career at LSU, way before YouTube let us see some grainy, black-and-white footage taken by someone’s dad of his passing ability.
Or if not Maravich, then Hank Gathers all-around play that turned Loyola Marymount into a powerhouse, or Drazen Petrovic’s shooting ability that gave European players a blueprint for ages. We view these guys through their inhuman numbers. We ignore their human nature.
The afterthought, the stuff you only find out after you’ve admired the numbers, is that Maravich, Petrovic, and Gathers died a tragic death far before their numbers should have been called as well. The Hall of Fame has almost never been about personal tragedies; it’s the end result of athlete’s relentless pursuit of records. Really, the Hall of Fame is a comprehensive standings chart, showing who beat who in what. It’s there for us, as fans, to overanalyze and debate as vehemently as a Shakespeare monologue in English lit.
It has been far too long that Bias has been put in basketball purgatory for one action, while at the same time we are so quick to overlook others past transgressions. The difference is that Bias made a one-time atonement with his life, whereas others have had countless more opportunities to make up for their issues. But 28 years is long enough; its time to move on.
Maybe after tomorrow the next generation of Maryland fans can start talking about whether Juan Dixon had a better career than Bias, whether he was actually a better scorer than Bias, too, or whether Greivis Vasquez was a better all-around player than him. They can watch the grainy footage of Bias and analyze his game without getting lost in the memory of his death. They can get to know him through the numbers, the way Hall of Famers ought to be recognized.