30 Years in 30 Days: Day 8- The Shadow of Len Bias

This was an interesting and perplexing one to me.  It was written by Scoop Jackson in Issue 15 of Slam Magazine back in 1996.  Here’s the jist of it:

ANTOINE WALKER DOESN’T FEEL IT. HE’S TOO CLOSE. But this is the cost of being good, possibly great.
 …And with the second pick of the 1986 NBA Draft, the Boston Celtics select…Len Bias of the University of Maryland.
Ten years ago, Commissioner David Stern stood at the podium and said those words. Bias died of a cocaine overdose the day after the draft, and never played a minute for the Celtics. The decline began. Ten years later, the words are heard again.
…And with the sixth pick of the 1996 NBA Draft, the Boston Celtics select…Antoine Walker of the University of Kentucky.
Here we go again, a chance for the Celtics to reverse the flow that began 10 years ago. Still, Antoine’s too close.
“Naw, I don’t feel the shadow of Len Bias. I can’t,” he says. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime dream to get to play in the NBA, play against the greatest. Against Michael Jordan. I know I’m the highest draft pick of the Celtics since Len, but I have to overlook that situation and look at the positive. This is my one chance, man. This is what you dream about when you’re a kid.”
I answer, “Yeah, but they’re going to put the pressure on you. Especially in Boston. It’s almost like a compliment because of how nice Len’s game was. Doesn’t that kind of bother you?” He responds. “Oh no. I live for this type of stuff. I call this good pressure.

'Toine's handle was better than Len's but that's it

I believe Scoop is still pretty well-liked online but this one is a head-scratcher for me.  Len was much more of a forward: a better rebounder, scorer and shooter than Antoine was.  Antoine was pretty good on the offensive glass as a rookie but Len's potential to rebound trumped him. Antoine was definitely a better ball-handler and passer than Len.  But other than both being forwards and about an inch height difference, the comparison makes no sense.

Maybe news was slow.  Maybe because it was the #6 pick, the highest since Len was #2, he felt compelled to make the comparison.

Unfortunately great things never panned out for Antoine in Boston either, although for different reasons.  With that said I don’t think many thought Antoine would be a better player than Len Bias was.

8 Seasons Before: 1978-79, Celtics fail to qualify for playoffs
8 Seasons After: 1993-94, Celtics fail to qualify for playoffs

Index of 30 Years in 30 Days articles