ESPN has an impressive E-Ticket story on the tragedy of Len Bias. A sample:
I do not know whether Len Bias was a martyr, or whether in death, as his mother often says, he has brought life. I do not know whether, as Jesse Jackson claimed in eulogizing Bias -- likening him to Martin Luther King Jr., Mozart, Gandhi and Jesus -- that the Lord "sometimes uses our best people to get our attention." I do not know whether Len Bias died for any reason at all, divine or otherwise, beyond the fact he ingested a massive amount of dangerously pure cocaine in a brief period of time, short-circuiting the electrical impulses to his heart muscle. I do not know whether, as many claim, the Boston Celtics would have extended the Bird-McHale-Parish dynasty by several seasons if Len Bias had lived. I do not know if he was the catalyst for another decades-long New England curse. I do not know whether he would have been better/as good as/in the same stratosphere as Michael Jordan if he had lived to play in the National Basketball Association. We can argue these issues all we like, but I believe that, because the answers to such questions can never be determined, the questions have become irrelevant, obscured by the mythology that Autopsy No. 86-999 has engendered.
I do know death -- especially sudden and premature death -- has a way of obscuring many truths (see: Dean, James; Cobain, Kurt; et al.).
I do know I was 13 when Len Bias died, and it scared the hell out of me. It was supposed to scare the hell out of me; this was a moralistic passion play, an after-school special come to life.
I do know the public narrative was deceptively simple: Len Bias had just experienced the most euphoric moment of his life, and he had an unquestionably bright future, and he had chosen to experiment with illicit substances for the first time -- perhaps, some errant rumors went, it was crack cocaine -- and in a freak occurrence of bad karma, his heart had stopped.
And I do believe that because of this public narrative and the consequences of this narrative, the death of Len Bias can be classified as the most socially influential moment in the history of modern sports.