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Michael Jordan vs. Len Bias

Who is the better player? Would Len Bias live up to the hype of being called the next Michael Jordan? Unfortunately, these questions will never be able to be answered as Len Bias tragically died due to a cocaine overdose the day after he was drafted number 2 overall by the Boston Celtics. As a Maryland fan who has done a few research papers on Len Bias’ career it is interesting to speculate how great he would have been and if he would have been as great as Michael Jordan. Both played in the same era during the 1980s. Michael Jordan for North Carolina and Len Bias for the University of Maryland. They only played each other head-to-head once in which Jordan lead the then, top ranked North Carolina over Bias and Maryland. It was, however, Bias who outplayed Jordan scoring 24 points to Jordan’s 21 points.
Len Bias and Michael Jordan were in fact very similar players. They were about the same size with Bias edging Jordan by a couple of inches and a few pounds. They were walking highlight reals. They both dominated the sport of basketball. A Boston Celtics scout named Ed Badger said on Bias’ potential “He’s maybe the closest thing to Michael Jordan to come out.” Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski called Bias and Jordan the two greatest player ever to play in the ACC. Bias was arguably more NBA ready than Michael Jordan as he already had a solid jumper and a great mid range game that was still improving while Jordan went into the NBA with a suspect jump shot. Len Bias averaged 16.4 ppg on 53.6% shooting over his career at Maryland and 21 ppg in his last two years while Jordan averaged 17.7 ppg on 54.0% shooting.
I am of the belief that Len Bias would have been almost equal to Michael Jordan and would have definitely given Jordan a run for his money, possibly resulting in few less championships for Jordan. Bias was a freak athlete with Greek body similar to Lebron James and he would have gotten bigger and more imposing with the NBA workout exercises. If anything Bias would have made the road to six NBA championships a lot tougher for Jordan. There is almost no doubt the Celtics would have won the 1987 NBA championship against the Lakers as they almost won without him and being plagued by injuries. With Bias playing a lot of minutes he could have also extended the careers of Parrish, McHale, Walton, and most importantly Bird who had lingering back injuries that hindered him in the last few years of his career. This would have presented some problems to the Bulls who went on their first 3 peat championship run in 1991-1993. Bias would have been in his prime and the core of that team although aging may have had a bit more in the tank to challenge Jordan and the Bulls at least in 1991.
The world was robbed of a chance of seeing a great player in Len Bias showcase his talents in the NBA due to the tragedy of his death. Again the questions arise. Would Len Bias had been Michael Jordan’s equal? How many championships would he have won? What would his legacy be? Although Len Bias may have been the most influential athlete in the 20th century it was for all the wrong reasons having overdosed on drugs, not his play on the court. Because of this no one will ever know for sure if he would have been as great as MJ. One thing is for sure, he is truly the greatest “What if?” in sports history.

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9 thoughts on “Michael Jordan vs. Len Bias

  1. I don’t think so. I’m old enough to remember the 1980s well, and the Celtics didn’t “almost beat the Lakers.” Besides, Bias would not, as a rookie, have started ahead of their forwards, Larry Bird and Kevin McHale.

    After that, while the Celtics won the division in 1988, they then got old in a hurry, and the Isiah Pistons, the Jordan Bulls and the Ewing Knicks would all have been better than the Reggie Lewis Celtics + Bias. Even a Celtic team with Bias and Lewis both still alive would have found that three-way buzzsaw a tough nut to crack. Then add the rise of the Shaq-Penny Orlando Magic and the Reggie Pacers, and by the time the East got “weak” at the turn of the 21st Century, you’ve got Len Bias, age 35 – not the other Michael Jordan, but the other Charles Barkley, great but ringless.

    And even that presumes that he wouldn’t have had his career curtailed by drugs later on. Or injury: He could have become the next Bernard King.

    • Well first off I never said he would start the first season. Len Bias would have come off the bench and I think over the year he would grow and adapt quickly getting close to “starter” minutes. This would have kept a lot of the older guys fresh for that year and ready to make a run in the finals and I believe they would have beaten the Lakers. Beyond that who knows maybe he would have gotten a couple more rings. Don’t forget with him on the team it affects not only his teams outcome but other teams outcomes as they would have maybe finished with a different record and and drafted different players. We will never know. I just believe that Len Bias would have been do great he would have had the Cs rolling in the 90s and Free agents would flock to the Celtics to play with him and win a championship.

  2. Bird would have retired in ’88 if Bias had lived. Bird says as much in this interview:

    That team would have had a few more rings, for sure, but I would have loved to see Jordan vs Bias. Very unfortunate for Bias’s family, that must have been horrible.

    • A lot of athletes say they are going to retire. I can go through the list of the thousands of names if you would like but the point is I think with the new vigor Len Bias would bring to the team combined with the fact that Bird would not have to work as much but yet have a better chance to win MORE championships. Not to mention he would make more money as well and in an era like the 90s where athletes were starting to be paid a lot more than in the past I do not see him passing all of that up.

    • Almost 70% (most likely more)of the NBA has smoked weed or something worse. A one time thing which was the case for Len bias I doubt would have changed the kind of player he was. You want to talk a lack of discipline Michael Jordan had a notorious gambling addiction and he turned out alright I’d say haha. They are two different things, but both are the result of a lack of discipline and MJ became the greatest player of all time and there is no way ONE mistake would have kept Len Bias from reaching his potential if he had lived. Although I am a huge anti drug person and do not condone it most people who do cocaine just once is not life threatening or dangerous. Len Bias just got unlucky.

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