Auerbach was certain Len Bias wasn’t addicted to drugs but rather that he experimented with them once.

Red Auerbach was instrumental in charting a new course for the Boston Celtics when he drafted Larry Bird in the ‘78 Draft, despite the Indiana native’s prior commitment to collegiate basketball. With an entire season of patience and rigorous negotiations, Auerbach’s decision reshaped the trajectory of the franchise, setting the stage for a period of unprecedented success. Similarly, his decision to draft Len Bias with the No. 2 pick in the ‘86 Draft was considered a masterstroke, as many saw him as the next generational star who would elongate their legacy.


However, the Celtics’ joy quickly turned into sorrow just two days after the draft night, with the devastating news of Bias’ demise due to a cocaine overdose. Amidst the shock and grief, various speculations emerged, but Auerbach was convinced that the 6’8” forward had experimented with drugs for the first time.


Auerbach on Len Bias


In his interview with Bob Costas in 1991, Red reflected on Bias’ dream of wearing the iconic green and white Celtics jersey in the NBA. The former Boston GM also addressed Frosty’s untimely death, suggesting that he might have fallen in with the wrong crowd. Moreover, Red was certain of this as a month before the draft, Bias went through thorough physical examinations not just by the Celtics but by the Golden State Warriors and New York Knicks, and none reported any indications of drug use.


When questioned about conducting a background check on potential draftees like Bias, Auerbach clarified that it was indeed a lottery pick, meaning that there was uncertainty over which player they could acquire, and he also made it clear that conducting a background check on 10-12 prospects was a daunting chore.



Further, Auerbach asserted his confidence in his selectee, especially because he spent time with him and perceived him as someone unlikely to engage in drug use, drawing similarities in the latter’s reputation to that of young Bird and Kevin McHale.


“We didn’t check Larry Bird. We knew what kind of guy Bird was, Kevin McHale was,” Auerbach said. “It was the same thing.”


Auerbach was certain Bias wasn’t into drug


Lastly, Red clarified that despite reading differing stories regarding Bias’s alleged drug use, he remained certain that the Maryland stud had refrained from drug use at least a month before the draft.


“Absolutely I am,” Auerbach said on being certain of Bias doing drugs only one time. “Some people have written he tried a few times before. All I know is at least a month before the draft, he was clean.”


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Yakshpat specializes in compiling intriguing takes from NBA talk shows and podcasts, covering old-school stories and the hottest buzz from the league.



Gideon Canice

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