Latest News, NBA / Jun 15, 2011 / 11:00 am

1986 NBA Draft: Len Bias Wasn’t Alone In Cocaine Use

Len Bias

The story of Len Bias is never anything but sad. The former number-two overall pick in the 1986 Draft was supposed to revitalize the Boston Celtics at the tail end of Larry Bird and Kevin McHale‘s careers. But it never happened after his cocaine use immediately following the draft caused Bias to pass away due to heart failure.

Now, Chris Washburn, who was the 3rd pick in that draft to Golden State, is saying he was also doing cocaine the same night Bias was.

As Hoopshype.com writes, Washburn planned to meet up with Bias soon after the draft, but never got the chance to:

On the same night of June 18-19, Washburn said he also was doing cocaine. He had remained in New York, and was snorting it at an apartment in the Bronx. He said there were about 10 people with him, including three other NBA players he wouldn’t name.

“I was up the whole night doing drugs,” Washburn said in an interview with HoopsHype. “I look back now and that could have been me. I could easily have been in (Bias’) shoes back then.”

Washburn remembers the next morning speaking at a Police Athletic League event at a New York park. He said it felt odd because “you don’t want to be around police when you’ve been doing drugs all night.”

Soon, though, Washburn received news that really rattled him. He was walking up a New York street when stopped by a stranger.

“Someone recognized me and said, ‘Did you hear about Len?”’ Washburn said. “He told me, and I said, ‘No. Stop lying.’ Then he went and bought a paper and showed it to me… It was on the back of the New York Post (that Bias had died)… I was extremely upset. I had never known anybody at that point in my life who had died so he was the first.”

There’s little doubt the anxiety from that night has stayed with Washburn all these years. Have you ever been driving on the highway when an accident occurs within eyeshot? You start freaking out, the heart thumping, the head shaking and the mouth running. That could’ve been me! It should’ve been me…

Washburn has to feel the same way. While he has gone on to help mentor others so they don’t fall into similar situations, the story is one that he won’t soon forget.

In a strange way, this almost isn’t even a surprise knowing the history of the 1986 NBA Draft class. As Hoopshype.com points out, Washburn was eventually banned from the NBA after two seasons for failing a third drug test. Three of the first seven players taken suffered through rampant drug use with none of them living up to their potential. Not only that, but four players taken in the first three rounds of that seven-round draft have died for various reasons (notably Drazen Petrovic in an automobile accident).

While the NBA seems to have righted the ship since the 1990s after the league supposedly dealt with a number of drug problems through the ’70s and into the ’80s, this is just another reminder of how fragile life can be.

What do you think?

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  • TJ 2

    i watched Len Bias’ 30 for 30 special on ESPN, that man was a BEAST! that was so unfortunate what happened to him! i see the players went down to lesser drugs, marijuana has been the drug of choice for present days players.

  • Russ M

    Just how rampant cocaine use was in the 80’s is well documented. And, none of that documentation is exaggerated in the least.


    Wasn’t everyone doing coke in the 80’s?

  • tb

    Yeah. Len Bias is legend in the DMV. He is still missed.

  • http://dimemag.com bullet380

    I still remember where I was when I heard about Len. Working my summer job at Howard Johnson’s. Totally hurt that day. I was real cool with Len’s brothers Jay and Eric.

  • http://www.wtf.com Chicagorilla

    This isn’t news is it? Didnt Washburn get busted for drug use during his playing days?

    As a matter of fact, that entire 86 draft class was filled with players who got addicted to drugs.

  • CLAW

    What’s crazy is I did coke my one and only time that same night as Bias with dudes that went to Maryland at Myrtle Beach for summer break. When I heard that the next day I was done and would never do that stuff again. To happen to somebody like that who was a physical specimen that could only have been compared to MJ.

    Damn shame, then the Cs got hit with the Reggie Lewis tragedy.

    Don’t do Drugs! Unless its just weed and shrooms

  • bigdoggchad

    @ Claw Come on man kids can read this. My son was just standing behind me when I was reading this.

  • Diego

    Yeah, coke basically was a very, very popular recreational drug of use in the early to mid 80s. Pre-Bias’s death, it was viewed as harmless, with a great buzz. Bias’s death was tragic, but it really was a wake-up call for a lot of young Americans that coke was not harmless as basically Claw noted above.

    Washburn’s career was a waste. Guy was a monster in college and as big a bomb as they get in the NBA. Washburn might get it these days, but it certainly didn’t stick with him immediately after Len’s death or he wouldn’t have blown his NBA career with the blow and/or other drugs.

  • CLAW

    @bigdog – gotta keep it real, don’t do the hard stuff and if my kids (one graduated HS) and found out they did weed but still were killing the GPA I don’t think I’d be too upset. Kids can get hooked on crack, coke, and heroin, damn she had 2 girls in cheerleading that were both skinny, I said something about that and she said yeah they do crack. Its all around them and Len Bias was my wake up call.

  • http://www.cracked.com/funny-353-kobe-bryant/ Atom

    Washburn, another classic Warriors draft pick. Maybe if dude chilled with the coke and picked up some steroids he wouldn’t have been so worthless in the L. Big maybe.

  • http://staceygoods.com/ StaceyGoods

    “Not only that, but four players taken in the first three rounds of that seven-round draft have died for various reasons”…

    crzy bad luck 86′ draft…