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Lonise Bias Builds on Sons' Legacies

Barrington M. Salmon | 8/24/2011, 2:07 p.m.

Most people would not blame Lonise Bias if she climbed into a shell and never emerged after experiencing every parent's nightmare - not once, but twice - with the untimely deaths of her sons.

But during a recent visit to her Lanham, Md. office, Bias focused more on the present and future than on the past. She has been so busy developing plans for a foundation, lecturing and consulting, building her businesses and keeping the memories of her sons alive that she scarcely noticed her son Len has been gone for 25 years.

June 19 is not a date that Bias has to remember or needs to be reminded of. As she speaks, Bias illustrates the depth and breadth of her faith. It is what gives her strength, what powers her as she moves beyond anger and self-pity. Faith is the source of her message of hope and personal responsibility.

"I never thought about it that way (that 25 years had passed)," Bias said reflectively. "It is 25 years. I have been busy; it just snuck up on me. There have been a lot of observances and remembrances. People still have an interest for the 25th anniversary. I really didn't know how many people knew and appreciated him as an athlete."

Leonard Kevin 'Len' Bias, 22, was set to become a key member of the Boston Celtics professional basketball team.

When he thinks of Len Bias, said LaPlata resident James Fleming, he cannot help but think of potential and promise lost.

"I was devastated when I heard he died, said Fleming, 48. "I was a big Celtics fan but they got rid of all of the black fellows. When they traded Cedric 'Cornbread' Maxwell to Houston, I became a fan of the 'twin towers.' Len's selection was going to bring me back to the Celtics."

"I saw him play and he was awesome. Michael Jordan had the athleticism and consistency on the outside shot which came from hard work. Bias had a 6'8" body and the shot to go with it. He was a dynamite player. It was heartbreaking to see Bias die. It took more than a decade for the Celtics to recover," said Fleming, a division head at the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.

Ken Harris, a research analyst for the South Carolina Senate and an ardent admirer of Bias, agrees.

"I think the one thing that sticks out in my mind is that he could have been better than (Michael) Jordan," said Harris, 46. "Physically, he had the size, stature and pure talent and skills certainly that I don't think Jordan had at that stage of his career. He was "baaad" man. I was a Lakers fan and hated Boston but Bias made me want to think about becoming a Celtics fan. He was just that type of game changer. Who knows how many titles the Celtics would have contended for?"

"We lamented the loss for his family to the sport and to the game."

Lonise Bias, a deeply religious wife, mother and grandmother, described her son Len as "a lovely person, a fine young man." She said she has two grandsons, both of whom play sports. One plays basketball and "everyone says he reminds them of Jay," she said. "These kids love sports and they are beasts."