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34 years after his death, one thing clear: Len Bias' life was legendary

34 years after his death, one thing clear: Len Bias' life was legendary

The news struck like a slap to the face, without warning and without pity. 

“Len Bias is dead.”

Those words came out of the mouths of local television news anchors 34 years ago today - June 19, 1986. They did not make sense then. They do not make sense now. 

Just this past February, in a different time, through a different medium, the news of Kobe Bryant’s death struck like a thunderbolt for basketball fans across the country the same way. You are rendered mute. 

In 1986, I was eight years old, a budding Maryland basketball fan. Len Bias was my hero. Sitting at my parents’ dining room table that late spring morning, eating breakfast with the TV on in the background, is how I learned the world has a cruel streak to it.  

Len Bias was alive hours earlier, a soon-to-be member of the defending champion Boston Celtics, the No. 2 pick in the NBA Draft. For whatever reason, the cocaine he ingested that morning was enough to stop his heart. A singular talent gone, a family left devastated, a community reeling from shock.

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For so many years, that tragic morning defined Len Bias. He became a cautionary tale in the Just Say No era about the dangers of drugs. He neatly fit into the genre of young geniuses – and he was a basketball genius – who died too young. Artists. Musicians. Athletes. There are too many examples. 

You have to delve into that part of Bias’ story. It is how his life ended. It is how he is most remembered. But he was a human, too, flawed as we all are, not just a myth. Sometimes an early death obscures a person, clouds the collective memory. They become who we remember after the shock and what came before is harder to reach. 

Would Bias have continued the Celtics’ fading dynasty? Would he have matured, improved, developed and risen to the challenge of Michael Jordan? Does he become one of the league’s great stars or not quite live up to the hype? No one knows. Those questions are why we watch sports, individual career arcs playing out in front of us day after day. 

RELATED: LEN BIAS WOULD'VE BEEN WORTHY RIVAL TO MICHAEL JORDAN IN THE NBA

It’s been 34 years since the morning Len Bias’ heart stopped. There is enough sadness there to last a lifetime. That won’t change. But if the pain remains for those who loved him, it is at least dulled some by the years and the good memories come back into sharper focus. 

The battles with Jordan. The ACC Tournament title game vs. Duke. The 30-point day against eventual national champ Villanova. The iconic jumper-steal-reverse dunk at the Dean Dome. 

Those moments can still make you smile all these years later. Pull them up online and try not to. The men of that generation, too, who played with and against Bias, former Maryland stars like Tony Massenburg and Walt Williams, laugh a little more now telling stories of the real Lenny they knew. The myth and the legend breaks down. Len Bias reemerges. 

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Former Terp and current Bills WR Stefon Diggs ready for new start after exit from Vikings

Former Terp and current Bills WR Stefon Diggs ready for new start after exit from Vikings

Stefon Diggs has a new beginning with the Buffalo Bills.

And he isn't dwelling on his departure from the Minnesota Vikings.

Speaking with Buffalo reporters for the first time since his blockbuster trade in March, Diggs repeatedly expressed excitement over his new surroundings while also downplaying his role in leaving Minnesota.

"As far as my past with Minnesota, I never actually said anything," Diggs said. "But, granted, this new situation, I can say I'm excited. There's no right or wrong or problems to be fixed or something to replace with my old situation. I have a lot of respect for the Minnesota Vikings."

Last season with the Vikings, Diggs was fined more than $200,000 for unexcused absences from practices in October. He was also known for cryptic tweets that may or may not have offered insight into his situation with the team. Prior to being traded to Buffalo, Diggs tweeted "it's time for a new beginning" -- and hours later he was a member of the Bills for four draft picks.

In Buffalo, he's expected to be the unquestioned No. 1 receiver on a team hoping to win the AFC East following Tom Brady's exit from the division.

"I never really was too vocal about it. `It's time for a new beginning' was enough said," Diggs said. "I'm super excited with my new situation. I feel like this is also a great organization built on a lot of hard-working guys, a lot of guys that really grind to get to where they're at.

"I trust the people that are in place. I'm just happy to be a part of it at this point. I'm not trying to reinvent the wheel or anything like that, I'm just trying to be as helpful as I can, be a puzzle piece, try to mesh as well as I can to help this team win."

Diggs has been a game-breaker throughout his career and the Bills are hoping he's the finishing piece who can put them over the top. Diggs finished last season with a career-high 1,130 yards receiving and he was fourth in the league with an average of 17.9 yards per reception. He's considered one of the best route runners in the NFL and is set to form a solid receiving trio alongside John Brown and Cole Beasley.

Priority No. 1 for Diggs with his new team is to work on establishing chemistry with quarterback Josh Allen. The two met up for unofficial workouts in Florida earlier this summer, but have plenty of work to make up with the lack of a traditional offseason.

"I'm super excited," Diggs said. "He's going into Year 3. As a quarterback, as a guy, big arm, big quarterback, a lot of heart, he runs around, he's mobile, can extend the play. He does a lot of things extremely well. More so focused on how I can help him, anything I can do to help him. Always be in his ear, having communication with him, if he needs something from me ... I'm just there to be his supporting cast on whatever he needs and play receiver."

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So far, so good according to teammate and standout cornerback Tre'Davious White.

"Obviously he's a Grade A talent," White said. "To have a transcendent talent like that to add with the other guys that we have ... on paper, it looks great. Those guys are going to have to continue to work each and every day. Just on paper, we look sexy (on offense), we look good."

After expressing some concerns one month ago about playing football this year -- and hours after White said that he was unsure about his own plans for this season -- Diggs said that he will be playing amid coronavirus concerns.

"Seeing that the deadline is tomorrow, I'm pretty much bought in on playing football," Diggs said. "I've been here buying into the process as far as getting to know my teammates, getting to know my coaches, kind of starting to get the ball rolling. I put in a lot of time in the offseason training and (working on) my craft ... I made some arrangements where I'm going to be playing football this year."

NOTES: The Bills activated CB Ike Brown and S Siran Neal off the reserve/COVID-19 list. To make room on the roster, Buffalo released RB Antonio Williams and DE Jonathan Woodard.

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Maryland announces no positive COVID-19 results in recent test

Maryland announces no positive COVID-19 results in recent test

Maryland’s University Health Center initiated an on-campus screening for 227 student-athletes and staff on July 27th resulting in no positive tests for COVID-19. 

Maryland Athletics continues a phased approach to return student-athletes to campus, by working with the University Health Center to conduct regular COVID-19 testing. Overall to date, Maryland has tested 964 student-athletes, coaches and staff totaling only 12 positive tests.

Maryland is stable for now - but things are not looking as good for Big 10 rivals Rutgers and Michigan State as a COVID-19 outbreak continues to spread. The Michigan State football program announced on July 22nd football workouts were suspended after a staff member tested positive. Just three days later, the entire football team entered a 14-day quarantine after a second staff member and a player tested positive.

The Rutgers football team remains in isolation through Aug. 8th after positive tests skyrocket to 28 confirmed positive cases. That number nearly doubled from the 15 confirmed cases announced last week.

The Big Ten announced back in early July that it will play only conference games this year in football. Although the conference has yet to confirm when preseason training camps can begin. Given the current circumstances you can understand why.

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