Before he was a basketball analyst for NBC Sports Washington. Before he played for twelve different NBA teams. Before he was an NBA champion in 2005 with the San Antonio Spurs.
Before his 13-year professional career, Tony Massenburg was an incoming freshman at the University of Maryland in the summer of 1985 and excited to have an opportunity to play with his childhood idol, Len Bias.
“The greatest Maryland Terrapin basketball player of all time,” Massenburg said during a recent episode of the Wizards Talk Podcast.
It is 35 years past now and Massenburg still remembers with perfect clarity the first time he met the man his teammates and friends to this day call Lenny.
“I literally saw like a light, you know like when Charlie Murphy talks about seeing Rick James in the Dave Chappelle skit?” Massenburg said. “The aura. That’s what it was like the first time I saw Len Bias. He floated into the room.”
That summer of ‘85 Bias was coming off a junior year in College Park where he led the Atlantic Coast Conference in scoring (18.9 points per game) and was named the ACC's Player of the Year.
Bias was the clear face of Maryland basketball and nearly a year away from becoming the second overall pick by the Boston Celtics in the 1986 NBA Draft.
Back to Massenburg: after meeting Lenny, it was time to play a game with his idol.
That summer, Massenburg describes getting picked up by Bias on campus in a big gray Oldsmobile - large enough to fit six guys all 6-foot-7 or taller. They were headed to American University to play against some of the best players in the DMV. Their arrival did not go unnoticed.
“As soon as we walk into the gym, we hear somebody shout out, I GOT BIAS!” Massenburg said. “Everybody recognized, OK you know who’s in the gym now. It’s no question in the area at this time that everybody knows that Len Bias is the best player in the DMV - and most of us believed the best player in the country”.
So what did Bias do for an encore his senior year at Maryland? He became a consensus All-American and earned back-to-back ACC Player of the Year honors averaging 23.2 points per game.
In 2018, Massenburg and fellow Maryland alum Walt Williams co-authored a book entitled “Lessons from Lenny: The Journey Beyond a Shooting Star.” In the book, Massenburg describes what Bias meant to him in life and even in death after Lenny’s untimely passing on June 19, 1986 from cocaine intoxication just two days after being drafted by the Boston Celtics.
Many of those Lessons from Lenny, Massenburg applied before, during and after his NBA career.
“I can tie the improvements in my life, the ultimate lesson we learned from Len Bias’ legacy that one bad decision can cost you everything,” Massenburg said. “And that saved countless lives just on its on.“
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