Let’s take a quick trip back in time.
We all know that University of Maryland standout Len Bias was a special and talented player, but I don’t think he can be fully appreciated until we take another look at one legendary Thursday night back in 1986.
On Feb. 20, 1986, Bias and his Lefty Driesell-coached Terps cruised down to Chapel Hill and walked into hostile territory to face Dean Smith’s No. 1 ranked North Carolina Tar Heels in the Dean E. Smith Student Activities Center, affectionately known as the Dean Dome; a building having opened only one month earlier. At the time, UNC had yet to lose a game in the building named after its legendary coach. This night was going to be a little different.
The Terps entered the game with a 12-11 record while UNC maintained a daunting 25-1 record en route to what many thought was a certain NCAA title.
Maryland fans knew that this was going to be the last time graduating senior Bias would face UNC in regular season play. They also knew the Terps had to find a way to gain momentum heading towards the ACC tournament. Those thoughts stayed in the back of their minds. At the forefront was Len Bias. Period.
At this time, Michael Jordan was in his second season in the NBA; the matchup between he and Bias from ’83 a distant memory. Now, the most notable players facing Bias and the Terps were Kenny Smith and Brad Daugherty. Both would go on to have healthy NBA careers. Neither of them was in the mood to let down Coach Smith and the Tar Heel faithful. Bias had other plans in mind.
The win for Maryland was handed to them through a collective effort, including 35 points from Bias and some clutch late-game free throws by Keith Gatlin that helped seal the game with seven seconds to play after Bias blocked Kenny Smith's shot on the other end of the floor with 15 seconds left. Gatlin finished with a layup in the closing seconds -- he threw an inbounds pass off Smith's back -- to give Maryland a five-point edge in the final box score. Boom!
The entire sports world felt the eruption from the Dean Dome. Bias and the Terps had accomplished the unthinkable with pure grit and tenacity, and they let the world know it.
These two teams would face each other again in the ACC tournament, but it didn’t matter. The damage was done. David had slain Goliath, in his own home.
Although Bias did not go on to have the great NBA career many projected, one thing remains true; Bias is and was the ultimate Terrapin. No one who ever saw him play or heard his name mentioned could ever deny the awesome talent he was. Few have earned that distinction; Bias was one who did.
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