No crying in NBA metaphysics?
I meant to put this up earlier today, but unfortunately blogger decided to shit itself during my, uh, peak business hours.
I'm sure all of you've all heard about Kemp's slight shot at a comeback, which has to be seen as the greatest success story to come out of the YouTube era. Seriously though, how many times did you watch those best-of mixes and shake your head like WE WUZ ROBBED.
Okay, so then Jamie has to go and completely set the game careening by marking the two-decade anniversary of Len Bias's so, so untimely end. As much as we lament Kemp's plunge into unremarkable hell and publicly wonder if we'll be able to cope with a lessened (that is, a squandered) Amare, at least they contributed a thing or two to this Association. There's the glimpse at what they could do, the jaw-dropping plays at the highest level, and even a few notable postseason arcs with their respective names on them. Bias, though, left us nothing. No sliver of a career, no footage as the prince of the Celtics kingdom. From a pro perspective, he might as well have never existed.
In that, of course, his potential seems downright infinite. To a certain degree, Jordan put a theological damper on the what his loss meant to the game. MJ was arguably the greatest, most innovative, most creative individual in the history of basketball in America; for Bias to have fulfilled this hypothetical promise, he would've had to have equalled or (gasp) bested Jordan. Potential-jocking has many functions, but it's most commonly a form of desperate messianism; it's hard to conceive of, want, or need this supernatural a figure when its flesh and blood equivalent is already putting in work. Of course, if you're a Celtics fan, Bias becomes attractive exactly because he could've countered Jordan. This impulse, however, imagines a limitless Bias only as a matter of practical course, a antidote to a foe who just happened to inspire the loftiest of human awe.
But what if LeBron had gone the way of Bias, or Bias had been poised to descend upon the Association in, say, 1997? I don't remember watching Bias, though it's likely I did. I do know that, seeing those clips now, in an age absolutely jacked-up on hype, scouting, and next big thing bloodlust, it's almost unimaginably sad to think what his loss meant to the sport. I'm not sure if it's right to project these attitudes backward across time, but it's hardly a stretch to suggest that in 1986, the NBA was in a pretty good position to absorb the trauma and move on. From where I'm sitting, though, Len Bias is probably the single most gut-wrenching figure that professional sports has ever known. Sad story of man, yes, but what's really devastating is the vista of history that died with him—with so little proof to the contrary, he might as well have changed the world.