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Born Ready: The Mixed Legacy of Len Bias Paperback – December 8, 2011
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TITLE INFORMATION BORN READY: THE MIXED LEGACY OF LEN BIAS Ungrady, Dave J CreateSpace (188 pp.) $17.00 paperback, $9.99 e-book ISBN: 978-1467972369; December 8, 2011 BOOK REVIEW Ungrady (Tales from the Maryland Terrapins, 2014) examines the lasting effects of an American tragedy, a talent cut down too soon. Len Bias, the No. 2 overall draft choice of the Boston Celtics in 1986, died of a cocaine overdose two days after he was anointed to help sustain the NBA dynasty. His death, followed by that of Celtics star Reggie Lewis from cardiac arrest in 1993, set the team back for more than two decades. Bias’ death in particular has always been surrounded by the question: Why? A quarter-century later, Ungrady—who, like Bias, attended the University of Maryland—set out to learn the answer and to find the rippling ramifications of the star basketball player’s death. As the sportswriter explains, “more than any athlete who has died in the last half-century, Bias still evokes a searing and confusing mix of regret and remorse, anger and sympathy, bewilderment and bitterness, and lingering sadness over the success the young athlete might have known had he not celebrated too hard, too soon.” Ungrady argues that Bias’ death, at just 22, has had unparalleled effects not just on his family and friends, or on the son he never knew, but also on the careers of Maryland administrators, coaches and athletes. There was an outcry for tougher drug laws, which led to harsh, mandatory sentencing for cocaine dealers and users; on the flip side, cocaine use has since dropped among high school students. Ungrady faced one big obstacle when researching this book: Two and a half decades hasn’t been enough time for the wound to heal. “Many of the people most affected prefer to remain silent on the topic, or talk guardedly about it,” Ungrady says. Still, his dogged research, including his conducting new interviews and mining previously produced materials, has yielded a well-rounded portrait of Bias and those who are trying to make sense of his death. A cautionary sports tale that shows how one life unexpectedly ended can affect so many others.
About the Author
Dave has been a print and broadcast journalist for more than 25 years and has worked at the Washington Post, AOL and Voice of America. He has produced and reported segments for ESPN, CNN, and NBC, among others. Most recently, Dave worked as a senior editor at Universal Sports and as editorial manager at Travelchannel.com. Dave has conducted exclusive, personal interviews with some of the top athletes in the world. They include soccer legend Pele, swimming sensation Michael Phelps, basketball great Kareem Abdul Jabbar, and track and field icon Carl Lewis. His varied writings have been published in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, Sport Magazine, Washingtonian Magazine and others. As a broadcaster, Dave has produced segments for CNN and ESPN and was the radio play-by-play voice for DC United of Major League Soccer. He has hosted World Cup soccer talk programs on XM Satellite Radio. Dave is the author of three books on sports, including the best-selling Tales From the Maryland Terrapins, a Collection of the Greatest Stories Ever Told. His first book, Unlucky: A Season of Struggle in Minor League Professional Soccer, chronicles his efforts to play professional soccer for the first time at the age of 40; it received international acclaim. His third book, Legends of Maryland Basketball, honors the top 25 basketball personalities in the history of the University of Maryland. Dave maintains a lifelong passion for sports. He was an all-conference middle distance runner (800 meters) and a soccer player at the University of Maryland and was captain of the Terps track team in 1980. He was a New Jersey high school all-state selection in soccer and track and field and in October 2010 was inducted into the North Dame High School Athletic Hall of Fame. In 2008 Dave completed his first marathons, in Boston and New York City, and hopes someday to run another 26.2-mile race. A native of Trenton, New Jersey, he lives with his wife Sharon and son Cayden in Northern Virginia.
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Really wonderful read that was enjoyable from start to finish. Part of it is because there hasn't been much written on Bias in quite some time. Another part of it is Ungrady's excellent research ability. He met a lot of obstacles since frankly a lot of people who were with Bias the night he died refuse to talk about it. But give him credit for going above and beyond in gathering as much information as possible. If you were a Bias fan or Celtics fan, this is an absolute must read.
I read the paperback version, and was stunned that his death and the 911 call takes place early in the book. I found that this is a story with significant reach that extends beyond College Park, University of Maryland, ACC & NCAA Basketball, and the Boston Celtics. To any parent raising a coming-of-age Student-Athlete (Me! w/my 12 yr old son), striving to make the message on ethics, drug cleanliness, and personal responsibility relevant to their kid, this is a tool to facilitate those discussions (read teammate and Tulane Head Coach Dave Dickerson's account). I got the sense that the journalistic fervor of Dave Ungrady, a U of Maryland Sports insider and athlete himself, provides the seeker with unique insight and critical perspective. His relationships and access to the roots of this story over several years makes him the burgeoning authority on Len Bias and his "Mixed Legacy".
I was a track top performer at Maryland and lived on campus with all the distractions and temptations it brings. Dave's book made me realize how close you can be to the fire without realizing it. If you've read his book and have used the message to talk with your kids, I encourage you to post right here on Amazon.
Some of the most riveting aspects of this book is when the author depicts the "medicinal" history of the drug that doomed Bias. The back-story, inside information and political aspects of the trial following Bias' death, were intriguing. Could have been a better read without the author's personal allegiance to the Democratic party. The shot's at the Reagan and Bush administrations showed one side of where the blame could be laid. Having Charles Rangel mentioned on the hardcover jacket was ironic considering how "pristine" his reputation is today. To bring up a story of a cocaine death that happened when and where the product was coming from the District of Columbia set the stage to at least bring up how widespread the drug use was. Even by the Democratic party in those local governments elected to help prevent the epidemic from spreading further. To not mention Mayor Marion Barry and his multiple drug arrests for the use of crack cocaine was a convenient omission. All in all, a good read and a phenomenally sad story.
I was stunned that the 911 call and his death takes place early in the book. This is a story with significant reach that extends beyond College Park, University of Maryland, ACC & NCAA Basketball, and the Boston Celtics. To any parent raising a coming-of-age Student-Athlete, striving to make the message of on ethics, drug cleanliness, and personal responsibility relevant to their kid, this is a tool to facilitate those discussions (read teammate and Tulane Head Coach Dave Dickerson's account). I got the sense that the journalistic fervor of Dave Ungrady, a U of Maryland Sports insider and athlete himself, provides the seeker with unique insight and critical perspective. His relationships and access to the roots of this story over several years makes him the burgeoning authority on Len Bias and his "Mixed Legacy".
I was a track top performer at Maryland and lived on campus with all the distractions and temptations it brings. Dave's book made me realize how close you can be to the fire without realizing it.
If you've read his book and have used the message to talk with your kids, I encourage you to post right here on Amazon.