Archive for September, 2013

50 for 50: Len Bias’ Golden Moments #1…Recognizing a Legend

September 30, 2013

Len Bias would have been 50 years-old on November 18.  He was born in Southeast Washington, D.C. and grew to become a University of Maryland star who later died of a cocaine overdose in June 1986, two days after the Boston Celtics made him the number two pick in the NBA draft. Many say Len was as good, if not better, than Michael Jordan.

His death dramatically changed lives forever, and it still has impact today.bias_standnearcar_revised Each day starting  today- September 30 – until Nov. 18, I will provide a different fact that helped shape his Len’s legacy; 50 in total. As we proceed, I would enjoy hearing from you about your most fond memories of Len. Also, pass along thoughts about what you think his NBA career and life would have been had he lived to be 50.

Find out more about Len’s rich legacy from my book, Born Ready: The Mixed Legacy of Len Bias.

Learn about the Born Ready Project that teaches life skills, using Len’s legacy as a teaching tool.

Find out about the Born Ready Hoops Festival  Nov. 22-24, that will honor Len’s legacy as a basketball player.

Born Ready Hoops Festival to Honor Len Bias’ Legacy

September 28, 2013

I am proud and pleased to announce that the first Born Ready Hoops Festival will be held Nov. 22-24 at the University of Maryland in College Park and Northwestern High School in Adelphi, MD. The selection of those venues is significant. Len Bias attended both schools, and the event recognizes Len’s rich legacy.

My company, GoGrady Media, will be working with Urban Youth Incorporated and the Potomac Valley AAU to organize a unique youth basketball event. The Born Ready Project will be featured prominently at the event. I will be making a Born Ready Project presentation on decision making, free for all players, coaches and parents. I will also be signing my book, Born Ready: The Mixed Legacy of Len Bias.

BornReadyLogo_Finalv2b (1)Team competitions include 5 v 5 and 3 v 3 tournaments. Also, to replicate the way Len played the game, we are planning to stage a slam dunk contest, vertical jump contest and a skills contest.

Most importantly, we will be establishing a scholarship in Len’s honor from tournament proceeds. (more details to come).

Find out more about the event from the Born Ready Hoops Festival Flyer.

Register for the 5 v 5 event.  Registration information for other events is forthcoming.

A Chance Meeting and a Rewarding Assignment

September 6, 2013
The front page of the Washington Post Magazine story on E.B. Henderson, pictured holding the ball.

The front page of the Washington Post Magazine story on E.B. Henderson, pictured holding the ball.

When Edwin Henderson told me about the accomplishments of his grandfather E.B. Henderson during a dinner conversation in April  2012, the story intrigued me. Edwin explained how E.B. was considered the “grandfather of black basketball” for his efforts to introduce basketball to blacks and to educate them about the sport in the early 1900s.

Edwin joined about a dozen of us for a meal in the lounge of the Capital Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C.  We had gathered to discuss final preparations for the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Basketball Hall of Fame ceremony later that evening. I was to introduce Len Bias, one of several former D.C. hoops greats honored that evening.

I had never heard of E.B. Henderson before that night. Speaking with pride, Edwin calmly and patiently tried to educate me about him. He mentioned that he was trying to get his grandfather inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.  By coincidence we sat next to each other, and I wonder if that had not happened, would Edwin have engaged me so passionately about E.B.?

Truth be told, I was focused on other matters and at the time and I failed to fully embrace the breadth of E.B.’s story. Still, I asked Edwin to let me know if he made progress with his effort to honor his grandfather, and perhaps we could collaborate on a story.  Within days he sent me an illustrated history of E.B., which I filed in my “possibles” section, and then i thought little of it.

Almost a year expired before I heard from Edwin again. In mid-February he called me, excitedly, to say the Hall of Fame had just announced the 2013 inductees, and Edwin was among them. Pitches to the Washington Post Magazine and Washingtonian Magazine soon followed and the Post by early April had agreed to publish the piece.

I was excited to secure my first piece in the Post Magazine. The Post provided my first job out of college, as a news aide, and one of my goals then was to someday write a story for the section. And I was eager to find out more about E.B. Henderson. It turned out E.B. was a complex and greatly accomplished man, not just in basketball, but for his tireless battles for racial equality and his success as an author, writer and journalist.

I soon discovered the challenges that engulfed the story. The only person alive and accessible who could offer great personal insight about E.B. was Edwin. He and his wife Nikki had accumulated lots of archived materials on E.B., and Edwin added his personal experiences with E.B. But at times, the two guarded some materials, including E.B.’s diary, that could have provided invaluable insight into the man. Edwin and Nikki hope to write a book about E.B. and were protecting some of the content. Still, their assistance was invaluable.

I was forced to rely mostly on the archived materials, which limited the amount of personality I could add to the piece. So I tried to add a strong human interest component focusing on the efforts of Edwin and Nikki, who live in Falls Church, VA in the same house E.B. built. To secure an induction,  they started compiling materials for a proposal in 2004 and submitted the first bid in 2005. Along the way, their friendship turned into a romance, and they are now married. The two were called to represent E.B. at a press conference announcing the Hall of Fame’s selections in April, and they will represent E.B. at his induction ceremony on September 8.

Initially I wrote heavily about Edwin and Nikki’s efforts to secure the Hall bid for E.B., but the Post decided to focus on E.B., since they had never published a feature about him. So a lot of Edwin and Nikki’s story will have to be told in other platforms.

While doing research I found that hardly anyone could talk with authority about E.B. Even Earl Lloyd, the first African American to play in the NBA and member of the Hall of Fame who grew up in Alexandria, VA in the mid-1900s, could not recall E.B.’s impact on the game. I could find no contemporary basketball figure from the D.C. area who knew enough about E.B. to comment credibly for the story.

I did find Ben Jobe, who talked with passion about E.B. Jobe won more than 500 games as a college basketball head coach, mostly at black colleges, and is a scout for the New York Knicks. Jobe found out about E.B. from  John McLendon, a Naismith Hall of Fame inductee for his contributions as a coach of black college basketball teams. McLendon has been called the father of black basketball. He also was a mentor to Jobe. The two often talked about basketball history when they shared long drives on recruiting trips while coaching at different colleges. Henderson was a recurring topic.

“[McLendon] said, ‘if I’m the father of black basketball, E.B. Henderson is the grandfather of black basketball,” says Jobe. “He saw him as a pioneer and an honorable man who was trying to elevate African Americans through basketball. He referred to him as a saintly man who wreaked of reverence. He talked about him like he was Moses.”

I applaud Edwin for his persistence, parting the political seas that for a time muddled E.B.’s path to a Hall of Fame induction. And I thank Edwin for introducing E.B.’s story to me at that dinner at the Capital Hilton. Writing about E.B. was a challenging and enlightening experience. I hope my work adequately reflects the rich legacy of such a great man.

Go to Dave’s website

Find out more about the Born Ready Project and Dave’s speaking.

Read this great book about the history of Black Basketball, Hot Potato, by Bob Kuska.