It’s a December evening in 2009. He watches Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser argue for a half-hour.
Then a documentary comes on the screen -- a series of interviews, a short news clip; then Aaron’s brought into the life of Len Bias.
Highlights of a dominant basketball player flow one after another.
High-flying, acrobatic dunks. Crisp passes. Three-pointers.
Len Bias dominating the college basketball scene.
ACC Player of the Year.
A two-time All-American.
The Maryland Terrapins have the next Michael Jordan on their hands, and soon so would the Boston Celtics. Len Bias -- on the top of the world.
But then the man known for explosions at the rim explodes into a seizure -- sometime around 6 a.m. on June 19, 1986.
The documentary ends and a number flashes on the screen -- the Len Bias Foundation -- 301-577-0071.
Aaron sits there, amazed. He’s seen other documentaries before, but none captivated him quite like this one.
He picks up the phone, dials the number.
On the other end, a calm, welcoming voice:
“Hello, you’ve reached the Len Bias Foundation. This is Lonise P. Bias speaking.”
The conversation lasts about ten minutes.
Dr. Bias tells Aaron she just happened to be in the office.
She just happened to pick up the phone.
That’s when Aaron Greene knows its destiny.
Aaron steps up to the podium. He looks out at the audience. 300 eyes stare back at him, stare like he’s Michael Jordan rising up for a game-winning shot.
He reads Dr. Bias’ biography slowly. Almost like his father, Rev. Donald Greene, would read a sermon.
“Without further ado, I introduce to you Dr. Lonise Bias.”
It’s the type of opportunity he’s dreamed of since his elementary school days at Andrew Chapel Christian Academy. Inviting Dr. Bias to come to Orangeburg to speak at a Family Empowerment Seminar at the Christian Life Center in Orangeburg.
And then introducing her, the mother of Len Bias.
“I was very nervous, and not sure how I would do,” Aaron says.
After the introduction, a video projects on the wall, a video with highlights similar to the ones in the documentary.
“The older people in the audience… you could tell by the look in their eyes… they recognized him.”
Dr. Bias’ son died of a cardiac arrhythmia caused from large amounts of cocaine in his system.
The crowd’s evenly divided between the young and old, but Dr. Bias focuses on the teenagers in the audience.
Young people are loveable, savable, and reachable.
They need to maintain focus and stop making excuses.
She talks about the heap of negative criticism she received following Len’s death.
She shares how people were glad to see him fail. How they said it was his fault for getting into drugs.
And Len’s not Dr. Bias’ only son who died early – just four years after Len’s death, her youngest son – 20-year-old Jay – was gunned down in a jewelry store parking lot.
Her strength through these personal hardships is not surprising – you can tell by the way she speaks – in a booming, confident, and distinct Aretha Franklin-like tone.
But for Aaron, the lasting image of Len should be more than a coffee table.
A pile of white powder.
A straw from McDonald’s.
He believes Len should be remembered for his high level of success at such a young age. He became one of the best college basketball players of all time, recognized by his athletic, rough-and-tumble, hustle-hard brand. And at age 22, he was drafted as heir apparent to Larry Bird, a once-in-a-generation player.
“He left a great mark. He’s the perfect role model,” Aaron said.
Jesse Jackson certainly agrees. He’s likened Len to Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi and even Jesus.
Dr. Bias and Aaron have kept in touch via email, and she even came back to hold another seminar in Orangeburg this year.
But just a week before that seminar, tragedy strikes the Greene family.
March 10, 2012
Aaron steps up to the podium. He’s done this before. Almost numb to it.
Aaron starts the speech differently. This time, about Caleb – his 21-year-old brother.
Caleb, the role model.
Caleb, who worked 40 hours a week at a hotel and still maintained a 3.0 GPA at Orangeburg Technical School.
Caleb, who set lofty goals – he planned to visit Australia one day.
Caleb, who died when his 1999 Cadillac slid off the road in Orangeburg and ejected him.
Caleb, who just a week before the accident sat Aaron down on his bed and assured him he would be successful.
Caleb, who’s the reason Aaron wants to attend U.S.C., the college Caleb planned on transferring to in the fall.
And just a couple months later, Aaron’s cousin passed away as well.
|Aaron (left) is now a freshman at the University of South Carolina.|
So like Dr. Bias, Aaron Greene no longer lives for himself. He lives for two people.
And for him, meeting Dr. Bias was “God’s plan.”
He could have paid no attention to the number on the screen – he could have watched SportsCenter. And even if he did call, Dr. Bias might not have been the one to pick up.
Len’s life may have been taken for a greater reason.
Maybe it was so people like Aaron could discover Len’s mother.
Maybe so he could follow her example when his brother died.
Maybe, it was destiny.