I'm looking forward to the ESPN joint tonight on Len Bias. I was a kid in West Baltimore when he ODed. I had no game, but you had to play around my way. There just wasn't much choice. We had a milk crate nailed to a telephone pole that we used to play on. My older brother Damani (Big Bill, if you read the book) used to invoke Bias's name whenever he shot the ball. When Bias died, it broke all of our hearts. Around our way, it was like someone had killed the president. In all honesty, given those times, and give that the president was Reagan, it was worse.
But more than that, I think Bias's death was one of the reasons that, for black folks in my generation, coke wasn't something played with. Between that, and the crack epidemic, we tended to regard coke as the province of addicts. We had our thrills--a 40 and and a blunt--but coke usage was something we felt people should be ashamed of. (Not coke-selling, mind you.)
Don't take this the wrong way, but we thought of coke as some dumb-white-shit. That's not a point of moralism, as a kind of prejudice. We thought of it as along the lines sky-diving, mountain-climbing, and ski football. I don't know if the numbers even back this up (though I'm sure someone is about to tell me.) But this was more about the attitude of the time (late 80s to mid-90s) and the particular group of black people I ran with. The attitude was basically one of, I have no problem rotting my liver out with Mad-Dog and Cisco, but that coke shit ain't for me.
When I got to Howard, you almost never saw people using coke at parties. People did shrooms, and some adventurous cats would pop E. But coke would get you laughed at. You might even catch a ass-whipping for bringing out some coke at a house-party. The shit just wasn't cool. Even now whenever people mention recreational coke usage, I kind of instinctively bristle. I don't really understand coke as a recreational drug. Call it cultural bias.