On the streets yesterday, in the neighborhoods where Len Bias and Brian Tribble ran together, people spoke of the lives of the two and the death of one as simply the tale of young friends, one particularly gifted but neither perfect, each responsible only for his own actions.

For most, no court testimony alleging Bias was a "courtesy middleman" drug dealer will erase their personal memories of a bright, mannerly young man who captured their hearts with his athletic ability -- and with his life so close to proving there really is an American Dream. It's too easy, said a middle-aged man in Tribble's Woodridge neighborhood of Northeast Washington, to blame it all on a dead man.

In barbershops and grocery stores, on street corners and in comfortable homes, the young and the old tended to agree with the Prince George's County jury, that there just wasn't enough evidence to prove that Tribble supplied the fatal portion of cocaine that snuffed out the life of the young man with the million-dollar future.

"It was the only possible verdict," said Calvin Moody, a Prince George's County police officer. "When you put together a case based on circumstantial evidence you can't expect to prove beyond a doubt that someone is guilty.

"Even if Tribble gave Bias the cocaine, did he force him to take it?" asked Moody, on duty at a Palmer Park shopping center in boxer Sugar Ray Leonard's old neighborhood, just a few miles from where Len Bias lived.

"We all make mistakes," he said. "I believe Len Bias and Brian Tribble are victims of cocaine and of themselves. I see it all the time. Yes, I think the drug pusher has a problem, but the drug user has a problem, too."

Most people agreed: Bias paid for his mistakes with his life, and Tribble paid for his through the loss of a friend and the ordeal of a trial.

"I'm glad to see the case dropped," said Kevin Wilson, a mail carrier as he made his rounds in Palmer Park. "I don't think they proved anything. Lenny was a good guy and I feel sorry for him. I think Tribble is sorry, too, for whatever his role was. But the truth is, if it had been a regular person instead of Lenny, there never would have been a trial."

"If they had found Tribble guilty then I would have believed we have a double standard," said Robert Tate, sitting in a barbershop on Marlboro Pike in Coral Hills. "If I go out and get drugs and die, nothing would happen. Then why prosecute Brian Tribble? He may be involved in some of these things, but you have to prove he's guilty of what you charge him with."

There was no one home at either the Bias home in Landover or the Tribble home in Northeast Washington. But listeners of radio station WDCU-FM could hear Bias' mother Lonise, as she continued her crusade against drug abuse.

"Len Bias has done more in death than he could have ever done in life," she said. "What a perfect time {for God} to take the sacrifice when everyone is looking."

In both Bias' and Tribble's neighborhoods, most who would comment on the verdict declined to give their names. Almost all wanted to forgo talk of courtrooms and legalisms and consider the tragedy of two young men.

"I'm just glad it came out the way it did. I hate to see anyone suffer," said a man who lives near the Tribbles. "I'm just glad it's over," said an elderly woman who lives down the street.

"We never figured Lenny for the kind of boy they said he was," said a man who lives across the street from the Bias family. "He was the kid we would see throwing football in the snow. He looked like a model kid. I guess we'll never really know the truth. It's all really confusing. All I know is that he always had respect for us {elders} and he showed it."

"I don't think it's true what they said about Lenny in court," said another Bias neighbor who has known the family for 13 years. "I don't think it has changed the way the kids feel about him. I'm a substitute teacher and whenever children find out I live next to Len Bias, they still get excited."

There were just a few people who wanted to focus on Tribble's guilt or innocence. "If I had been on the jury, no way he would have walked out a free man," said a young man working at a gas station in Tribble's neighborhood. "I think the jury felt sympathetic because he lost his best friend. But he's gonna have to go straight now because they're going to be watching him."

And there was an overall consensus: It's finally over. "This thing has dragged out too long," said one woman, a Bias neighbor. "It's been a terrible thing for all the parents involved. I think it's time to heal."