The University of Maryland basketball team walked onto its home court in single file last night and, with 11,000 others filling the stands, encircled the floor where Len Bias had excelled.
The crowd rose in a final tribute to the all-America they loved to watch, filling the hall with thunderous applause, then watching as his family was given the Boston Celtics uniform Bias came so close to wearing.
"There's so many memories of Leonard right on this floor," said Maryland Coach Lefty Driesell. "I can see him shooting his picture-perfect jumper . . . his alley-oop. But he's not gone, he's just starting again."
The ceremony last night at Cole Field House, where he scored many of the 2,149 points that made him Maryland's all-time leading scorer, ended a day of mourning for Bias.
He died early Thursday morning of cardiac arrest after collapsing in his dormitory suite on the Maryland campus. His death came less than 48 hours after the Celtics made him the second selection in the National Basketball Association draft.
Yesterday afternoon, Bias was buried on a sun-baked hill at Lincoln Memorial Cemetery in Suitland after more than 1,300 friends and family members attended a private funeral service at the University of Maryland Memorial Chapel. Their procession to the grave, behind the midnight blue hearse bearing Bias' body, closed the Capital Beltway for a time.
At the ceremony last night, the university basketball team sat along one side of the court, opposite Bias' family and their close friends. During the crowd's standing ovation, his parents walked onto the court and waved to the crowd.
Later, Lonise Bias took the podium. "If you want to see him again, try to live like he lived, in humility and love, and we will never have to cry again," she said.
She was given the No. 30 Boston jersey her son would have worn in the NBA by Celtics President Red Auerbach.
"I schemed for three years to get Lenny Bias," Auerbach said. "In 37 years, no one, including Larry Bird, got the reception from our fans that Lenny Bias got last week."
The fans he had made at Maryland cheered when Driesell told them, "No one will ever wear No. 34 again in a Maryland uniform."
"I didn't know him personally, but I've followed him all four years of his college," said Thomas Goodman, 20, who said he had driven from Anne Arundel County to attend the ceremony. "He was just a great basketball player. A team leader."
The Rev. Jesse Jackson, who attended both of yesterday's services, asked the crowd to "look at Leonard's life with a broad view."
Bennie Thayer, a spokesman for Jackson, said Bias' father had asked Jackson to attend because of his anti-drug-abuse efforts.
"God's called him for a higher purpose," Jackson told the Cole Field House gathering, "to get the attention of this generation and to save it."
Jackson also had spoken at the grave site of his hope that Bias' death would help young people reject drugs: "Today, we celebrate his life and legacy. Tomorrow, we begin to face the political and legal implications of what has happened."
The cause of Bias' death is being investigated by police and a county grand jury. Prince George's State's Attorney Arthur A. Marshall said yesterday cocaine is believed to have played a role in the death.
While the funeral ceremony was under way inside the chapel yesterday morning, students stopped and gazed solemnly on their way to class. Several said that regardless of the outcome of the police investigation, they would remember Bias as a hero.
"I don't want to hear stuff that's going to mar Lenny's memory," said Al Kerr, who carried a poster of Bias in action on the court. "I'm going to remember the Len Bias I met."
Bias was eulogized at the funeral service by the Rev. G.L. Edmond, a North Carolina minister who is a friend of the family.
Also attending the services were University Chancellor John B. Slaughter, Driesell and most of Bias' teammates, former Maryland and Washington Bullets player Tom McMillen, Bullets player Moses Malone and several of Bias' fellow Atlantic Coast Conference players, including John Salley of Georgia Tech, Olden Polynice of Virginia and Johnny Dawkins of Duke.
Bias' casket was taken from the chapel amid a throng of friends and family, including his father and mother, his sister, Michelle, and brothers Eric and Jay, who, as his older brother did, plays basketball at Northwestern High School in Hyattsville. As he followed his brother's casket, Jay Bias shook with tears and hid his face in his hands.
The burial service lasted only a few minutes, ending when the crowd held hands and sang "We Shall Overcome."
Afterward, the Maryland players and other friends filed by the grave site one by one. A young boy who said he was a friend of Bias' held up his instamatic camera and snapped a picture of the casket.
Keith Gatlin, Bias' teammate and dorm mate, leaned over and kissed the casket, plucked a purple carnation from the bouquet resting atop, then walked away. Some friends reached out and simply touched the casket, others left a rose behind.
At last night's ceremony, Slaughter read a letter from Annapolis Mayor Dennis Callahan, expressing the conflict many felt over Bias' death just as his career taking off.
"The questions about what might have been are on the minds of many today. But we should never forget what Len Bias was . . . a true shooting star who lived among us and brought joy to the hearts of so many."
Staff writers Greg Dowling and Ed Nicklas contributed to this report.