William Bedford spent four non-descript seasons as a Detroit Piston in the late 1980s/early 1990s. He has two championship rings to show for it. But Bedford, the sixth pick by Phoenix in the 1986 NBA Draft, could’ve been so much more. Drugs ruined Bedford’s career and he was out of the NBA for good by 1993.
Sadly, that statement doesn’t just apply to Bedford among 1986 draftees. No. 2 pick Len Bias died of a drug overdose just two days after being drafted by Boston. Chris Washburn, selected No. 3 overall by Golden State, had his career ruined by drugs as did Roy Tarpley, a University of Michigan product who was picked seventh and eventually was banned for life by the NBA for numerous drug violations.
Bedford was arrested in Michigan in 2003, reportedly with 25 pounds of marijuana in a car he was driving. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison and is due for release soon. Washburn, who has gotten clean after his playing days and currently speaks to young people about his wasted opportunities, recently spoke to Chris Tomasson of HoopsHype and he’d like to get Bedford involved in helping turn around the reputation of that ’86 class once his prison sentence is over.
But Washburn doesn’t want to be the only troubled player from the 1986 draft trying to help others avoid a similar pitfalls. He visits Bedford about once a month at the Federal Correctional Institute in Seagoville, Texas, just outside Dallas. Bedford was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2003 for transporting 25 pounds of marijuana in Michigan, although he expects to be released later this year.
“I see what I went through and then I see William in the penitentiary,’’ Washburn said. “When I see him, I try to encourage him. He gets out in November… He wants me to help him set up some speeches where he can go around and talk to high school and college kids and help them.’’
Washburn would love to join Bedford for such endeavors. But Washburn is thinking even bigger.
Washburn said Tarpley lives in the Dallas suburb of Arlington. Although Washburn hasn’t had contact with Tarpley since the 1990s, he knows how to get in touch with him and plans to ask Tarpley to join the two on their crusade.
That draft will remain arguably the most tragic waste of talent in NBA history. I sincerely hope Washburn is able to accomplish his goal and give Bedford a chance at some redemption as well.