Ex NBA player Chris Herren: from a drug-addicted villain to helping hero

The story of former NBA player Chris Herren is not only bizarre, but sad as hell. He has struggled through 14 years of his life as a drug addict, losing his chance to continue playing in the NBA, and nearly losing his family and his life as well.

During that time, former Boston Celtic and Denver Nugget had no shortage of moments that could have been his “rock bottom”.

Herren attended Durfee High School in Fall River, MA from 1990-1994. His family’s history at Durfee includes his father, grandfather, older brother, and multiple uncles playing basketball there.

Future NBA player finished his career at Durfee High with a total of 2,073 points. At one point in his career, Herren led the Durfee Hilltoppers to 46 straight victories and back to back Massachusetts State Championships.

Entering Boston College, Chris was featured in multiple magazines such as Rolling Stone and Sports Illustrated, hyping his possible success. Before playing, Chris failed a drug test for marijuana and cocaine use.

On November 25, 1994, in his first game for Boston College, Chris scored 14 points in 21 minutes of playing time, but broke his wrist and was ruled for the entire 1994-1995 season.

Within three months of his injury, Chris failed two more drug tests for marijuana and cocaine use, and was subsequently kicked off the team and out of the university.

After being kicked out of school, Herren transfered to Fresno State University to play basketball. After sitting out a year, per NCAA transfer rules, he made his debut, as a sophomore, on December 10, 1996 for the Bulldogs. On November 25, 1997, two years after breaking his wrist, Chris was found to have failed another drug test.

After going to a rehabilitation center for 28 days, Chris returned to the team on January 10, 1998 . Chris went on to play in 86 games at Fresno State where he averaged 15.1 points per game and 5.1 assists per game.

After his senior year at Fresno State, Chris entered the NBA Draft and was selected by the Denver Nuggets in the 2nd round with the 33rd overall pick.

After playing 70 games from 1999-2001, Chris’ NBA career was over after a season ending knee injury. During his NBA career, Herren played 45 games for Denver Nuggets (averaging 3.1 ppg, 2.5 apg) and 25 games for Boston Celtics (3.3 ppg, 2.2 apg).

In total, Herren appeared in 70 NBA games, averaging 3.2 ppg, 2.4 apg in 14.4 minutes per contest. After being released by the Celtics, Herren went on to play professionally for teams in Italy, Poland, Turkey, China, and Iran. Years later, horrific details of Herren’s drug addiction years have surfaced.

One of such horrific facts occured in 2001, when Herren’s family and friends joined the packed crowd at Boston’s Fleet Center to witness Herren fulfill his childhood dream of playing for the Boston Celtics. Even though he was in the starting lineup, Herren was nowhere to be found among the players.

Instead, he stood in full uniform outside the Fleet Center in the pouring rain, waiting on a drug dealer just moments before the game.

Herren shot heroin into his veins before his mother’s funeral, bailed on his wife and newborn son in the hospital to get drunk, and even had to be brought back to life once after an overdose.

A former NBA all-star, alcoholic Chris Mullin saves Herren’s life

When Herren was finally ready to dedicate himself to getting clean in 2008, he was met with a new challenge, one as daunting as kicking heroin, and one that he says helps perpetuate the cycle of addiction: the cost of effective treatment.

That’s when Chris Mullin, his friend and former NBA mentor, emerged to give Herren the assist of a lifetime. Mullin, a Hall of Famer and a recovering alcoholic, arranged for Herren to spend nine months getting clean in the type of intensive rehabilitation that he knew Herren needed so badly.

After completing intensive rehabilitation programs, Herren has been alcohol and drug-free since August 1, 2008. In June 2009, Herren launched “Hoop Dreams with Chris Herren”, a basketball player development company to mentor players on and off the court.

Herren has written a book with Providence Journal columnist Bill Reynolds entitled “Basketball Junkie: A Memoir”, documenting his career on and off the court. “Basketball Junkie” was released in May 2011.

In 2011, ESPN aired a documentary, Unguarded, directed by Jonathan Hock, based upon Herren’s basketball career and drug related issues. On March 20, 2012 it was announced that “Unguarded” had been nominated for two Emmy nominations for Outstanding Sports Documentary and Outstanding Editing.

Today, Herren goes across the U.S., visiting schools, colleges and prisons to tell his story of a drug addict, and how he barely managed to get himself back on track. Herren also runs basketball facilities, teaching youngsters not only now to play, but how to stay out of drug addiction.


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  1. Dear Chris Herren
    I just watched about your life on ESPN December 16 2012 and in tears and happiness for you, I’m writing this note. I am a mother of son that just turned 33 last Friday, December 14th. A handsome, charismatic young man, an athlete in Judo and basketball, speaks 3 languages,that has been under treatment for drug use for the last 4 years. He left USA and went back to his Country Brazil in 2002 and lost everything, family and permanent visa to live in the USA. His daughter lives here with his ex wife and the last time he saw his beautiful daughter was in 2002.I am an American Citizen living in the USA and he is Brazil still under treatment. I don’t know how you can help but I would love to give him the opportunity to receive the best drug treatment in the world!
    Money sometimes is good and If I had money I will pay for his treatment and give him the opportunity to have a life so I can have a life again!

    Congratulations for your beautiful story and beautiful family.

    Live your life one day at time and make that day your best one…for you and your family..we never know if that day will be the last one!
    God bless you and your beautiful family,
    Ana Cristina

  2. It is indeed sad what happened to Chris Herren. Let’s hope the examples of him, Micheal Ray Richardson, Len Bias, will serve as examples to other younger players. A good NBA career is not worth abandoning, especially having talent.