Former NBA player speaks to Rapt Breed Middle School students on perils of drug use

Herren1Rapt Breed Middle School eighth-graders listened to former NBA player Chris Herren as he gave them a no-holds-barred view of his life as a drug addict, the Daily Item reported.

“I do this for many reasons,” Herren said Monday. “I do this because I remember being in the eighth grade and having a guy like me come in and thinking, ‘I’ll never be that guy … my world would never collide with that guy’s.’”

Herren was a high school basketball legend from Fall River who went on to play for Boston College and Fresno State before achieving his childhood dream of playing for the Boston Celtics. But by age 22 he lost it all to addiction.

Five years sober, he now travels the country speaking to school-age kids and professional athletes, using his life as a cautionary tale. He also detailed his story in the memoir released last year, “Basketball Junkie.”

Herren said the question he is asked most by teens is if he thinks smoking and alcohol are gateway drugs.

“I’ve never met one drug addict along my way that started out using crack or heroin,” he said. “They all start with a red Solo Cup and blunts (marijuana).”

He started with a line of cocaine on his first day at Boston College.

“I said to myself I would do it one time,” he said. “It took me 14 years to walk away from.”

The summer he signed with the Celtics a childhood friend turned him on to OxyContin.

“I had no idea a $20 pill would turn into a $25,000 a month habit or that it would turn into a syringe in my arm and it would stay there for the next eight years,” he said.

Herren walked the kids through the end of his basketball career when he arrived home from Poland, having been cut from an overseas league because the drugs had already taken a toll.

He spent five days doing heroin and cocaine with a friend, left his wife and children stranded in an airport for 10 hours, tried to commit suicide by throwing himself in front of a car and was arrested on four felony charges. Then he spent two nights sleeping in an alley rather than going home, he said.

Shortly thereafter, Herren said he decided to move home to Fall River where “from age 28-32 I was a street junkie.” He pawned his kids’ XBox, sold his wife’s jewelry and stole scrap metal for drug money, he said.

Then, on June 4, 2008, he died.

“I was dead for 30 seconds,” he said. “I had been the brightest kid with the biggest dreams.”

At the hospital where he was revived, a nurse who had known his mother scrambled to find Herren a free bed in a rehab unit, but it would be retired NBA great Chris Mullin who reached out and offered to pay for Herren’s rehab.

The offer turned Herren’s life around, but not without one final fall from grace. Herren said he left rehab “sober and proud” to attend the birth of his third child and a few hours later walked out of the hospital and into a liquor store where he called his former dealer.

It would be the last time, however. He said he has been sober since Aug. 1, 2008, which was the day he returned to rehab.

For the most part, Herren had students’ undivided attention during the presentation with the exception of one group. Herren mentioned that his father had been an alcoholic and he swore he would never be like him when a pocket of students began to snicker.

“It breaks my heart when I hear kids laughing and goofing around,” he said, pointing to the back of the hall. “But I won’t let it fly.”

Herren challenged the students to think about what they do to change themselves so that they fit in then he challenged them to stop.

“Don’t ever change who you are for anybody,” he said. “Be you. Believe that.”

Principal Julie Louf told students prior to Herren taking the stage that she hoped his speech would have an effect on them and the decisions they make.

“And that you understand that the decisions you make have consequences,” she said.

After the presentation, Louf said, “I believe it did have an impact, and I was glad he called out the kids he did. They needed that.”

After playing 70 games from 1999-2001, Chris Herren’s 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.


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