HAMDEN, Conn. – Courage, strength, power and acceptance are just a few of the words used by former Boston Celtic Chris Herren in his speech he gave to Quinnipiac student athletes on Monday night from Burt Kahn Court. The local product out of Fall River, Mass. rendered a fully-packed crowd of around 400 student-athletes and coaches speechless for over an hour while sharing his troubled past and path back to normalcy.
“I’ve never seen 400 athletes sit for an hour and 15 minutes and not want to speak, move or disengage from Chris,” said Quinnipiac field hockey head coach Becca Main. “He had an uncanny way of telling his story while also making it applicable to everyone in the room.”
Herren has been traveling the country speaking with young athletes and students alike and sharing his story that began as a phenom high school basketball player. He attended Durfee High School from 1990-94 where he supplanted a long family lineage that played for Durfee including his father, grandfather, older brother and a handful of uncles. His teenage years playing high school ball generated interest far and wide as he finished up with 2,073 career points and a spot on the McDonald’s All-America Team after his senior year. Countless college programs including Duke University and the University of Kentucky came calling but when it was time to make a decision, the Gatorade Player of the Year for Mass. thrilled his local fan base with a commitment to play for Boston College.
After running through the media gambit, featured in multiple magazines including Rolling Stones and Sports Illustrated hyping up his debut, Herren suddenly took a turn for the worse. His addiction for drugs started early in his freshman year before the season started and stuck with him for 14 years. Before his first game at B.C., Herren failed a drug test for marijuana and cocaine. Herren’s talent however, was undeniable as he came in right away and scored 14 points in 21 minutes in his first collegiate game. This one shining moment ended up being his last as he suffered a broken wrist in that game, thus ending his season early. His drug addiction continued to plague Herron as he failed two more drug tests and was expelled from the university.
Fresno State University gave him a second chance as Herren transferred across country to Calif. where his drug addiction only grew worse. After failing another drug test in Dec. 1997, he checked into a rehabilitation center for 28 days and came back to the team after his time in rehab was over. He finished his career playing in 86 games with the Bulldogs, averaging 15.1 points per game and 5.1 assists.
His numbers and rededication to the sport earned him recognition in the NBA as he was selected by the Denver Nuggets in the second round of the 1999 NBA Draft. After playing in 45 games with the Nuggets, his hometown Boston Celtics made a trade for the rookie guard to bring him back home. Living out the dream of every New England kid growing up, Herren points to this as one of his most gruesome points in his life.
“It means a lot to me now, than it did back then. I wasn’t in the mental mind state back then," Herren said in an interview with ESPN. "I wasn’t soaking it all in and grateful for the opportunity, so I look back on it and I don’t have a fond memory of it.”
Despite having the opportunity to play for the Celtics while raising a family with a wife and two kids, Herron couldn’t shake his addiction. He went into graphic detail of his trials and tribulations as an athlete dealing with the monster that is substance abuse.
His career as a Celtic lasted all of one season as he played in 25 games before getting his release agreeing to play over in Europe until 2006. There were multiple instances where Herren was arrested during and after his playing days with his wife and family hanging in the balance.
The turning point for Herren finally came in August 2008. Herren briefly died from a combination of heroin overdose and the crashing of his car. He was brought back to life and with the help of former NBA great Chris Mullin and his wife, Herren checked into an intensive rehabilitation center. With nearly nothing left, one of his counselors sat down with the troubled former star and gave him a direction, he had to call his wife and kids for the final time to say goodbyes and stay out of their lives for good. Faced with losing everything that holds a place in his heart, Herren spent the entire night in his room to pray and finally the next day decided to make a change.
Herren has been sober ever since and has completely turned his life around, traveling the world telling his inspiring story. He has written a book entitled, “Basketball Junkie: A Memoir,” and his life story was also featured in ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary series in the film Unguarded. He currently lives with his family and three children as his redefined mission is in helping make a different in the lives of young people all around the world.
“I know in speaking with my team afterwards that he moved them in a way that he made a difference to everyone that gave him an open mind,” Main said. “You could see and feel every one of his emotions as he relived the story. I would love to see him make a visit to our school every year.”
The fully packed audience at Burt Kahn Court gave Herren an extended standing ovation at the completion of his story as his story clearly resonated within the entire audience. Herren recently formed The Herren Project to educate at-risk populations on addictions and help others take the first step toward recovery and a life of sobriety. Those interested can visit the website at www.theherrenproject.org and follow him on Twitter at @c_herren.
Contact: Maxx McNall; firstname.lastname@example.org