Chris Herren was supposed to be the next big basketball star. But tens of thousands of college hoops and NBA fans instead watch the promising young man from Boston spiral down to a fiery crash due to addiction problems which resulted in the early end of his professional athletic career.
He playes basketball starting at a young age, and everybody who saw him play knew he had a special aptitude for the game.
“I was talented at very young age. I started getting recruited by colleges while in Middle School.”
Herren also grew up in a drinking family in the Boston area. He says alcohol was always causing problems between family members. Drinking and smoking were also part of the neighborhood scene, and he began in the eighth grade. It started as a method to fit in with the neighborhood kids, but as his professional sports aspirations began to form, the drinking and druging became too good to ignore.
“There was a lot of attention that came my with that,” says Herren. “And a lot of expectations and pressure. So the alcohol and the marijuana at a young age became an escape for me, which eventually lead to harder, stronger drugs.”
Despite offers from colleges and universities near and far, Herren opted to stay close to home and attend Boston College, while playing basketball on their Division One team. But it was the college campus which opened a new gateway to drugs for him.
“I was eighteen years old and I stepped on that campus. I had just done a photoshoot for Sports Illustrated. Two nights later I walked into a dorm room with cocaine on the desk.”
That began fourteen years worth of substance abuse. It also lead to multiple drug test failures which lead to his expulsion from Boston. Despite chances to play for other universities and eventually in the NBA with the Denver Nuggets and his hometown team, the Boston Celtics, substance addiction proved too hard for Herren to overcome. He racked up felony charges and even crashed his vehicle into a utility pole. Paramedics say Herren died after that. His heart resumed beating about thirty seconds later.
Herren’s book, Basketball Junkie, details the gruesome details of his addiction and recovery. He also was the subject of an ESPN documentary, and has two pet projects. One is “Hoop Dreams” which aims to reach out to at risk teens, in hopes that Herren’s story can help prevent other kids form getting too far down the wrong path.