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Chris Herren's Return to the Heights

Chris Herren, a Fall River, Massachusetts high school basketball standout, a Boston College basketball player, and a Boston Celtic starting point guard, returned to Boston College on Friday to give a talk about his journey with sports and drugs. Regarded by many as one of the best basketball players ever from Massachusetts, he continued his basketball career at Boston College – a school that he had dreamed of going to since childhood. Within weeks, he was taking photo shoots for the cover of Sports Illustrated. But also within weeks, he became a drug addict. Peer pressure led him to cocaine, and it wasn't long before NCAA drug tests sent him back home. He was expelled from Boston College, suffering immense public humiliation as his dream was destroyed for a year while he lived in Fall River, Massachusetts with his parents. Lucky and thankful to get another chance, Herren moved to Fresno State to start over. A few years later, Chris Herren was the 3rd pick in the 2nd round of NBA draft, drafted by the Denver Nuggets.

Photo courtesy of Charityline / Tumblr

Photo courtesy of Charityline / Tumblr

“When I got to Denver, there were strict rules against drinking and smoking. I could not leave the hotel alone, I could not get a drink at the bar even though I was of age. My rookie season was a success because I had good team mentors.” It was the support and discipline that the team expected of him that kept him from returning to his old drug days.

However, at a house party back in his hometown he was offered to do drugs again. This time it was oxycotin. He bought and took the pill for $20. “This $20 bill turned into $25,000 a month." He was an addict, while at the same time a professional athlete and supporter of a wife and two children.

Herren was soon traded to the Celtics, another childhood dream of his. After finding out about the trade, his first phone call was not to his parents, his wife, or his friends, but rather to the drug dealer. Before his first game as the starting point guard of the Celtics, Chris was desperate for drugs. He called his dealer to get to TD Garden as soon as possible. The game was in an hour and ten minutes. The dealer said it would be close, he might be able to get downtown that fast. However, he was stuck in traffic right outside of TD Garden. With eight minutes until game time, Herren left the arena and ran down the street in his uniform to pick up his pills. He returned with three minutes to spare and lived the moment that he had dreamed about since he started playing basketball as a kid.

Photo courtesy of Recovery Radio / Facebook

Photo courtesy of Recovery Radio / Facebook

Later, Chris’s basketball career took him to Italy to play for a European team. Prior to departing, Chris had intentions of giving up drugs and planned recovery with a doctor. But he soon ran out of drugs and got desperate. This led him to heroin. At 24 years old, Chris Herren never went back to the little yellow pill that he tried at the house party in Fall River, Massachusetts just a few years ago. He was hooked on something even more insidious.

After refusing to participate in a training camp trip where he would have no access to drugs, Chris moved his family back to the United States. His drug addiction only got worse. After four overdoses, three felonies, and a lot of broken hearts, Chris checked into rehab. He had no money, was living on the street, but was lucky enough to have a friend pay for his rehab. The process of becoming drug free was not easy, but on August 1, 2008, Chris became drug free and has been ever since.

When asked if he is still tempted, Chris said, “I never want to get high, but there are days that I don’t want to be me." The challenges of being an ex-drug addict live on but Chris now dedicates his life to telling his story, speaking to sports teams and schools across the country. He encourages people to ask themselves the question, “If you were a kid, would you look up to yourself?” Personal insecurities manifest with drug use. “How does using drugs and alcohol make you better? It doesn’t.” Despite telling his story across the country over 250 times a year, he noted that this Friday night in Robsham was a special night. It was Herren’s return to the Heights.

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