After a 14-year drug addiction, Chris Herren, former NBA point guard, spoke on Tuesday in the Shepherd Union Ballrooms to an audience, many of whom were wiping away tears, about the hardships and struggles he faced during his addiction to cocaine, painkillers and heroin.
Coming out of high school, Herren had the choice of going to any college in the country to play basketball. Herren was from Fall River, Mass., and wanted somewhere close to home, so he chose Boston College. Herren spoke about a drug assembly he went to his freshman year at Boston College before starting to play basketball.
“’All I do is smoke and drink. I won’t end up doing anything more than that,’” said Herren, describing what he thought at the assembly.
As Herren continued with his life story, he talked about the first time he tried cocaine, which ended up starting the 14-year nightmare of his life. He began to fail drug tests given to him for his basketball team. Herren fractured his wrist, which ended his freshman year, and he continued to abuse drugs. After failing his second drug test, Boston College pulled his scholarship.
The coach at California State University, Fresno saw potential in Herren and wanted to give him a second chance. Herren played his sophomore year and began his career achieving first-team all-conference honors.
After Herren’s sophomore year, the NBA contacted him. The NBA was interested in having him play professionally, but wanted to see him play another year of college basketball.
After his win over Duke University, the NBA offered Herren a contract. However, Herren failed another drug test, and the athletic director made him openly admit to a cocaine addiction and fly to Salt Lake City, Utah, to enter a rehabilitation program.
After beating his cocaine addiction, Herren began to play with the Denver Nuggets and stayed clean for more than a year. Near the end of his career with the Nuggets, Herren fell into a drug addiction to painkillers.
“I had no idea that that $20 would turn into a $25,000-a-month dope addiction,” said Herren about the first time he bought a pain pill.
Herren was traded to the Boston Celtics, but had a season-ending injury. Shortly after that, Herren moved to Europe to play professional basketball. During his time in Italy, he became addicted to heroin. He moved all over Europe to play for different teams because of his addiction.
When Herren came back to Boston, he became homeless. He tried to get clean at multiple different rehabilitation centers, but always went back to abusing drugs.
At one point in his life, Herren said, he wanted to commit suicide.
“For the last 10 years, I’ve lived nothing but a torturous life,” he said.
With many different people helping him, Herren started his sobriety on Aug. 1, 2008. He also started a foundation called the Herren Project, which pays for addicts who can’t afford rehabilitation.
“I want someone here to pass it on and spread the message,” Herren said.
Michael Diamond, the Weber State University vice president for programming, has been planning this event since last year. The student senate wanted to bring in someone who could really connect with the athletes at WSU. The event was also open to the public.
“WSUSA was really excited with the turnout, even with the snow,” Diamond said. “Chris Herren is a powerful speaker.”
Braxton Green, a senior who attended the event, said he was very moved by Herren’s speech.
“I thought it was good,” Green said. “It takes courage to get up in front of people you don’t know and give a talk like that. I was moved by it, being an athlete myself. Every athlete goes through hard times, but it’s good to know you don’t struggle alone.”
More information about Herren and his foundation is available at www.theherrenproject.org.