by James Poulakidas
It may not have been as exhilarating as walking off the famed parquet floor of the Garden after a big win, nor reached the same level of stimulation as hearing the roaring fans in a high-pressure game under the lights, but the ovation Chris Herren received at Woburn Memorial High School was nothing short of electrifying.
Last Friday, the former NBA basketball player was able to find time in his tremendously hectic schedule to visit Woburn. The students and staff of Woburn High gathered in the gym for what was a truly an unforgettable and inspirational assembly.
From the hoops of Fall River to the court at Durfee High School, basketball was everything to a young Chris Herren. It was that passion for the game that sparked his dreams of playing professional basketball.
The 6’2, Massachusetts native was no stranger to success. Scoring over 2,000 points while at Durfee High, recipient of the Boston Globe and Gatorade High School player of the year awards, and being named to the McDonald’s All American team in 1994 are only highlights of what was an outstanding high school basketball career. Herren was even featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated. It was that success that opened the eyes of scouts everywhere, and the dream of taking his game out of Fall River became reality.
During his freshmen year at Boston College, Herren was a guard for the maroon and white. Only 19 years young, and in an utterly new environment than that of Fall River, Herren was trying to adapt. One night Herren was put in a situation where he was given a choice: either accept the cocaine, or don’t. Having grown up in the 1980s, Herren knew all about Len Bias’ story, where a young atlete’s drug addiction took his life. He was smart enough to know he didn’t want to make the same mistakes that another young and upcoming star had made. Herren decided to try the coke, as he figured it would only be on one occasion.
However, plans changed.
“The decisions you make early, affect you later in life”, Herren said in regards to the decisions he made in college.
Even with the bumpy road, getting kicked out of BC and struggling with drug addiction, Herren showed that he was still a prominent superstar basketball player. Ultimately, Herren was drafted to the Denver Nuggets, but only played for the organization for one year. That little boy who grew up a Celtics fan his whole life with one goal to suit up for the hometown C’s and hear his name announced in front of all of the Boston fans, was given the chance to fulfill his lifelong dream. Instead of feeling the thrill that he had always dreamed of, all Herren wanted to do was get high.
The addiction became his life and a major crisis. Chris Herren became more acquainted with adversity then success. On top of having to leave the game of basketball he lost his family, and almost his life, to addiction. The harsh conditions had Herren once again in a situation where he needed to make a critical decision: get help or give up.
Herren sought help. Since August 1, 2008 he has been drug free, and he has patched the rips in is life from addiction. The new, sober, Chris Herren has new dreams.
“My goal is to make that difference in at least someone’s life. Even if it is just that one person. I hope my story can help people to make the right decisions with drugs,” said Herren.
Herren has made it a lifestyle to help others who deal with situations similar to the one he battled for years. He hopes his story will give people the inspiration to trek through and break addiction.
Chris has written a book, Basketball Junkie, and ESPN also produced a documentary called Unguarded, about his story. He has even founded an organization called, The Purple Project, that gives assistance with people dealing with substance abuse. On top of that, he travels all around the United States talking to adults and kids alike. Herren takes center court and says everything. He is open to anyone who is seeking help. Herren is driven by these people.
“About two years ago, I received an email. It was someone saying that my story has helped them change within and I get emails in the future saying ‘I’ve changed’,” said Herren. These emails are his inspiration for opening his life to thousands of people.
The story has become well-known to people from all over. Herren’s story is a touching story, and it hits home. Most importantly, it is a powerful statement. After hearing this story, you will have full understanding of what Herren is preaching: be yourself.
That effect was quite evident at Woburn High. It was clear from the dead lock attention given to Herren his entire story, and from the mass composition of tweets that trended with respect for Herren. Woburn High learned something.
“Chris Herren’s story is definitely something I will always remember. Out of all of the assemblies we have on drugs, and stuff like that , this was by far the first one that has really hit home,” said junior Kyle Sullivan.
As the uproar of applause shook the gym, all eyes were on one man: Chris Herren, who left Woburn High with an unforgettable and inspirational message, be you.