NBA's Chris Herren Recounts His Road to Recovery

By Adam K. Raymond 02/24/12

He pieced together a top-level basketball career, or some of it, despite his addictions. But he's seriously glad to be clean.

Chris Herren in his Celtics days Photo via

When Massachusetts high school basketball star Chris Herren was just 18, something happened to him that would effect the rest of his life. It wasn't the article about him in Sports Illustrated, or his selection to the McDonald's All-American Team—or even his scholarship offer from hometown school Boston College. It was the first time he took hold of a rolled up dollar bill and snorted a line of cocaine.

For the next decade and a half Herren struggled with drugs, from heroin to Oxycontin, while still piecing together a college and professional basketball career. Successes he experienced on the court were marred by failures off it. Like the time he found himself waiting for a dealer outside of the Fleet Center before a game he was starting for the Celtics. Or the time he shot up heroin before his mother's funeral. Herren's addictions led to the premature end of his basketball career in 2001. Seven years later he finally decided to get clean but couldn't afford treatment. That's when a friend from his playing days, Hall of Famer Chris Mullin, stepped in with the cash: "If it weren't for Chris Mullin and his family, I probably wouldn't be here," Herren tells CNN.

These days Herren spends his time helping those who were once in his position. He runs the Herren Project, which has paid for more than 100 addicts to get treatment, and runs a basketball camp to help kids avoid the pitfalls he couldn't. Three years sober, he has a new outlook on life. "People come up to me now and pity me, they call me a 'poor thing,' " he says. "I was a 'poor thing' for 14 years. My life is second to none now."

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Adam K. Raymond covers politics and sports for New York Magazine. Visit Adam's website and follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.