Former NBA Star Chris Herren Raises Money For Recovery

By McCarton Ackerman 04/23/14

By finishing the Boston Marathon, Harren took another big step in his own recovery from opiate addiction while also raising funds to help others like him.

chris herren.jpg
Healthy and happy in 2013.
Photo: Wiki Commons

Former NBA star Chris Herren further cemented his recovery from drug addiction by finishing the Boston Marathon.

Herren, who has now been sober for over five years, had less than three months to prepare for the marathon, but managed to finish with a respectable time of 6:00:17. His run raised nearly $60,000 for The Herren Project, which provides assistance to addicts who want to begin the process of recovery.

“It was, no doubt, the toughest thing I’ve ever done in my life, athletically,” said Herren.”Every part of your body hurts, and I had to fight myself the whole time...But finishing is a beautiful thing.”

A former high school standout who was touted as a “can’t miss” future NBA superstar, Herren began using cocaine at Boston College and played most of his nationally televised games under the influence while failing numerous drug tests behind the scenes. His three years in the NBA from 1999-2001 were plagued by an Oxycontin addiction that eventually cost $25,000 per month, and later graduated to heroin. With his addiction bringing his NBA career to a fast close, Herren was reduced to playing basketball for teams in far-flung locations like Beijing and Tehran.

“The thing about pro basketball in European and Asian countries is that they don’t ever see you face-to-face; they sign you solely off your tapes. I’d get there and then they would see I had a drug problem before sending me home after two or three months,” he told The Fix last year. “My career was having the same progression as my drug addiction: fast and right to the bottom.”

Herren eventually overdosed on heroin at a Dunkin Donuts parking lot in 2004 and was later pronounced dead for 30 seconds after a separate incident of driving under the influence; he had crashed into a cemetery fence and police later found him unconscious with a needle in his arm. By 2008, he was urged by a rehab counselor to call his wife and have her tell his kids that he was dead. But after finishing a rehab stint at the age of 32, Herren has managed to stay sober ever since.

The Herren Project received four bids for the marathon, one of which went to Herren’s childhood friend Kevin Mikolazyk. Mikolazyk's own addiction had once left him homeless and destitute, but he’s now been sober for a decade and serves as the president of Herren’s foundation. 

“We’re doing this so that people who are struggling and people who are maybe newly sober can realize that you can do anything you want if you put your mind to it,” said Mikolazyk. “I’m fortunate enough just to be one of the people who gets to show them that it’s possible. So while it’s nice to be doing it, it’s even nicer to know the impact it’ll have on other people’s lives.”

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.