DILLON – Former NBA player Chris Herren shot heroin for eight years, which derailed his basketball career and his life in general.
Now sober for 13 years, Herren has traveled across the country to prevent others from falling into the same trap. His last stop was at Dillon on Tuesday afternoon.
As part of his Herren Talks program, he spoke to high school and high school students in Dillon about his struggle with drug addiction. With his visit to Dillon, Herren introduced the program to the 48 contiguous states.
“I started speaking about 10 years ago. Over the years, I have been able to focus on prevention, education and recognition of the onset of addiction,” Herren said. “It’s important to focus on the beginning and not just the end.”
Herren, a native of Massachusetts, was named to the McDonald’s All-American team before committing to playing basketball at Boston College in 1994. It was during his time there that he started playing basketball. using cocaine, a habit he couldn’t break for 15 years.
After only one season at Boston College, Herren lost his scholarship as drug use rose to prominence in his life. Determined to return to the field, he played the next three seasons at Fresno State.
“I got into cocaine and lost my scholarship, but came back to basketball a year later at Fresno State,” Herren said. “I continued to struggle with my addiction in my professional career. I took up OxyContin and pain relievers, which eventually led to heroin.”
Herren averaged 15 points per game at Fresno State and was drafted 33rd overall by the Denver Nuggets in 1999. He had his first significant playing time and a starting role the following season with the Boston Celtics.
As an athlete from Massachusetts, playing for the Celtics seemed like a dream come true for Herren. But his OxyContin addiction got so extreme that he already bought the drug in his Celtics warm-up gear five minutes before speaking.
“I looked at the clock and there were 20 minutes left,” Herren said. “So I left the warm-ups, I stood outside around the corner in my Celtics stuff in the rain, waiting for him to deliver OxyContin to me,” Herren said. “I ran back into the arena, they presented my name and I hit the ground.”
While Herren has kept her addiction a secret from his wife and children, she has been in the limelight twice during her time in Boston. He was charged with possession of heroin in 2007 and was later found unconscious after hitting a utility pole while under the influence in 2008.
“When I woke up the officer said to me, ‘you’ve been dead for 30 seconds, home boy,'” Herren said.
After his season with the Celtics, Herren played professional basketball abroad until 2008. His struggle with addiction continued until he received rehab treatment in August 2008.
He has been sober ever since.
Herren said he has spoken to over a million students and athletes since starting Herren Talks in 2009. He has spoken to a wide range of audiences, from top professional teams to small. schools like Dillon Middle.
“You know, I’ve been doing this for over 10 years now and Montana was a state I hadn’t been to yet,” he said. “Now only Alaska and Hawaii are left.”
After speaking at Beaverhead County High School Tuesday morning, Herren spent time in the gymnasium at Dillon Middle School. He shared his story of drug addiction and emphasized the importance of communication about drug addiction to students.
At the end of his speech, Herren received applause and offered to answer questions from college kids, many of whom took advantage of the opportunity.
“When kids hear that a drug speaker is coming, they think of horror stories and fear tactics,” Herren said. “They think about it rather than the beginning of the addiction and that, you know, is essential.”
“I think a speech like this gives kids a certain level of comfort to go talk to someone. There will be more than a few in the stands sitting on secrets and protecting family members. So I hope that will allow them to reach out to someone and talk about this. “
Herren’s closing remarks in college were about how his addiction threatened to take away things he loved, including basketball and his family. He then passed the message on to the students, warning of the dangers drug abuse can cause even at a young age.
Herren Talks has been an active program for ten years alongside Herren Projects, its foundation for rehabilitation placement and recovery support. It also has rehabilitation centers which have been open for almost four years.
As Herren’s programs reached famous athletes such as Steph Curry and David Ortiz, he told students at Dillon Middle School that his most defining moment involved an 8-year-old boy in Pennsylvania.
“It was a cold, snowy day in Pennsylvania and I was doing a speech. I saw the door open and it was an 8-year-old boy who wasn’t wearing shoes,” Herren said. “He sat right across from me and said ‘My parents are at home doing drugs, can you go talk to them?'”
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 143 Montanais died of drug overdoses in 2019. Montana also has the highest suicide rate of any state in the country.
Additional information on Herren’s history and programs can be found at herrentalks.com. ESPN’s Episode 30 for 30 titled “Unguarded” also tells the story of Herren and is available on ESPN +.