Basketball Junkie: A Memoir

Basketball Junkie: A Memoir

by Chris Herren, Bill Reynolds


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I was dead for thirty seconds.

That's what the cop in Fall River told me.

When the EMTs found me, there was a needle in my arm and a packet of heroin in the front seat.

At basketball-crazy Durfee High School in Fall River, Massachusetts, junior guard Chris Herren carried his family's and the city's dreams on his skinny frame. His grandfather, father, and older brother had created their own sports legends in a declining city; he was the last, best hope for a career beyond the shuttered mills and factories. Herren was heavily recruited by major universities, chosen as a McDonald's All-American, featured in a Sports Illustrated cover story, and at just seventeen years old became the central figure in Fall River Dreams, an acclaimed book about the 1994 Durfee team's quest for the state championship.

Leaving Fall River for college, Herren starred on Jerry Tarkanian's Fresno State Bulldogs team of talented misfits, which included future NBA players as well as future convicted felons. His gritty, tattooed, hip-hop persona drew the ire of rival fans and more national attention: Rolling Stone profiled him, 60 Minutes interviewed him, and the Denver Nuggets drafted him. When the Boston Celtics acquired his contract, he lived the dream of every Massachusetts kid—but off the court Herren was secretly crumbling, as his alcohol and drug use escalated and his life spiraled out of control.

Twenty years later, Chris Herren was married to his high-school sweetheart, the father of three young children, and a heroin junkie. His basketball career was over, consumed by addictions; he had no job, no skills, and was a sadly familiar figure to those in Fall River who remembered him as a boy, now prowling the streets he once ruled, looking for a fix. One day, for a time he cannot remember, he would die.

In his own words, Chris Herren tells how he nearly lost everything and everyone he loved, and how he found a way back to life. Powerful, honest, and dramatic, Basketball Junkie is a remarkable memoir, harrowing in its descent, and heartening in its return.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250006899
Publisher: St. Martin''s Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/08/2012
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 80,824
Product dimensions: 5.56(w) x 8.02(h) x 0.79(d)

About the Author

CHRIS HERREN is a former NBA basketball player for the Denver Nuggets and the Boston Celtics. His company, Hoop Dreams with Chris Herren, Inc., provides basketball training for young players as well as educational talks. He lives in Portsmouth, Rhode Island.

Chris Herren is the founder of Hoop Dreams with Chris Herren, a basketball player development company; the author of Basketball Junkie; and a public speaker with the American Program Bureau.

BILL REYNOLDS is a sports columnist for The Providence Journal and the author of several previous books, including Fall River Dreams and (with Rick Pitino) the #1 New York Times bestseller Success Is a Choice. He lives in Providence, Rhode Island.

Read an Excerpt



I was dead for thirty seconds.

That’s what the cop in Fall River told me.

He said that two EMTs had brought me back to life.

“Just shut the fuck up,” he said when I started to say something. “You were almost dead.”

I was only a few blocks from where I had grown up, only a few blocks from B.M.C. Durfee High School, where there was a banner on the wall saying I was the highest scorer in Durfee history. I had gone off the street near the cemetery where Lizzie Borden was buried, Oak Grove. Maybe the worst thing was that I had just driven through Fall River for a couple of miles in a blackout, a ride I don’t remember to this day. When the EMTs found me there was a needle in my arm and a packet of heroin in the front seat.

It was only about two in the afternoon, but I had been going at it heavy since early in the morning. I had put my seven-year-old daughter, Samantha, in the car like I did every morning after my wife, Heather, went to work. We drove through the nice suburban neighborhood in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, where we lived, and went to East Main Road, where the liquor store was. I bought a pint of Popov vodka, poured it into an empty water bottle, and started to drink. Then we went back home to wait for the bus that took Sammy to school.

By the time she was on the bus I had finished the pint, and I went back to the package store to get another one. Now I needed some money, so I drove to nearby Middletown, virtually on the Newport line, where Heather was working in a hotel. She had told me that morning that she would leave some money in the car for me. It was $40 under the mat in the front seat, and I started off to Fall River, about twenty minutes from my house, to meet one of my drug dealers. I gave him the $40, and he gave me five bags of heroin. I didn’t take heroin at night. I’d shoot up at four thirty in the afternoon, just before Heather got home, so sometimes in the morning I’d be starting to get sick and needed more.

This was my daily routine, had been for about eight months. Put Sammy on the bus, go to Fall River, do some dope, and get back in time for when Sammy and my nine-year-old son, Chris, came home on the bus. That was my life, the only way I could function.

Sometimes I couldn’t wait to put Sammy on the bus to go get my dope, because I was getting too sick, so I would put her in the backseat and speed to go meet a dealer in Fall River. I would make the buy and shoot up in the car while I was driving, Samantha still in the backseat.

How could I have done this?

People ask me that all the time. How could you shoot up with your daughter in the backseat? They can’t believe it. Not surprising. I can’t believe it either.

But that’s what I did.

People think that when you’re doing drugs you’re high all the time, out partying. They think you’re having fun. That’s not it at all. You’re not having fun. You’re in hell. Without the dope I would be “dope sick,” so sick that I couldn’t do anything, couldn’t even get up. I’d be in a fetal position. You have the sweats one minute, and you’re freezing cold the next. It’s like having the flu with restless legs, because you can’t control them. They’re kickin’ all over the place. You also can’t sleep more than fifteen minutes at a time. You wake up in the morning and there’s no blanket, no sheets, the mattress is sideways. And when it gets bad, you want to ram your head into the headboard.

With the dope I could function, if you want to call it that. I could drive a car. I could mow the lawn. I could be something of a husband, something of a father. When I pictured a heroin addict before I became one, I saw someone emaciated, someone nodding off. That wasn’t it with me, not in the beginning, anyway. I didn’t do it to get high. I did it to function. By the time I got to heroin I was so far gone on OxyContin that the dope became medicine, something that made me feel good enough to be able to get through a day.

But there had been three times in the four months leading up to the day I essentially died when I overdosed, became that guy nodding off, the stereotype of a junkie. Because I was getting worse. Once, I had left Fall River at about eleven thirty in the morning and was driving on South Main Street into neighboring Tiverton on my way home, which was maybe ten minutes away, and I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I nodded off, woke up by the side of the road about two and half hours later with one of my feet out the door. Another time I passed out in a house in Fall River with four other people there, and they were so scared that I was going to die they called 911. But I came out of it, and was walking out the door while the police were coming up the sidewalk.

My body was breaking down, but I didn’t stop.

That’s the fucked-up world you’re in. Someone will OD on something they got from a particular dealer, and everyone else goes to that dealer because he’s obviously got some great stuff.

So by the time I was in Fall River that June day, the heroin on top of the vodka must have put me under, because the next thing I remember was the cop talking to me on the way to Charlton Hospital, the same hospital where my mother had died three years earlier. And all I could think of was that my kids were going to see this on the news, and that I was going to go to jail, and that I was in trouble again. That this was going to be one more horror show, complete with more headlines and more TV spots.

A similar thing had happened four years earlier. I had passed out in a Dunkin’ Donuts drive-through window at eight in the morning virtually around the corner from my house. I had been arrested, it had been all over the media, and it had ended my basketball career. I had come home from a CBA team in South Dakota, trying to get back to the NBA after several years of playing overseas, trying for one last shot, trying to salvage my career.

But this was worse.

I had no money.

Basketball was over.

I had no job.

My two kids were older now, nine and seven, old enough to know what was on the news. Old enough for their friends to know what was on the news.

Heather was eight months pregnant.

When I got to the hospital I was more drunk than high. The nurses were staring at me. They all knew who I was, and I wasn’t a pretty sight. I didn’t have any insurance, so the hospital wasn’t going to admit me. I was in the emergency room, and I was thinking of ways to kill myself, because I had no hope. That was gone, had been gone for a while. I couldn’t stop sweating because all the opiates were sucked out of my body after a shot of Narcan, which immediately brings on withdrawal.

Eventually, a nurse came over to me, a Mrs. Reid. She said she had known my mother, and that her husband had been a big Durfee fan, had watched the games with Mr. Karam’s brother Bob (known as “Boo Boo”).

“Where are you going?” she asked me.

“I don’t know.”

“Come sit with me.”

I broke down, and then my older brother, Michael, whom I’d called, walked in. He was crying, too.

“We’re going to figure this out,” Mrs. Reid said to me.

*   *   *

They got me into the hospital.

The worst thing was calling Heather, and the surprising thing was that she wasn’t angry. Or maybe it wasn’t that surprising. We were way beyond anger by this point. We had been married for nine years, but I had known her since the sixth grade, when I met her at a playground in Somerset, just across the river from Fall River. She was by far the cutest girl I had ever seen, and from the start I was in love with her, even though I put gum in her hair that day. That should have been the first red flag for her.

We were always close, and all through high school we would go out for a while, then we’d break up, but we’d always get back together. We were never really in a boyfriend-girlfriend situation, because I was in no way ready for that back then. But we were in each other’s lives. She was Heather Gray then, and came from a much more stable family situation than I did, and she watched the chaos of my life from the sidelines. She knew my world was spinning. But with her I lived a different life. She never cared about my basketball, and I liked that. With her I wasn’t a basketball player. We went to proms together. She was a homecoming queen, a cheerleader, a star. We took different roads many, many times as kids. But somehow, some way, we always reconnected.

We got married in Fall River the summer before my senior year at Fresno State. Heather was pregnant, and there was no way in the world I wasn’t going to marry her. Our son, Christopher, was born the following March.

By that afternoon in 2008, though, there had been so much heartbreak, so much horror, so much hell. There had been days living in the dark because the electricity had been turned off and we didn’t have the money to turn it back on. There had been times when we had run out of heating oil and I would take a red gasoline can to the nearby Mobil station, fill it with diesel fuel for ten bucks, and trick the oil burner into starting again. There had been many times when Heather had thrown me out, telling me it was really over this time, that she couldn’t live this way anymore, and I would end up in some fleabag motel in nearby Newport for a few days. Then the money would run out and I would sleep in my car, until finally she would feel sorry for me and take me back and then it would start all over again, all the lies and betrayals, the false promises and the squandered chances. This is how we lived. We were always trying to hide the ugly reality from the kids, even when they were sitting in the dark and the TV didn’t work and it was cold.

I would steal money from Heather, and then tell her she was crazy when she called me on it. I’d tell her she should go to a doctor and get some help, that she was losing it. I’d be screaming at her. She would find needles and show them to me.

“You’re fuckin’ crazy!” I’d yell. “They’re old ones. What’s the matter with you? You really should get some help.”

I lied to her. I lied to everybody. I would do anything to keep my lie going, to get the dope that would get me through the day—until the next day, when I had to do it all over again because without it I couldn’t do anything. And by the end, all Heather wanted to do was get through the day, too.

“What’s this, Chris?” she’d ask, coming back from the mailbox with an overdue bill. “You said you paid this.”

And it would all start again.

We bounced check after check, going through thousands of dollars in late fees and penalties. She would sit in front of her computer and shake as she went through our accounts, looking at the money that was no longer there, or that was far less than what it was supposed to be, the numbers always going down, until there were no more numbers.

So by the time she found out what had happened, she really wasn’t surprised. She knew I was sick. She knew I needed help, the kind of help she couldn’t give me.

How bad was I?

About a month earlier I had been at a drug dealer’s house in Fall River.

“Chris, this is real strong stuff,” he said. “So go easy.”

I didn’t go easy.

When I woke up I had one black eye and the other was swollen shut. Seems the dealer had been so afraid I was going to die that he kept hitting me in the face to wake me up. Yet when he drove me home I bought ten more bags of the stuff that had almost killed me. That’s how fucked up I was.

At the hospital there were women I had gone to high school with who were now nurses coming in to see me. Chuckie Moniz, who had grown up with my father, and who had functioned as one of my unofficial uncles, always around, always doing favors for me, was in the room. There were TV trucks outside ready to put the story on the eleven o’clock news. I had a security guard outside my room.

I was there for five days, but I don’t remember a whole lot of it.

I eventually got into Star, a detox facility in Fall River just down the street from Durfee. It was June 2008 and the Celtics were playing the Lakers in the NBA finals. Seven years earlier I had been playing for the Celtics, making roughly $450,000 a year. Seven years earlier I had been in the middle of some childhood fantasy—at least that was the perception—and now I was sitting in a detox center and watching the Celtics on television. No one had to tell me how far I’d fallen, what I had lost. It was right there on the TV in front of me. I didn’t have a quarter to use the phone. I didn’t have a job, or any real hope of getting one. All my money was gone. And I was too wrapped up in my own addiction to see my own reality.

There was another kid from Fall River there and he had a plan. Star was on the second floor and there was an outdoor patio where you could smoke. He had a girlfriend, and she was going to put some dope inside a tennis ball and throw the ball up onto the patio when we were out there.

I was thirty-two years old, I had two kids and a wife who was nearly eight months pregnant, and I thought that was a good plan.


Copyright © 2011 by Chris Herren

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Basketball Junkie 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 70 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I saw chris speak at my old high school last night and it was a life changing experience....i have unfourtunetly been suffering from addiction myself for the past three years and hearing chris's story has honeslty made me realize that there is no reason i cant turn my life around and finally end this horrible nightmare i have been living in....thank you chris for having the balls to tell your story to the are a true hero to other addicts like myself and everyone else who hears your the way there is a documemtary called "unguarded" about chris that waa on espn recently is a must see for everyone ..addict or not.
motoxmom52 More than 1 year ago
Wonderful book!!! His wife never gave up on him, and he rose from the ditches!!! I could not put this book down!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a well written book about expectations and life choices of a member of the local basketball royalty in small town America, and where the choices lead. All sports parents who live vicariously through their kids should read this.
bleacherbum99 More than 1 year ago
I had barely heard of former NBA player Chris Herren, but he goes into detail about his amazing story. His drug of choice gets worse as the months and years go by and it's unbelievable he was able to play at a high level for so long before it all came crashing down. Great story of his good, bad and ugly years with drugs and basketball.
Reality-Man More than 1 year ago
BASKETBALL JUNKIE is as revealing a book as has ever been written on the places drugs can take a person. At this point in his life Chris has to be as lucky an addict as there is who has returned from the hell hole chemicals can take one. Every user feels he/she is the exception to the rule about any addiction but there are truly no exceptions unless one admits to the problem before they end up in death as a result of drug use. Hopefully Chris has seen the light and will stay clean but I am sure he knows this as he battles with his addiction every day of his life. Good luck Chris and stay the path you are presently following. If you do you can have a posiitve influence on all those you come in contact with.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
a. The reason why I chose this book is because Chris Herren had come to my school earlier this year. He told my class his story and how much his addiction had impacted his life. I was so fascinated with his recovery story and how he could get over his problem after so many years of dealing with it. I wanted to read this book to get to know more of Chris’s story. Another reason why I chose to read this book is because I was interested in Chris’s basketball journey. I used to watch Chris play when he was on the Celtics and was interested in how his whole career began and grew as he improved his skills. b. I would definitely recommend this book to another high school because this was by far one of the best books I have ever read. I would recommend this book because Chris’s story started in high school. He made lots of bad decisions during high school and in this book he tells his readers about his struggles. He started drinking and doing acid with his friends and at first he didn't think of it it as a problem. But once his addiction became more severe he realized that his drinking was the starting point of his addiction problems. I know that a lot of high schoolers drink and I think that by reading this kids can learn that drinking at such a young age can lead to some serious problems. That is why I would recommend this book to other high school students. c.This story exceeded my expectations. It was written so well and the story was so great. Through the story the readers are able to experience the love joy pain and suffering Chris went through. The story completely covers Chris's full story. It starts from the beginning when he was really young and first starting out in basketball. Over time it gets more into depth of Chris's addiction and how it advanced quickly. This book was so moving since in the end Chris was able to overcome his problems and become a better father. This book was by far one one the best books I have ever read and I would definitely read it again.
samday More than 1 year ago
Chris Herren has truely written an amazing book. Once I started reading this book I could never put it down. This book is such a heartwarming story about a kid that liked to play basketball, and whose parents are crazy about basketball. Chris grew up in Massachusetts in a working class town, went to Boston College, and Fresno State. he then went on to play in the NBA and over seas as well. Chris Herren became a hero for so many people because of the fact that he started Project Purple. Project Purple is an anti substance abuse charity with the goal of trying to break the stigma of addiction, and bring it out into the light of society. Despite of his early successes, at one point in his life Chris thought that it was all over. he had started using pain killers in High School, and developed alcoholism as well. during his college years, Chris was using heroin and cocaine. This all had an obvious impact on his ability to play basketball. He didn't think that he could resurrect his basketball career to what it once was. He did discover one thing though, he could prevent others from making the same mistake that he made. He does so by going around to different schools and tells the kids his story hoping that the kids would relize what a big impact drugs can have on their lives. I found this book very intresting and not to easy but not to hard to read. This book will mean so much to everyone that reads it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mr. Herren showed his presentation to my school when I was a young teenager. In the beginning of his presentation, he showed a video displaying his incredible basketball talent in high school, making him a basketball star. My teachers told us it was a presentation about drugs and alcohol prior to it, so I was curious about why Mr. Herren would ruin his basketball career after putting in hard work throughout his life. An addiction with drugs and alcohol can be surprisingly overpowering to a teenager, especially one who could cover up his problems with basketball. I was curious to see how overpowering his addiction is and how much power basketball could have over his life. In the presentation, Mr. Herren focused on the struggles of his addiction but not the peer pressure situations teenagers can relate to when they are at parties and hanging out with their friends. Since this is when his addiction started, I chose to read this book for more details on these situations so I could avoid them myself. I would recommend this book to any young teenager. At the end of the book, the author explains how he was not the one who drank the most alcohol out of his friends or did the most drugs. Although he did not do the most as a teenager, the domino effect takes place in which results in him going to rehab in his thirties after doing cocaine, heroin, acid, and OxyContin. He was a teenager who did not expect to end up like he did, but his addiction had grown to the point of having to have to take drugs to live his life. Young teenagers can realize how drinking can lead to drugs and the problems they present once a person gets addicted. One substance leads to another until a person is taking heroin and does not realize they could die. This text did meet my expectations with drugs and alcohol not being the focus of the book until the second half of the book. Chris Herren did not realize his problems with his addiction because of his success with basketball. He used basketball to cover up his addiction until he could not play it anymore with the damage the drugs were doing to his body. This relates to people who are not great athletes by drugs not being a problem until a person tries drugs that could kill them. They do not think they will ever take them, but once they try one type of drug, they change their minds because nothing happens to them. One type of drugs leads to another easier than people think when they are put in peer pressure situations. They become addicted to these drugs until they have to go to rehab with all the damage they are doing to their lives.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I saw Chris speak at my high school and was interested in his basketball career and how addiction eventually ended it. His book goes into depth about all the different teams he played for from Durfee High to the Boston Celtics. At one point he was even playing for a team in Iran. While Chris was playing pro basketball he always wanted to find the closest place to get drugs. His wife stayed with him through all his struggles and once his basketball career was over he went to rehab. There he was able to turn his life around and come out a changed person. This was a very interesting book and I would recommend it, probably the fastest I have ever read a book due to how interesting it was.
BHosker More than 1 year ago
I chose to read this book for my summer reading assignment because Chris Herren spoke at my school about his experiences with drug addiction and how his life would have been completely different if he was not an addict. Since I already had listened to his story in person, I thought that reading the book would be another interesting way to be moved by his journey. I would recommend this book to a friend or another high school reader because they too were most likely at school the day Chris Herren spoke so they would also find the book interesting. This book met my expectations because even though I had already heard it, I don't think that it lost emotion or the power to affect the reader. I believe that all high schoolers should read this book because it might just change their actions or their way of thought.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Death wasn't knocking at this guy's door, it was there and was dragging him straight into hell. Then life decided to give him another chance, as it other times, but this time he was ready to seize the opportunity given to him. Love stories like these! So well written, not a dull moment.
nelson23 More than 1 year ago
Learning the Hard Way The book Basketball Junkie is a great book for anybody to read. This story mainly teaches people not to do drugs. But they do not know that this book explains so much more than just that. It shows how easily you can suffer by just trying a drug for the first time.  I chose to select this book because I love basketball, and it is one of my favorite sports. It is inspiring to read about such a great basketball player that came out of the same area where I live. Chris Herren was also great to read about because he was on my favorite team, the Celtics. I also chose this book because I watched Herren’s documentary on television and it was really interesting, so I decided to read the book.                                                                              I would definitely recommend this book to another high school reader. This book would be great for anybody because it shows how bad drugs actually are. Addictions are a very bad thing, and can ruin your life, as it did to Chris Herren. Luckily, Chris Herren was able to come back from his addiction and tell everybody about his story. This could show other people in our school not to try any drugs. Most people think that if they do drugs once they will not do it again, but this is how an addiction starts. Chris Herren started his addiction that way. He knew that everything he was doing was going to ruin his life but he could not stop. In the book it states, ”People ask me now why someone didn’t stop me. It’s the wrong question. No one could stop me”(108). This shows how powerful drugs are. They were so powerful that nobody could stop Chris from doing them repeatedly. But this is what Chris’s life was about. Hopefully other people see this the same way I do.  Basketball Junkie definitely met my expectations. Chris Herren did a great job writing this book. I am sure he wrote it to warn people to think twice about using drugs because this can happen to anyone. Drugs are so addicting, and they ruined Chris's basketball life. Chris had a bright future ahead of him. He was an NBA basketball player but drug addiction ruined his career and he could not fulfill his dreams to the end.  Even though this is a sad story about what happened to Chris, he can tell everybody his story by writing this book and hopefully help people. This is how Chris turned his life around. Chris decided to tell his story to others and make an impact on other peoples lives. I bet for him it is not easy to do this because he is talking about how he ruined his life and he cannot get that time back. This also met my expectations because before this book I did not know how bad and addicting drugs really were. Basketball Junkie showed me that they could easily ruin your life.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I chose this book because I was interested in something that had to do with sports, but as I found out this book was much deeper than sports. I was also intrigued with this book based on the fact that much of it took place in Massachusetts. I would recommend this book to another high school reader because maybe they could learn something from the mistakes Chris made when he is in high school at Durfee.This book met my expectations not only as a result of me enjoying it but because  of the depth that Chris went into with some of his problems, he truly held nothing back.
nick3 More than 1 year ago
I chose to read this book because it looked like it had a truly great and inspiring story behind it. I also chose this book because I am a basketball fan and I was interested right away. I also chose this book  because I wanted to see what life in professional sports was like . I was also very interested in how someone with everything could just throw it all away. I would recommend this to another high school reader for many reasons. One reason is this book really shows what the true effects of drugs and alcohol are. Another reason I would recommend this to another read is it is very inspiring and shows that anything is possible.  Chris went from a superstar to drug addict back to becoming sober again. This book really met my expectations of what I thought it would be. I read the book thinking I would learn many things. from it and I really did. This book looked like a great book and it really was. Also I thought this book was going to be depressing and it really was.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Y u no awnser i meet u
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anyone want to chat?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
BlueSpark has the ball. He is heading for the net.He jumps up and does a slam dunk.*bam*
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hard core.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
ROCK CHALK JAYHAWK #jayhawkforlife
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Go to R3