The late 1990s version of myself - a short, unathletic, high school point guard of sorts from an Irish-American family - first noticed Chris Herren the basketball star way back in the day at Fresno State. The shamrock he had tattooed on his arm caught my attention; I thought dude was cool. I might even be in my cubicle today rocking that same ink had I rendered my game tattoo-worthy back then as a kid. But fortunately, as far as that goes, I didn't.
I did soon find out though that Herren played with an overwhelming passion as an undersized guard on the D-I level. Big shot taker, big shot maker, could get to the rim, create for others, and was just flat-out fearless on the basketball court. I began to follow his career some from there. When he got drafted into the league by Denver with the 33rd pick overall, I was happy for him. Chalk one up for all the short ballers everywhere who'd ever get - or contemplate getting - tatted up with shamrock ink. We made it.
I did hear some of what was reported back then in regards to his battle with substance abuse, but it didn't seem like a big deal to me. I thought the media was just blowing a couple isolated incidents way out of proportion back then. Turns out they weren't though. Barely scratching the surface in fact.
I lost track of Chris Herren's career after his second year in the NBA, just after he played for the Celtics. I heard he was playing overseas for a while soon after that, and pretty much forgot about him as the years went by. I first noticed him again though earlier this month, heard he'd written a book. A book about his life in basketball, and his battle with substance abuse that dragged into the depths of hell for more than a decade.
I read the book, Basketball Junkie by Chris Herren and Bill Reynolds, this past weekend. I was then fortunate enough to talk with Chris about it earlier this week over at Crossover Chronicles.
An excerpt of my thoughts on the book, and my conversation with Chris, are each are each below:
My thoughts on the book...
Herren describes the darkness inside his dramatic rise to prominence, and gut-wrenchingly details his ultimate collapse. He then talks about what it took to eventually get up, beat his addiction, and become now a bigger star in life than he ever was on the court. My words there, not his. And like I did, you can't help but end up cheering for the guy now more than ever. The book is moving, horrific, self-deprecating, sad, and remarkable. But more than anything else, his road to recovery is nothing sort of inspirational.
To me, this story dares you to believe that it's never too dark to dream. It dares everyone. No matter how far you've fallen, you can always get up. There's always one more shot you can take. One more dream to pursue. One more reason to hope.
An excerpt from my conversation with Chris Herren...
How difficult was thinking back through all of these painful experiences in your mind, and going through the process of actually writing this book?
Chris Herren: The process was exhausting. There were times when I was going through the process of doing the book that I was ready to pull out of it. It was tiring, it was emotionally and mentally exhausting. But I got through it, and once I got through it, there was definitely a healing side to it. It was all out there, I talked about it, and could try to recover and heal from it.
For Full post, and link to buy a copy of Basketball Junkie, go here.