Former NBA player Chris Herren leads school-wide assembly on addiction


Motivational speaker and former NBA player Chris Herren speaks to parents during his second talk on addiction. At this event, and during his student assembly, Mr. Herren spoke about his expereince playing basketball, the pressure that was placed on him, and the substances he turned to as an escape. He advised students against such decisions and told parents about the reality of teenage drinking and drug use.

Tori Finkle and Jesse Moskowitz, Staff Writers

The gym was silent on Dec. 10 as students gave their undivided attention to former NBA player Chris Herren.  Mr. Herren, previously a Boston Celtics player, spoke about his experiences playing basketball and the factors that contributed to the development of his drug addiction.

Mr. Herren attended B.M.C. Durfee High School in Fall River, Massachusetts.  Considered one of the best high school athletes at the school, Mr. Herren was recruited by many programs.  During his high school career, he gathered 2,073 career points, was named Gatorade New England Player of the Year (1993-1994), Boston Globe Massachusetts Player of the Year (1992-1994), and became a member of the McDonald’s All American team of 1994.

Social pressures seized control over Mr. Herren’s life at a young age.  He escaped this stress through drugs such as alcohol and marijuana during his high school years, but  Mr. Herren never imagined himself having to depend on drugs in order to live life.

After he was recruited by Boston College, Mr. Herren’s drug use began to escalate.  At the age of 18, he decided to do his first line of cocaine in his dorm room with some friends.  It took Mr. Herren 10 years to walk away from the substance.  In his early college career, Herren was thrown out of Boston College due to his misuse of alcohol and cocaine.  However, he was soon offered a second chance to play at Fresno State University in 1999. Herren was signed by the Celtics in 2000.  Mr. Herren’s drug addiction escalated to a point where he needed drugs to feel healthy and make it through pre-game warm-ups.

One night, Mr. Herren’s car with his unconscious body inside was found wrapped around a telephone pole.  Mr. Herren referred to that moment as the one when knew things had to change.

“People have told me it must have been the worst day of my life… I look at it as the best day,” said Mr. Herren.  “That is the day that started me on my journey to where I am today.”

Mr. Herren has remained sober since Aug. 2008.  He has since dedicated his life to telling his story around the world and to try preventing other people from falling into his previous lifestyle.  He has refocused his life and dreams, and aims to make a difference for at least one kid each time he speaks somewhere.

“Mr. Herren touched the hearts and opened the eyes of many, including myself,” said junior Harlee Tung. “I was amazed by his inspiration and confidence.”

The school was able bring Mr. Herren to Schreiber through a $25,000 grant for substance abuse and anti-bullying education from New York State Senator Jack Martins. The co-chairs of the Safety and Abuse task force at Schreiber, Ms. Stephanie Johannon and Ms. Karen Sloan, played a major role in giving Schreiber students the opportunity to hear Mr. Herren speak.

“He was different then most speakers and really seemed to captivated the students,” said Ms. Sloan.  “His message was unique and more relatable than most speakers we’ve had here at Schreiber.”

Mr. Herren’s high school habits are something many students can relate to.  He emphasized the message that preventing addiction and substance abuse stems from being confident and satisfied with oneself.

“No matter what be true to you,” said  Mr. Herren. “There is not a substance in this world that’s going to make it better.  The kids who would go out on a Friday or Saturday night and have fun without using drugs or alcohol, they’re the warriors.  Take great pride in being you 24/7.”

This message struck many students at Schreiber and left many others speechless.

“Unlike the message relayed to us by health teachers and other educators, Chris showed us first hand the damage substance abuse can cause and hit people where it counted,” said junior Aliza Herz.  “Whether you have drank or done drugs or not, Chris inspired us to be ourselves on weekends rather than use substances to ‘lighten up’ our moods.”

Mr. Herren also held an event for parents to attend, in which he sent the type of message and had a similar impact.

“His speech was raw and real,”  said Ms. Kerri Kahn, Port parent and part founder of the company 24ave.  “He did an excellent job in relating to people who are recovering addicts, but also to parents throughout the town that don’t know the dangers of their kids spending too much time in the basement.”

Following the presentation, Kahn reached out to speak with Mr. Herren. She told him about her experiences with addiction and life after 12 years of sobriety.  She explained 24ave’s mission and the two soon decided to collaborate.

“We are trying to revolutionize recovery for the 21st century,” said Mrs. Kahn.  “I don’t know the capacity or the way in which Chris will work with the company, but he expressed great interest in supporting us and possibly having his own line within it.”

Mr. Herren stressed the idea that not experimenting with substances, such as alcohol and marijuana, is the most reliable way to avoid addiction.  He explained that once someone starts, it is impossible to tell where that person will end up.

“I thought it was extremely eye opening and extremely relatable,” said junior Milan Sani.  “Rather than lecturing us not to drink and smoke, he showed us that he was not very different from us and that there is the same chance that these drugs can take us down the same path.”