May 12, 2011, 5:28 PM EDT
You may not remember Chris Herren, the Massachusetts prep star, a second round pick of the Nuggets in 1999 out of Fresno State (when Jerry Tarkanian was there).
He played a rookie season with the Nuggets before getting the dream of every young New England hoopster — he was traded to the Celtics.
Drugs would rob him of that.
A quick and strong point guard he was out of the league in two years. Long before less talented guards.
In his stunning autobiography “Basketball Junkie” excerpted at SLAM (via Ball Don’t Lie), Herren recounts his drug addicted days. How he drove his kids around drunk and on heroin. How he was so far gone he needed the high just to function.
What follows is a part of that except, but it’s far from the part that is the most challenging. This is not the part that describes how far down the rabbit hole he went, it’s just the start. You should go read the whole thing.
In October 2000 I was introduced at a press conference as the newest member of the Boston Celtics, one of a handful of New England guys who had ever played for the team.
The Celtics were everything when I was a kid. I idolized them. When I was out in the driveway with the spotlight on the basket, playing imaginary games in my head, the shot clock ticking off while I made the big shot to win the game, I was Danny Ainge, Larry Bird. Every ball I bounced, every shot I took, it was always about the Celtics. My father had taken me and my brother to a big rally in Government Center in Boston in 1986 when they won the title. I was 11 years old. I even had an autographed picture of Larry Bird, which said, “To Chris, keep playing,” signed on a place mat from a Boston bar that my father and his cronies used to frequent.
But that day at the press conference, none of that mattered. That day should have been one of the highlights of my life. Instead, it’s all a blur, half-remembered, if remembered at all. My life was much too painful by then. Everything was about just trying to get through the day and keep the lie going, because the reality was that by the time I got to the Celtics, I was hooked on OxyContin.
I started getting into opiates that summer, when Heather and I left Denver for what was supposed to be a happy summer with our baby, Chris, in Fall River. Actually, I had started in my junior year at Fresno after I came back from rehab and was getting off cocaine. I’d always hated cocaine, even when I was using it, hated coming down from it, the depression, the empty feeling. Cocaine brought me to a point where I couldn’t look at myself. Vicodin was different. Vicodin was mellow. It slowed things down. And for some reason, I could play basketball on it. The first few times it made me sleepy and tired me out, but after a while it was like a pep pill.
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