Junkie No More
Chris Herren talks about what he’s currently up to.
Chris Herren thought Basketball Junkie would resonate with people, but the response—to the excerpt we ran last week and the book as a whole—has been overwhelming. “The feedback’s been amazing,” Herren told SLAM over the phone this week. “Addiction, especially of opiates and heroin, is a dark and lonely place. By me coming forward and talking about it and having a platform, it’s allowed people to feel comfortable to reach out to me. So that in itself makes this book 100 percent worth it.”
While Basketball Junkie tells over the “harrowing”—a word people continuously use when referencing the book—tale of Herren’s drug and alcohol problems, it leaves off with him and his family working towards rebuilding their lives. Fortunately, now three years sober, Herren and his family are doing well.
We caught up with Chris to discuss what he’s up to now and what he hopes to accomplish in the future. It turns out he still has wicked game.
SLAM: What are you up to now? Just working on publicizing Basketball Junkie?
Chris Herren: Yeah, it’s been hectic the last couple of days. I flew in to L.A.; I did the Dr. Drew show on CNN. I flew back the night before last night, and I’ve just been doing Boston media and some ESPN stuff. It’s been hectic, but it’s been cool. It’s been good.
SLAM: You’re traveling around so much. Are you starting to feel like an NBA player again, schedule-wise?
CH: [Laughs] That’s the last thing I want to feel like. That lifestyle is rough. But this is good. I’ll take the kindness any day to get the message out there.
SLAM: The book talks about where you’ve been. Let’s talk about where you are now. Aside from the book tour, I heard you do some speaking engagements?
CH: I do. American Program Bureau is a company I signed a contract with. They send me around the country, speaking at all different venues, to all different people. And…you just never know. In my experience doing it, you just never know who’s paying attention and who’s listening.
SLAM: You find it very rewarding?
CH: I do. It’s unbelievable. A quick story: I spoke to a group of 700 high school kids. When I walked out, one of the teachers grabbed me, “I need your help. I’m struggling, big time. I need your help. How do I get help?” Right there itself, makes all of it worthwhile. No doubt. That’s a parent who has children and who needs help. So going out and doing this, it’s amazingly rewarding.
So, I do that. And I have Hoop Dreams with Chris Herren, the company I started three years ago where I’m teaching kids how to workout, how to get better, how to play, but more importantly, keeping them happy doing it. That’s where it get twisted. That’s where this whole process in AAU and private training, that’s where I think some people get lost. This has to be fun, and if it’s not fun, then it’s gonna end quick. So myself and the people who do this, we incorporate that. I have a way of teaching these kids where we try to keep them enjoying it.
SLAM: So the workouts are as much mental as they are physical.
CH: No doubt. Absolutely. I mean, the workouts are beast (laughs). That being said, the kids leave with a smile and they come back with a smile. That’s what makes it worth it. Unfortunately, a lot of parents nowadays think it’s a sprint and they push their kids to be really good. And really, the percentages say that your kid is going to be done playing at 18 years old as a senior in high school. So why push them so hard to get to 18 instead of focusing on the finish line for the rest of their lives?
SLAM: So is that local or national?
CH: There are three different locations in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. There are three different gyms. And it’s probably one of the most rewarding things I’m able to do.
SLAM: Do you work out with them? You in pretty good shape yourself?
CH: Yeah, I’m in good shape. If I have to bust their ass, I’ll bust their ass (laughs). If they want to say I’m too old or if they don’t remember who I am, I can let them know real quick.
SLAM: You still got your hops?
CH: I do. I can still jump. I’m still dunking. I’m still doing all that.
SLAM: Probably feeling better physically than you did during your career.
CH: No doubt, 100 percent. But there’s a beast inside of me when I compete that I don’t like waking up. I like keeping it calm. I’m too old to have that competitor come out in me.
SLAM: So you stay away from organized ball pretty much?
CH: I do…
SLAM: What about your son, Chris. Does he play organized ball?
CH: Yeah, little Chris is. He’s 12, and he’s on the AAU scene. He’s enjoying it and having fun. For me, it’s a cautionary part with him and basketball. I want him to enjoy it. I want him to be his own person and not worry about who his dad is.
SLAM: Has the book impacted your kids at all?
CH: Yeah, I keep it away from them. It’s not for them. When they get older, I’ll gladly let them read it, but my kids lived it. They lived through what I put in that book. They know what’s going on. As I say when I’m asked that question, two years ago there was a lot of tears when we talked about this. A year ago, there was less years. And now, mostly smiles and it’s getting behind them.
SLAM: That’s good. So, you’re doing some good things. Any future plans for what you want to accomplish?
CH: I don’t know. Three years ago if I wrote my goals and what I’d be doing today, I would’ve shortchanged myself unbelievably. Doors have opened for me that are amazing. Under Armour has been amazing to me and the kids in the gym, providing gear for Hoop Dreams. But whatever endeavor is coming, I welcome it. It’s been a beautiful journey that’s never ending. It’s a one day at a time thing and we’ll take it as it comes.