STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Port Richmond High School students will get a first-hand lesson on the dangers of drugs today, as former NBA player Chris Herren shares the story of how his struggle with cocaine, oxycodone and heroin ruined his hoops career and nearly his life.
The speaking engagement is in conjunction with the Daytop Village rehabilitation center.
It isn’t his first time speaking to youngsters on Staten Island. In January, Herren appeared at Tottenville High School. And he’s also visited Susan Wagner and St. Joseph by-the-Sea high schools in conjunction with the district attorney’s office.
A star high school basketball player who scored 2,073 career points, he first experimented with cocaine while at Boston College, when he walked in on his roommate and a female student about to use the drug, he said. He was about to walk out, but the female student called him back and said, “Where are you going, Chris? It’s not going to hurt you.”
“Those words, ‘It’s not going to hurt you,’ play in my ear,” he recounted in January. What followed was a 14-year spiral of drugs and squandered second chances. He failed a drug test the next morning.
After three failed drug tests in four months cost him his scholarship, he got another chance with Fresno State, then failed another drug test, went to a 28-day rehab, and was drafted by the Denver Nuggets.
After a strong rookie season, a friend introduced him to oxycodone during a trip home, at $20 for a 40 mg dose.
He started with the one pill. “By the end of the summer, I was taking 1600 milligrams a day — ten 80s in the morning, ten 80s in the afternoon,” he said.
His addiction was so bad, he recalled, that on his first full-season game with the Celtics, when his dealer couldn’t get to the arena in time to meet him inside, Herren came out to meet him, dressed in his team warm-up suit.
An injury ended his season as a Celtic, and he wound up playing basketball in Europe. When he couldn’t get oxycodone in Italy because he didn’t speak the language, he turned to heroin. His dealer hid the drugs by swallowing them, and would pull them back up with a string attached to his tooth.
While playing in Turkey, a FedEx package filled with oxycodone would have landed him in prison for life, if not for a customs official who recognized him from his basketball career and offered him yet another second chance.
He bounced from European team to European team before his basketball career fell apart for good. One of his partners in drug use, a former NFL player, and a female friend, were shot dead. He went homeless, and nearly lost his family.
In June 2008, he overdosed behind the wheel of a car and crashed, a heroin needle sticking out of his arm when police found him. He flat-lined for 30 seconds, and his subsequent arrest brought him to a Daytop Village rehabilitation center.
That August, he relapsed after returning home to witness the birth of his son, and when a counselor told him he should cut ties with his wife and children, that’s what jarred him into sobriety