NBA Dreams Dashed by Addiction, Herren Shares His Story at Ramapo

When Chris Herren’s drug addiction became his sole focus his lifelong dream fell right through his hands.

More than a thousand students walked into the gymnasium at Ramapo High School on Tuesday, Nov. 27, to hear former NBA star, Chris Herren, tell his story.

Herren spoke of a life of destruction, disaster, and failure, all brought on by an unmatched athletic talent, a dream, and unbearable pressure. His goal is simple: save one kid from going down the path of alcohol, drug addiction and suicidal thoughts that took him 14 years to overcome.

Herren began by predicting that some of the students in the crowd would shrug off his message because this kind of thing wouldn’t happen to them. Herren admitted that he was that kid in high school who disputed anyone with an anti-drug message. But, contrary to his challenge, the student body hung on every word as he spoke about his downward spiral into drug addiction.

As Herren walked up and down the court, he stopped on the basketball inlayed on the floor.  He stomped on it and told the students that this was supposed to be fun.  The pressure for him was so great that his passion for basketball turned to hatred.

The idea for Herren to speak came from lacrosse player, Nate Chung, who heard him speak at Rutgers University last spring.

When Chung spoke to advisers Courtney Zizzo and Melissa Ferro for help, his words were clear: “Herren is a guy like us, and dealing with the same issues many Ramapo students face. He could really make a difference.”  

With the support of building principal, Louis Moore, and Ramapo’s parent organization, APTS, Ramapo was able to seal the deal.  

Herren’s story began as a 6’2” guard from Fall River, Mass., with a high school scoring record of 2,073 career points. Among his many accolades, he was named a McDonald’s All American.  Recruited by top Division I programs, he played for Boston College until an injury and several failed drug tests forced him out. Herren got a second shot at Fresno State, which earned him the second round draft pick from the Denver Nuggets. He was traded to the Boston Celtics in 2000, his dream job in his home state.

Unfortunately, Herren’s drug addiction became his sole focus and his dream fell right through his hands.  

Sober since 2008, Herren currently speaks around the country to high school students, college athletes and major league players. His foundation, The Herren Project, provides assistance to families affected by addiction. Herren also launched Project Purple, anti-substance abuse campaign.  

Ramapo High School will be participating in Project Purple in January.  

After the assembly, Herren tweeted, “Totally touched by the students and faculty at RAMAPO HS in NJ...Truly GRATEFUL for having the faith in me to share it...THANK YOU!!”


Have a question or news tip? Contact editor Joseph M. Gerace at Joseph.Gerace@patch.com, or find us on Facebook and Twitter. For news straight to your inbox every morning, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Leaving November 30, 2012 at 10:46 AM
This sounds great! Our children need to hear this message more often; they are children growing up surrounded by pressure, money, alcohol and drugs. All of these are a recipe for disaster if they do not have a good foundation.
Laura Morris November 30, 2012 at 02:52 PM
My son came home and said it was the best speaker he's ever heard. He said his story and journey to getting his life back on track was amazing and inspiring. Thanks to Herren and Ramapo for presenting such a powerful presentation to our kids.
Keith Ahearn November 30, 2012 at 06:30 PM
This is fantastic and I'm glad the students listened to the message coming from Chris Herren. IHHS needs to get him to speak there too. In fact, he should be speaking at VMS as well. We need to get this message to our kids sooner rather than later.
Pam P December 01, 2012 at 01:30 AM
@Keith - Chris did speak to IHHS students in the afternoon the same day
Cherylin Roeser December 01, 2012 at 01:05 PM
Actually, he spoke at both Ramapo and Indian Hills. He did his presentation at Indian Hills in the afternoon and tweeted "Two AMAZING high schools in one day INDIAN HILLS and RAMAPO - honored to be a small part of your HS experience."
Keith Ahearn December 01, 2012 at 07:01 PM
Thanks for clarifying that Pam and Cherylin. It's great that both schools got to hear his story.
Dianna Ivanov December 02, 2012 at 01:24 AM
Thanks for mentioning that he spoke at IHHS as well, you'd never know there was another school around here, but that's another story. My boys came home and said the exact same thing "the best speaker they've ever heard"! They were moved by his story saying it was really powerful. Thank you for brining him here, well done.
Paul Schwartz December 02, 2012 at 05:13 AM
Watch the 30 for 30 special on ESPN that runs every once in a while. It is an amazing but sad story. Glad he came here. Sorry I missed it.


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