When most kids show up at college, they come armed with plenty of stuff to put on their dorm room walls. I remember my freshman building at Boston College being littered with Grateful Dead, Bob Marley, Pink Floyd, Biggie, and Tupac posters. Me? I had two things for my side of the room: a Chris Mullin Team USA poster and a photo of Chris Herren cut out from some hoop magazine that I can’t recall today. Not exactly what most kids were plastering on their walls, but Mullin was my basketball idol and Herren, the star of an unbelievable book called “Fall River Dreams” that I pretty carried with me at all times, was a living legend in the Northeast.
When I arrived at school, through playing ball, I found other Herren zealots. Most of them were kids just like me – white basketball fanatics who ran every day and who swore by “Fall River Dreams.” We sort of felt close to Herren, and not just because we were had the same color skin. Chris had come up in nearby Fall River, Mass., had spent a minute as a BC student, and was a mix of myth and frightening reality – a living, breathing example of a guy who had so much talent, but who was also a runaway train, a slave to his personal demons. He had enrolled at BC few years earlier, but had serious issues with drugs, attending class (as in he didn’t), and was far too wrapped up in his friends from home to realize the opportunity that he had to star the Big East.
Herren had flamed out at Boston College, but his legend still loomed large. The players on the team still told stories about Chris, unfortunately as much for his act away from the game than for his unreal ability on the court. When he resurfaced at Fresno State a few years later, I remember all of us packing into someone’s room to watch his late-night West Coast games on ESPN2 – me from Philly, with kids from New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and as far away as Haiti, crammed in just to watch Herren do his thing.
Stints with the Denver Nuggets and basketball’s minor leagues eventually culminated with a cup of coffee with his hometown Celtics. We all saw it as a blessing and a curse for Herren – we were excited that our dude was getting run with his hometown team, but we were also scared of what it would mean for him to be back in Boston, the epicenter of where his demons were most terrifying.
The Celtics run was short-lived and updates on Herren after that were few and far between as he (and his addictions) bounced around overseas, making stops everywhere from Italy to the Middle East. Unfortunately, the most prominent updates came in the form of police reports when he returned home.
A must-read Boston Globe article from this past weekend brought Chris Herren’s basketball career to a close. Sadly there will never be NBA stardom for Herren, but basketball is just a game, and there are more important things in life. Chris says he has finally, mercifully, kicked his addictions and can now get on with raising his family. Here’s to Chris Herren following through.
Read the Boston Globe article HERE.