Sports and a Second Chance
Sport is considered one of the main ways of a healthy lifestyle. It is a widespread prejudice that any kind of sport or any relevance of an individual to it can protect the person from all social disasters as it helps to develop self-discipline and strong will. However, the history of sports shows that for some stars, high achievements have quite an opposite effect. Some athletes tend to neglect their careers for the sake of several minutes of relaxation. Chris Herren is one of such athletes as he has experienced long and hard drug abuse. However, he is also the person who has overcome this disaster in his life and devoted all his energy to sharing his tragedy among people who need to see the whole horror of drug abuse and optimistic perspectives possible in case of its abandonment.
One could say that certain life circumstances determined Herren’s destiny. He was born and received education in the small town of Fall River, Massachusetts. As claimed in the film Unguarded, basketball was considered one of the main achievements of this little dying town (Hock, Unguarded). Therefore, those who succeeded in basketball were considered the local stars, and this kind of sport became a sign of certain social status. It cannot be denied that such an environment had some pressure on the local young men who had considered themselves obliged to play basketball to become a part of their native town history. Chris Herren was one of such young men. More so, his personal life also provided a great background for his further sport career. His mother was a cheerleader, his father was a basketball captain, his brother was a basketball high school star, and even his grandfather was a distinctive athlete (Hock, Unguarded). A family history like this provided certain sport feeling to Herren’s outlook. However, in addition to all the life circumstances that seemed to deprive him of any other choice except for basketball, Herren also possessed outstanding basketball skills.
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Leo Papile stated that from 1993 to 1994, Herren was the best combo guard with the NBA resume (Spears). He became Massachusetts Player of the Year in 1994, scoring 63 points and making the record that remained unbeaten in Basketball Amateur Basketball Club (Spears). In general, he scored 2,073 points for his basketball career (Herren). However, such success was undermined by his drug usage. Therefore, despite his unwillingness to move from his native place, he went to study at Boston College. As a freshman, Herren consumed cocaine for the first time at the age of 18 years old. In his first play, he broke the wrist and had to take a 3-month break in his basketball career. Although such a situation was determined by Herren’s drug addiction, his brother stated that it was a difficult situation for Chris as his parents were getting divorced. Therefore, it could be said that maybe Herren needed a little bit more support at that time to overcome his addiction. Even though his reputation was spoiled and his basketball career was about to collapse, the famous coach Jerry Tarkanian decided to give him the second chance as he believed in Herrens outstanding basketball talent: He had good speed…he has other things he was interested in (Hock, Unguarded). He amazed everybody with his success, and nobody even suspected his drug problems.
The end of the second chance became evident after the outstanding game with UMass, after which Chris had confessed to his drug addiction. Then the 28 days of rehabilitation followed, and he came back to the game. As it said in the film, after this confession, the audience accepted him not with the same respect as before (Hock, Unguarded) even though, Chris had some success in his career and he was even accepted to play for the NBA team Denver Nuggets. He managed 3.1 points shooting 35.8% from 3 points range (Spears). However, as Tarkanian claimed, Herren always had friends from Fall River (Spears). NBA participation and strict conditions of the contract that provided the overall control on his free time to avoid further problems with drugs did not protect him from being introduced to the drug OxyContin in his native town.
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OxyContin was the problem that caused the beginning of his career overseas. However, it did not guarantee the end of addiction. The last step on the way to Herren’s basketball abandonment was the case when he had been caught by police in Portsmouth after crashing into Dunkin Donuts where he had been found unconscious with 18 packets of heroin (Sears). After this case, he was dismissed by Dakota Basketball Association. All these cases represented one fact – basketball was not enough for Herren to give up drugs.
It is necessary to point out a special place of Herren’s wife in his life and recovery. Although she had never seen her husband consume drugs, she understood that there were some problems as some financial gaps in their family budget were traced. However, even when everything became evident, Heather, already the mother of two children and pregnant with the third one, did not abandon her husband. As it was quoted in the film, she said that if a loved one had cancer, nobody should leave him (Hock, Unguarded). It can be said that such faith and devotion were those circumstances that have helped Herren to give up the drugs and get on the right track in his life.
Nowadays, Herren does not have that NBA fame that he could possess had he not used drugs. However, as he says, he feels more peace now than ever before (Hock, Unguarded). Today, Herren feels responsible to share his experience with other people to prevent at least one person from drug addiction. He continues to visit daily meetings to maintain his sobriety and appreciate personal achievements. In 2009, Herren established Hoop Dreams with Chris Herren, Inc., the aim of which is to provide the development of the basketball players (Herren). As another way to help people, Herren chose to publish his memoir Basketball Junkie written by Bill Reynolds. Besides that, he launched the Herren Project to educate society about the danger of drug addiction and help those people who are already in trouble. The last project Herren founded in 2012 was Project Purple that united people of all ages in their willingness to protest drug abuse (Herren). Such an active social position shows that Herren’s addiction has been completely overcome and that he has enough courage to come back to this problem every time he has to explain to somebody the danger of drug addiction.
Although sport requires total devotion, not everybody can fulfill this condition even in case of the outstanding talent. Chris Herren was considered an outstanding basketball player with splendid professional qualities necessary for the future basketball star. However, the sport did not give him the motivation to avoid drug abuse. Therefore, it can be said that basketball has been only the first step Herren made in the direction of his real mission. His hard life experience became the background for a more difficult activity helping people with the same trouble. Chris Herren is a great example of the strong will and courage that can make people transform their dreams and overcome their difficult life issues.