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Former NBA Player Chris Herren Brings First-Person Story of Addiction and Sobriety to Ramapo College

(PDF) (DOC) (JPG)October 5, 2016

Chris Herren Talks at Ramapo College

MAHWAH, N.J. – Chris Herren’s message of stardom, alcohol and drug addiction and the long road to sobriety held the audience riveted when the former NBA player spoke to more than 1,200 who gathered in the Bradley Arena on the Ramapo College campus on October 3. “Rebound, the Chris Herren Story” was funded through a grant by the Mahwah Municipal Alliance and presented at the College for staff, faculty and students as well as outside school groups and many guests.

Bergen County Prosecutor Gurbir Grewal was among the honored guests at the event.

“We want to thank Chris for bringing his personal story and highlighting and bringing awareness to those afflicted with the disease of addiction. The problem of drug use and death by overdose, even right here in our own community, is overwhelming,” Prosecutor Grewal told the audience.

In 2015, the number of overdoses from heroin and opioid drugs was 288, he said, adding that the outlook for 2016 is “equally grim.”

“This is no longer just a law enforcement issue. It is a public health crisis,” Grewal said.

Herren was a high school basketball legend from Fall River, Massachusetts, who scored more than 2,000 career points and was named to the 1994 McDonald’s All-American team. Herren realized his lifelong dream of playing in the NBA when he was drafted by the Denver Nuggets in 1999 and traded to the Boston Celtics after his rookie season, only to lose it all to the nightmare of drug addiction—first alcohol, then cocaine and OxyContin, and finally heroin.

“I used to sit in auditoriums like this, listening to guys like me and say to myself, ‘I’ll never be that guy.’ But here I am,” Herren said. “If I can get through to even one person, if I can get even one of you to really hear what I’m saying and believe that it can happen to you, well, then my visit here today will have been worth it.”

The audience was mesmerized by Herren’s recounting of his path to addiction – how he drank his first beer at the age of 14, despite experiencing the pain of living with an alcoholic father; he tried cocaine at 18, then met a neighborhood friend who sold him a single OxyContin pill for $20. That meeting, he said, was the start of a $25,000 a month habit that eventually led to heroin use. Herren choked back tears when telling the audience about the numerous coaches and teammates who believed in him enough to give him “second chances,” even sending him to rehabilitation facilities more times than he could remember.

“But the lure of the drugs was too tempting, and it cost me everything, my career, my family and almost my life,” Herren said. He was arrested seven times and overdosed four times, requiring life-saving measures to “bring him back.”

Alcohol and drug-free since August 1, 2008, he has refocused his life to put his sobriety and family above all else. He has shared his harrowing story of abuse and recovery in his memoir, Basketball Junkie, as well as in numerous interviews throughout the Emmy nominated ESPN Films documentary Unguarded, of which he is the subject.

Following his talk, Herren spent time answering questions from the audience and posed for photos with members of the College’s athletics teams.

“This event was so important for everyone here at Ramapo, not just the athletes,” said Director of Athletics Harold Crocker. “We all got to hear first-hand how a promising career can quickly take the wrong turn.”

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About Ramapo College

Ramapo College of New Jersey is the state’s premier public liberal arts college and is committed to academic excellence through interdisciplinary and experiential learning, and international and intercultural understanding. The comprehensive college is situated among the beautiful Ramapo Mountains, is within commuting distance to New York City, was named one of the 50 Most Beautiful College Campuses in America by CondeNast Traveler, and boasts the best on-campus housing in New Jersey per Niche.com.

Ramapo College provides its students with individualized attention, mentorship, and supports; hands-on learning; and a range of opportunities for service and leadership development. Its graduation and retention rates exceed national averages and it places approximately 1,000 students per year in internships in New York City. The College is ranked #1 among New Jersey public institutions by College Choice; is recognized as the state’s top college on the list of Best Disability Schools by Great Value Colleges; is designated a “Military Friendly College” in Victoria Media’s Guide to Military Friendly Schools; and is recognized as a top college by U.S. News & World Report, Kiplinger’s, Princeton Review and Money magazine, among others.  

Ramapo College’s over 40,000 alumni are the confident, intellectually curious, self-aware, and humble people who are highly sought after and who make a positive impact at local, national, and global levels.  Ramapo College is distinguished as a Career Development College of Distinction by CollegesofDistinction.com. Every student at Ramapo is enrolled in its unique and award winning Pathways Program which equips and empowers students, across the continuum of their academic career, to secure internships, pursue graduate/professional school, and/or enter the job market. 

Established in 1969, Ramapo College offers bachelor’s degrees in the arts, business, data science, humanities, social sciences and the sciences, as well as in professional studies, which include business, education, nursing and social work. In addition, the College offers courses leading to teacher certification at the elementary and secondary levels, and offers graduate programs leading to master’s degrees in Accounting, Applied Mathematics, Business Administration, Contemporary Instructional Design, Computer Science, Creative Music Technology, Data Science, Educational Leadership, Nursing, Social Work and Special Education, as well as a Doctor of Nursing Practice.

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