Eileen Granfors's Reviews > Basketball Junkie: A Memoir

Basketball Junkie by Chris Herren
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May 18, 11

bookshelves: families, medical-issues, memoir, school-stories, sports
Read from May 15 to 18, 2011

I saw this title, "Basketball Junkie," and assumed it would be a journal of someone following March Madness, from game to game across the country. I won it here on goodreads and was fascinated by the true story.

Instead, Bill Reynolds writes with Chris Herren. Chris is a legend in a town that worships basketball, Fall River, MA. Chris becomes a basketball superstar and a street junkie, someone who is given the world little kids only dream of. He throws it all away on drugs. First it was alcohol, then other drugs, then Oxy, then cocaine, then heroin. He was dropped from two college programs (Boston College and Fresno State). He never played for fun. He played for his team, his coach, his father. He felt the weight of others' expectation. Then he was drafted into the NBA, where he had more money and his size made him play like a beast, tearing into opponents, and earning a rep for himself. His career among the pro teams was fitful, for he was a user even as he competed at the highest level. He had a ton of talent and learned about hard work. He carried a ton of guilt about his addiction, which only made his addiction worse.

He played in Europe, in Asia, and the bottom fell out in Turkey.

Along the way, his high school love stays with him though they fight frequently. When there is no farther to fall, he enters another rehab. He keeps deluding himself that he can quit whenever he wants to. Only when he admits he is not in control, that his children would be better off without him, does Chris finally see the light of change and hope.

What I liked about Chris's story is that Chris does not blame his coaches for not understanding him, nor does he blame the schools for throwing him out. Once he begins tutoring younger kids, he says "that's the beauty of it"--he has lived their lives and can mentor them forward through his own mistakes.

"Basketball Junkie" is a terrifying portrait of what drugs do to the human body. In fiction, I liked Roxana Robinson's "Cost" for her portrayal of the cost of drugs to family relationships and James Frey's "A Million Little Pieces" for the expression of how drug addiction feels. For its truth about a fall from grace, I recommend this true story of Chris Herren, one more guy who had it all and threw it all away. His honesty is refreshing. His humility about his NBA career, which he calls "a blip on the radar screen," could possibly set some kids straight on the value of values versus the value of excelling at as an athlete. Even a superstar is a human being with human failings
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