Chris Herren can tell complete strangers lessons he’s learned from his volatile and amazing life with unnatural ease.
The New England high school basketball legend and former Boston College and Fresno State star always has been under the microscope, it seems.
“By the time I was 21, 22 years old, I was involved in a Fox reality show, an HBO documentary crew was with me,” Herren told Front Row Tuesday as he promoted the new ESPN Films project Unguarded (premiering tonight, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN).
“[Crews followed me from] 60 Minutes, Rolling Stone, Sports Illustrated — and an FBI investigation.”
Unguarded shows Herren lecturing high school students, soldiers, convicts — anyone who will listen — about his fall from the high life.
He recalls waking up behind gas stations after drug blackouts and — when his NBA stints in Denver and Boston ended — trips in China and Eastern Europe looking for his next hoops paycheck and dope deal.
In Bristol, Herren was equally candid about his life on and off screen.
The Jonathan Hock-directed film features reels of footage from about 15 years of Herren’s life: his rise from Fall River, Mass. legend to troubled college star and NBA prospect to his descent into arrests and four drug overdoses.
The documentary “captures a period of time, and it’s important in my life. It’s OK for me to see this. I believe in it. I think it’s important. I think it can help,’ said Herren, who runs a foundation dedicated to addressing substance abuse.
While Herren says it’s tough to see and listen to himself reveal all in the film, watching Unguarded is therapeutic for him, too.
“I can watch my mom in hours and hours of footage talking about me when I was 21 years old. And now she’s passed away. So I see the silver lining in watching this film, and that’s one of many.”
Herren, 36, credits current ESPN analyst and Basketball Hall Of Fame inductee Chris Mullin with helping to save his life.
“When I got sober, I had no money, I had no health insurance. If it wasn’t for Chris Mullin saying, ‘I’m going to make a phone call and get you into treatment,’ I wouldn ‘t be here today,” said Herren.
Mullin talks about working with Herren in this clip:
Herren seems like he’d be a glib and respected addition to any broadcasting stable.
Tuesday in the ESPN Digital Center Green Room, he and ESPN basketball analyst and ESPN Radio host Doug Gottlieb traded tales of their glory days. But Herren’s not sure that a broadcasting career appeals to him.
“I was never a student of the game. Doug can sit here and come up with these names, he’s involved in the sport,” Herren said.
But Herren’s old lifestyle didn’t lend itself to becoming a fan of the game.
“I didn’t go home and watch SportsCenter. I went to the nightclub,” he said.
Herren will relive his past with every interview or mention of Unguarded. But he’s not into regrets.
“Don’t think that’s necessary,” he said.
“I think if I worry about a moment in time where I could have turned the corner, I don’t think I’d be sober today. I’d be living in regret and guilt. I don’t choose to do that.”
“I’m at a very, very comfortable place in my life, spiritually and emotionally. I’m happy with who I am.”