ESPN Films Review: Unguarded

Unguarded HeaderThe story of Chris Herren is a modern day tragedy.  Chris grew up in Fall River Massachusetts and was a all star basketball player in high school.  He and his friends played hard, and then went out and played even harder.  Partying was a big part of life for Chris and his friends growing up and as long as they were winning, no one seemed to mind.  Once in college Chris was introduced to cocaine, which began his serious drug addiction.  He was constantly testing positive for cocaine while playing in college but each time he seemed to everyone who knew him to have cleaned up.  Chris played one sober year for the Denver Nuggets, but during his off season he became addicted to Oxycontin, and then was traded to the Boston Celtics where his drug problem lived.  This began the long horrible downfall of Chris Herren.  He is now a motivational speaker who tells his story and coaches basketball to local youths.  He has been sober for over 3 years.

If you take anything away from this story it is that drugs are an extremely frightening thing.  Certain people have addictive personalities and when drugs enter their lives awful things begin to happen.  Chris’ story was horrifying at times.  There were many times where there was stock footage of the exact moment Chris would be speaking to his audiences and the most emotionally riveting one to me had to be story of when he was traded to the Celtics.  They show the footage of him holding his jersey and having his photo taken for the press, and we hear him say that playing for the Celtics had been the biggest dream of his life for as long as he could remember and at that moment he didn’t even care.  He didn’t even know who it was standing next to him when he got his picture taken because all he cared about was getting his Oxycontin.  You can see it in his face, he just looks awful and seems completely uninvolved with the moment surrounding him.

After only two seasons Chris could no longer play in the NBA so he went over seas to Italy to keep playing basketball.  He brought with him as much Oxycontin as he could with the idea of slowly weening himself off the drug.  That plan failed and in order to keep himself from getting “dope sick” Chris began using heroin.  It’s incredible that he was still able to play basketball and live the life of a family while he had a horrible heroin addiction.  While living in Bejing Chris says that he was making 22 thousand dollars a month, and was spending at least 12 thousand a month on heroin.  Hock shows us tons of family video from this time period and from the surface everything appears fine.  As an audience we know that Chris was deep into his addiction during this videos but it is far from obvious in these videos.  It shows a lot about Chris’ personality and how he was able to live this double life for as long as he did.

It was incredible to hear Chris speak and I loved the way Jonathan Hock choose to put those sequences together.  It was awesome the way Chris was speaking and telling his story, and they would show him speaking but whenever they showed his audience it was almost always different.  Sometimes it was high school basketball players, sometimes it was a group of army soldiers, and there were even scenes of him speaking to what appeared to be inmates.  Chris’ story is incredible and the fact that he is still alive to tell it is truly remarkable.  I don’t know what would be worse than rock bottom but Chris certainly went there.  It is a tragedy when you think about what Chris could have done with the talent he had, but it is a wonderful thing that he was able to escape his addiction before it was too late.


  1. Ned & Dolores Schmitt says:

    We were touched by the story viewed last night, as we were watching the Big Ten Tournament.
    We need to purchase it for us to show to grandchildren and at church and school. Tell me where to get it, please!!!

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