The ESPN “30 for 30” documentary Unguarded profiles the gripping story of Chris Herren – a former high school basketball star who went on to play in the NBA and lost it all to a drug addiction that almost ended his life.
How to Watch ‘Unguarded’ Online
Every film in the complete 30 for 30 library, including Unguarded, can be watched with a subscription to ESPN+.
Once signed up for ESPN+, you can watch Unguarded on your computer via the ESPN website, or you can watch on your phone (iOS or Android), tablet, Roku, Fire TV Stick, Apple TV, Xbox One or other compatible streaming device via the ESPN app.
‘Unguarded’ 30 for 30 Preview
The ESPN “30 for 30” documentary Unguarded is a film that profiles the gripping real-life roller-coaster journey of former high school basketball standout Chris Herren.
The pride of Fall River, Mass., Herren’s meteoric rise to basketball stardom fell to the hands of a 10-plus year drug addiction that ended up nearly costing him his life.
From early on, there was immense pressure on the shoulders of Herren. In high school, he walked and played in the footsteps of his father who had been a captain and his older brother Mike who won back-to-back Massachusetts state titles.
“The burden of the city fell on his back, that’s a big thing to ask for a 14-15-year-old kid,” said Herren’s friend Bobby Eagan in the film.
Herren was recruited by Rick Pitino at Kentucky, Mike Krzyzewski at Duke and Billy Donovan at Florida, but decided to stay closer to home and attend Boston College.
The film paints the picture of the beginnings of Herren’s alcohol and drug abuse and addiction, which escalated once he got into cocaine as a freshman at Boston College.
Herren’s college basketball career got off to an inauspicious start when he fell and broke his wrist in his debut game with BC. Herren was ruled out for the season and would subsequently fail a drug test, which led to him leaving school.
Former Fresno State coach Jerry Tarkanian provided Herren with a second chance by bringing him on to play for the Bulldogs. In Fresno, Calif., Herren excelled under Tarkanian on the basketball court but his downward spiral continued off the court, leading to him failing another drug test and being sent to rehab for 28 days.
“There was just something about Chris. I loved Chris, but at the same time, there was so much hope yet so many times he broke our heart,” coach Tarkanian expressed in the documentary.
Despite the baggage, the Denver Nuggets took a shot at the supreme talent when they drafted Herren with the 33rd pick in the 1999 NBA Draft. He remained clean during his rookie season under the supervision and guidance of veteran teammates such as Nick Van Exel and Antonio McDyess.
After his first season, Herren went back home to Massachusetts, and it was there that a friend introduced him to the pain killer, OxyContin.
Herren’s dreams came true when he was traded to the Boston Celtics, but his life was spiraling out of control off the court, as he dove further and further into his drug addiction.
The film takes the viewer through the darkest periods of Herren’s life, as he went from being a professional athlete to bouncing from team to team overseas while binging on drugs, being arrested multiple times, nearly losing his life in an accident and all the while putting a major strain on his family life with his wife and children.
“He’d come to the Providence Journal, where I worked, and he’d say things like my kids are in the dark,” said Bill Reynolds, the author of “Basketball Junkie.”
“They have no heat, there’s no TV, they keep turning the TV off, but the tone was this desperation, total desperation. And I would give him whatever I would give him, and we would talk. And he would break your heart. Because not only did I care about him but I also knew how far he had fallen. I knew his strengths, I knew the charisma he had had. He was everybody’s darling there for so long, and all of a sudden it’s the antithesis of that. It’s a young man with no money in a car that’s falling apart, with kids in the back seat, and he’s desperate. It’s a horrible thing to witness.”
Herren finally turned the corner when he found himself during a rehab stint following the birth of his third child.
“That little room is where I had to find my soul, that little room is where I had to sit by myself for hours and hours and hours and I had to ask myself am I a dad, am I a husband, am I a son, or am I a junkie,” said Herren.
Having since gained his sobriety, Herren has been on a road to redemption, delivering his story as a motivational speaker to fellow addicts, students and soldiers. He also has come full circle, taking up coaching the game of basketball to younger generations.
“I think Chris’ greatest talent in life is what he’s doing now, is helping people, particularly kids, the way he was able to just grab them, tell them to believe in themselves and to not give up,” said his friend Jeff Carron in the film. “And he was treating these kids like they were his younger brother, and he had never met these kids before. And that’s a gift.”
“Unguarded” was directed by eight-time Emmy Award-winning producer, director, writer and editor Jonathan Hock, who has produced multiple other ESPN 30 for 30s including Survive and Advance, The Best That Never Was, Of Miracles and Men, One and Not Done, and The Dominican Dream.
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