Chris Mullin opens up about alcohol rehab during NBA career

Chris Mullin reflected about checking into rehab in the 1980s.

Mullin appeared on an episode of NBC Sports’ “Headstrong: Mental Health and Sports,” and recalled his journey of checking into rehab in 1987, his third NBA season with the Warriors.

“So here I was, a young kid, 21, 22, making good money, playing a sport that I love, and I found myself not happy,” Mullin said, as covered by NBC Sports Bay Area. 

“It was a period of denial, trying to numb my feelings, trying to act like everything was okay until I couldn’t do any more, until I got sick and tired of being sick and tired. And that meant that I had a problem, asked for help and surrendered.”

The 59-year-old Mullin starred at St. John’s and was selected seventh-overall in the 1985 NBA Draft by the Warriors. He ultimately had a 16-year NBA career in which he made five All-Star teams and played on the fabled 1992 Olympic Dream Team. He also coached St. John’s from 2015-19.

In 1992, Mullin spoke to Rick Reilly at Sports Illustrated for an extensive profile on how he conquered his alcoholism after getting suspended by then-Warriors coach Don Nelson for missing two practices.

“It got to the point where I’d come home at night and I wasn’t worried about what I had to do the next day,” Mullin said in the story. “I didn’t have a schedule for the next day, and I didn’t care … To tell you the truth, there were days when I didn’t care if I played again.”

Chris Mullin checked into rehab in 1987 after being suspended by Don Nelson.
Chris Mullin checked into rehab in 1987 after being suspended by Don Nelson.
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In “Headstrong,” Mullin spoke about the difference in his life after his recovery.

“I felt way more open, less concerned about what people thought about me and more focused on living a good life that particular day,” Mullin continued. 

“And to me, it was the support and the love and the education I received, not only for rehab but, most importantly, the program and being able to have those meetings, stay in touch with other people like me and feel good about that and not feel alone.”

Chris Mullin coached at his alma mater St. John's from 2016-19.
Chris Mullin coached at his alma mater St. John’s from 2016-19.
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Mullin has maintained the same crew cut hairstyle ever since, and uses it as a reminder for that time period.

“After that season finished, I stayed in town to work out and maintain my routine on and off the court,” Mullin recalled. “And a buddy of mine in Alameda said, ‘Why don’t you get this haircut?’ and summertime, it didn’t really matter to me, so I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll do it.’ And I’ve had it ever since.

“It definitely is something that kind of brings me back to where I was. So obviously it’s a little bit more than the way it looks. It doesn’t look too good, but there’s a lot more meaning to me and my family, and I’ve kept it ever since, much like staying with the program each and every day, something over time; I just I’m comfortable with.”