An American author, spoken-word poet and musician, he is best known for his autobiographical work, The Basketball Diaries. He published a second memoir, Forced Entries: The Downtown Diaries 1971-1973, in 1987.
He grew up on the Lower East Side of New York and briefly studied at Columbia University. He published his first poetry collection, Organic Trains, while he was in high school.
During his turbulent youth, he led a double life as a star basketball player and a heroin-addicted sex worker.
He was born into a working-class, Irish-American family. In 1963, he earned a scholarship to the prestigious Trinity School in New York City.
His work, The Basketball Diaries, was adapted into a film starring Leonardo Dicaprio.