Milwaukee Bucks center Larry Sanders didn’t owe anybody an explanation for walking away from the NBA and accepting a buyout from the Milwaukee Bucks, but he decided to tell his side of the story. In a video and a piece for The Players’ Tribune, he explained that he’s dealing with anxiety and depression.
He introduces himself like this in the video: “I’m Larry Sanders, I’m a person. I’m a father. I’m an artist. I’m a writer. I’m a painter. I’m a musician. And sometimes I play basketball.”
The 26-year-old knows people wondered why he was away from the Bucks in December, and why he’s out of the league now. He knows people said he didn’t love the game. He knows there are some who will never understand how anyone could turn down millions and leave a “dream job.”
“I actually entered into Rogers Memorial Hospital and it was a program for anxiety and depression, mood disorders,” Sanders said. “It taught me a lot about myself. It taught me a lot about what’s important and where will want to devote my time and energy.”
Sanders served suspensions for violating the league’s anti-drug program both this year and last, and he has previously spoken up to support the use of marijuana for medical purposes. He hasn’t said much more about it publicly until now.
“Cannabis came later on in my life,” Sanders said. “It was, for me, used medically for some of the symptoms that I was having due to a lot of stress and pressure I was under given my work.
“Coming into the league, you get dropped this large amount of money out of nowhere and people automatically change around you,” he continued. “That just happens. You become an ATM to some people. You have to be correct in your statements. You have to state things a certain way. You give up your freedom of speech for real. You really can’t say how you feel.”
Sanders said that he does love basketball. He just can’t let it consume his entire life right now. It’s not worth it.
The last time Sanders was with the Bucks, it was early January. He wasn’t playing, and he said he wasn’t sure when he’d be back. Shortly after that, he was away from the team again and suspended.
“I wish I could’ve said goodbye formally to the Bucks at the arena, at the Bradley Center,” he said. “I wanted them to know that it was never about them. It was never about the fans or how they treated me because that was awesome. These decisions are for my family.”
He acknowledged that he never planned on playing in the NBA. Sanders changed schools in 10th grade wanting to be an animator or computer designer, per Sports Illustrated, and he scored on the wrong basket in his first junior varsity game. Everything about Sanders’ path, from playing for Virginia Commonwealth University to being drafted to signing a four-year, $44 million contract, has been unexpected.
When Sanders had to sit out for much of the 2013-2014 season because of injuries and the initial suspension, he spent his time on writing, painting, reading, music. He has a novel in the works. He was a skateboarder before he was a basketball player, and he has lots of custom-designed boards. Basketball is an important thing to him, but it’s not the only thing.
“People really like labels,” he said. “You get to identify something with something else that you may think it makes sense to you. You may rationalize it. Just don’t neglect the and. Don’t neglect the and. That’s what I would say. Hey, you can say I’m selfish. And I’m loving. And I’m caring. And I’m fearful sometimes. And I’m also brave. We all are more than just one thing.”
To make the decision he made, and then to talk about it like this? Yes, Sanders certainly is brave.