For all its benefits, the NBA lifestyle can be wearing. And while most players learn to deal with it, it tends to get overwhelming for some. Larry Sanders is one of those guys.
"It didn't resonate with my soul"
Despite being on the rise and even getting Defensive Player of The Year considerations during the 2013 NBA season, the former Bucks' big man struggled to adapt to the expectations that came with being a pro player.
In a recent episode of No Chill with Gilbert Arenas, the 33-year-old revealed that he always had an issue with "conforming to someone else's standard." And it started way before he was drafted by Milwaukee in 2010.
"I started playing ball when I was 15," Larry said. "I fell in love with the basketball culture, I was adopted by it. I was tall, I was fast, you know, I had these attributes that were attractive and fit into the game. But a lot of it, it didn't resonate with my soul, honestly."
Sanders even signed a $44 million four-year contract after his near double-double season with the Bucks -- he averaged 9.8 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks per game. But the lack of freedom overshadowed every benefit that derived from his basketball talents.
"I like living life on my terms because I can and thrive," Sanders said. "I don't really need to do that, even though I love playing basketball. I just know I can get it."
He felt like a product
Sanders grew up selling snacks in school. From the early days, he was used to making money and being his own boss. But once he became a pro, he became dependent on someone else. Naturally, he was forced to play by someone else's rules. And Larry never liked that, especially with the way those rules are enforced in the NBA.
"Being talked to certain kind of ways, kind of that bought and sold atmosphere, I ain't really like that sh*t. Like have a conversation with me. Don't let me see some sh*t on the news about where I'm going. I got a family. I got kids. I gotta uproot tomorrow, and they gotta figure it out by the phone.
Larry Sanders, No Chill with Gilbert Arenas
Sanders wanted to "add a little more value to his presence." And it weighed on his mental health. Soon, that developed into anxiety, which he decided to self-treat with marijuana. And according to Larry, it was helping.
But when the league suspended him for 10 games after multiple failed drug tests in 2015, it became clear he couldn't have it both ways.
"It was like, 'I know what's good for me. I know these alternatives that you all are offering me are going to put me in a weaker position in the long term,'" he said. "I knew what helped and what worked. It always came down to legalities."
Four years later, after he tried to make his NBA return with the Cavaliers, the 28-year-old Sanders was out of the league. And looking back on it, that might be for the best.
"I don't want anybody to go through the s--t I went through," he said.