Why This 26-Year-Old Walked Away From His $44 Million NBA Contract

Larry Sanders

Last week, former Milwaukee Bucks center Larry Sanders raised eyebrows after finalizing a buyout agreement with his ex-team, having chosen to walk away from basketball and a four-year, $44 million contract.

The promising 26-year-old NBA big man averaged 7.3 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.4 blocks over only 27 games this season, having been suspended 10 games by the NBA last month for violating the NBA/NBPA Anti-Drug Program.

In a new video released today by the Derek Jeter-founded The Players’ Tribune, Sanders explains why he walked away from his playing career and the lucrative contract it garnered, as well as why he doesn’t plan to come back anytime soon. In the video, titled “Why I Walked Away From the NBA,” Sanders admits he recently checked himself into a hospital for anxiety, mood disorders and depression, which he has treated with marijuana, a drug he’s publicly advocated in the past.

“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,” Sanders starts off the video.

The hospital stay “taught me a lot about myself, about what’s important and where I want to devote my time and energy. I love basketball and I’ll always be playing basketball. For it to be consuming so much of my life and time right now, it’s not there for me, it’s not that worth it,” Sanders says.

Sanders goes on to say in the video:

“Everyone’s come up with their own theories about why I’ve been absent since leaving the Bucks. I knew people would speculate, but the crazy thing to me is that people are making it about the money. As a person who grew up with nothing, I know money is important. I’m incredibly grateful to have had the chance to play in the NBA. But at the same time, that’s not what fuels me. I’ve never chased money. It’s never been how I define success. Happiness isn’t behind a golden gate.”

Throughout the video, Sanders expounds on some of the pressures that basketball players face, and why they weren’t for him. Most importantly, he seems to be at peace with his decision to choose himself over his career, and that is more valuable than any amount of money.

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