It’s been a while since you’ve heard of Larry Sanders’ name, but his impact on the sports landscape is still being felt six years later.
For those who have forgotten, the former NBA great man was a rising player just six years ago.
The former Milwaukee Bucks forward was a defensive hoop threat. In fact, Sanders was such an intimidating presence that he ranked No. 1 in blocks percentage and No. 2 in blocks per game during the 2012-13 season.
This performance earned Sanders the title of Defensive Player of the Year and landed him a four-year, $ 44 million contract during the 2013 offseason.
However, multiple NBA drug policy violations due to marijuana, a nightclub altercation that resulted in a torn ligament in his right thumb, and a stint on the Bucks’ inactive roster for personal reasons all have stopped the rise of the young star.
The former Bucks forward feels like he’s often been targeted by the league to be an example for his marijuana use.
“A lot of the guys who were on the drug program weren’t fined, weren’t suspended,” says Sanders. “They didn’t need to go to rehab. Some of the guys have never been through the things that I’ve been through with the drug program. I was micro-dosed. I used such a small amount. I’m not even sure it showed up in my drug tests. I was just surrendering. I said about myself out of fear.
Sanders would play in just 50 games combined during the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons.
And then out of nowhere, Sanders rocked the sports world by announcing his retirement in February 2015 at the age of 26. At the time, Sanders had not appeared in a game for two consecutive months.
Sanders – in the midst of his prime and a rich new contract – was walking away from the basketball game due to anxiety and depression.
“My agent at the time, Dan Fegan, called me and said, ‘There is nothing we can do. You have to come back. You should at least show up to practice. If you don’t, they will sue you, they will come after your contract, they will take whatever you have, ”Sanders reveals.
I hung up the phone. I called them an hour later and said, ‘I’m retired from the NBA. But I’m doing it for free. I don’t want the money. Schedule a press conference. so that when I come back from the All-Star break in Milwaukee, I can let everyone know why I retired for free, ”says Sanders.
“They call me back within 15 minutes and we have a deal. $ 15 million not to come back like that. It was a difficult solution, ”says Sanders.
At the time, it was unknown for an athlete to retire from the game for such a reason. Sanders would pave the way for other athletes to open up about their mental health.
While Sanders may never have been a big star, he ended up becoming a trailblazer.
DeMar DeRozan, Kevin Love, and swimmer Michael Phelps would eventually come out with their own stories of anxiety and depression in the following years.
Fast forward to today in 2021, and Sanders is happier than he’s ever been. The 32-year-old is a father and husband and now runs his own business – where he designs jeans and works with famous celebrities from the entertainment world.
“I started a business called ‘Citizens Of Matter’,” says Sanders. “It was an artist incubator at the start. But then we started to fall in fashion and I started to meet all of these people in this world with a company called “Hunt’s City”. We initially developed men’s jeans with a larger size. Then it sort of molded itself into a brand for everyone. Now we make products for everyone and for all sizes. “
Sanders also works with a company called “Click,” which produces marijuana spray.
“It’s really the first of its kind,” says Sanders. “We’re a fast-acting nano spray – which just isn’t on the market. The guys behind this are myself, Omri Casspi, the Morris brothers (Markieff and Marcus) and Rudy Gay.
“I do basic development, I manage ‘Click’ social media and all their content development. I’m just creative. I thrive on creation, ”Sanders continued.
While Sanders is doing well as an entrepreneur and businessman, he has a real desire to return to the NBA – but the league’s policies on marijuana need to change for that to happen.
“I feel like the stage is kind of prepared,” Sanders said. “The NBA is more and more open-minded with its policy on marijuana. Whether they test or not. Whether they have guys in the drug program or not. I don’t know if people know how much of a factor this is to me. ”
Sanders explains why it’s imperative that the NBA change its marijuana policies when it comes to a possible comeback.
“It’s important because I left the NBA as part of the drug program,” Sanders says. “If I were to come back safe and sound, I would still have to be on the drug program for two years. This means taking a drug test twice a week, always letting them know what my schedule is, where I will be traveling during the summer. They have the ability to put me in rehab and send me anywhere they want at any time. This is the part that I don’t want to be involved in.
Despite being out of the league for several years, Sanders believes he can still step in immediately and contribute to a team.
He cites his niche as a defensive anchor, his presence as a vocal leader and his history of avoiding serious injury as major assets he can bring to a contending team. Sanders compares himself to the role Draymond Green fulfills for the Warriors.
“I know athletically, I can play in the league given my build and what I can do on the pitch. I feel like I was one of the first big guys to do what they’re now looking for in the big guys, ”says Sanders.
Sanders had already made a short comeback to the NBA midway through the 2016-17 season with the Cleveland Cavaliers. That was after two years without touching a basketball since his initial retirement – literally.
The signing came in the midst of the Cavaliers’ rivalry with the Golden State Warriors – the two teams faced off for four consecutive years in the NBA Finals – and Cleveland was in an arm race with Golden State when he s was about recruiting key players to win. an advantage.
The arm race peaked after Kevin Durant signed with the Warriors following the Cavaliers’ epic 2016 NBA Finals victory over Golden State. What followed this season was the acquisition by Cleveland of veterans such as Deron Williams, Andrew Bogut and ultimately Sanders.
After training sessions with the Warriors and the Miami Heat, Sanders went on to work for the Cavaliers. Cleveland offered him a deal shortly after practice – which the Warriors and Heat didn’t immediately – and Sanders accepted the offer.
In retrospect, the 6-foot-11 fat man would have done things differently.
“I was excited,” Sanders says. “I wanted to play with LeBron James. Looking back, I might have waited. I wanted to go to Golden State. It was a dream of mine to play at Golden State that year.
What followed was a rather forgettable stint with the Cavaliers. After a month with the team and just five appearances, Sanders was released after missing the hotel team bus to the airport while the Cavs were in Miami after a game.
“The team had so many problems,” Sanders continues. “There were a lot of internal issues. We weren’t sure if LeBron and Kyrie Irving were leaving. They had the brawl on the bench between LeBron and Tristan Thompson. There was a lot going on internally. “
“I remember being in the middle of it all and I’m like the seventh, eighth, or ninth project they have. I don’t think they knew what to do with anyone, ”Sanders continued.
While Sanders hasn’t played in the NBA since, that doesn’t mean his basketball career ended after his time with the Cavaliers.
He played the 2019 season for the BIG3 League of Ice Cube, appearing for the 3 Headed Monsters. Sanders displayed his usual abilities on the edge, placing second in the league in blocks.
Although the 2020 season has been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, the BIG3 League is expected to return for the 2021 season – just like Sanders.
Sanders will be hoping to lead a team as captain in his second season in the 3v3 league. He is also well aware that a strong league performance can lead to a potential return to the NBA – possibly as early as the 2021 season – 22.
While Sanders still loves basketball, he doesn’t need a return to the NBA.
“I want to be part of a situation that accepts me,” says Sanders. “Right now, what I do for a living, I can live my life. I can smoke, I can go to work, I get paid a lot, and I do what I love to do. What I am doing now could last 70 years. “
Even if a return to the league is out of the question, there is no doubt that Sanders made his mark during his short time in the NBA.
To top it off, he forged his own path using his creativity to become a successful entrepreneur.
“People value my brain, not just my body,” says Sanders. “I think for a human it’s great. I am more valued now as a person than when I was playing.
The 6-foot-11 tall man points out that he doesn’t necessarily want to be remembered as a basketball player.
Instead, he wants to serve as an inspiration for others to make their dreams come true – even if that path doesn’t seem like the easiest.