It’s easy to say from the outside looking in that if you’re getting paid millions of dollars to play basketball, you shouldn’t be doing anything that could jeopardize that.

 

But not everyone is built the same; not everyone believes that just because you’re being paid X amount of dollars, you are automatically beholden to live your life the way someone else dictates. It’s easy to overvalue something you’ve never had; people who have never had money are quick to tell someone what they would sacrifice in order to have it.

Some people think that because he’s in the NBA, how could he even have time to smoke? With all the interviews, practices, games, and going over tape, an NBA player barely has time to get high, right?

Except not. NBA players of an abundance of down-time; they are flying around the country, holed up in hotel rooms so they won’t be bothered by media or the public, or riding in buses.

Some people are fine with getting their relax on with a couple drinks; heck, Shane Battier got rewarded during the Miami Heat’s win-streak in 2013 for stating publicly that he drinks a Bud Lite after every game; Budweiser ended up giving him 1,100 cases of free beer. But if someone decides that marijuana is easier on their body, and a better way to relieve stress, then suddenly it costs them hundreds of thousands of dollars, and lengthy suspensions?

Ty Lawson of the Denver Nuggets was arrested for DUI as recent as January 23rd of this year, yet it brings no attention from the media, and no reprimand from the league. Larry Sanders hasn’t had any intervention of the authorities due to his marijuana-use, having only been in trouble via the league’s drug-testing policy, yet he is on the brink of losing his career.

Larry Sanders has proven that he has been willing to sacrifice; he wouldn’t of been drafted first-round in the NBA and be heralded as such a great young center if he didn’t take the time and effort to get and stay in shape and develop his skill. He’s spent countless hours in the gym, has had to spend significant time away from family and friends while traveling during the NBA season, and has had to live in one of the less weather-friendly states by being drafted by Milwaukee. Of course he was “lucky” to grow to the size he is in order to be a center in the NBA, but he has shaped his own destiny in terms of making it to the NBA.

I personally don’t believe that he should be given such monstrous fines(first fine cost him $100,000 and ten game suspension, second fine cost $1,000,000 and indefinite suspension) for the simple act of ingesting marijuana; however that comes from a West Coaster, where it’s either legalized outright(Washington, Oregon come July 1st), or at least medicalized(California). In Milwaukee it is outright illegal to possess or consume marijuana for any purpose, which gives some credence to the league’s stance.

However, the league doesn’t have any flexibility for players who reside in states where marijuana is legal for recreational or even medical use. Even if Sanders joins a team whose state allows the use of marijuana, he’s still going to get the same ridiculous punishments that he has been receiving, even if he’s approved to do so by a physician. Plus, the only reason players are caught for it is because the league tests for it. If they were to simply stop testing players for marijuana, the problem disappears overnight.

This is a life lesson for everyone, no matter what you do, or where you’re from. There is a fine line between doing what you want, and doing what you have to do, in order to get where you want to be. Some people are fine with toeing that line, while others are just more comfortable being on one side or the other.

We all know people who deny doing all the things they want to do, because they believe they have to do things a certain way, or they’ll be a failure. They’re too afraid of not following the “formula for success”, however they view that, and ultimately end up with regrets of wishes unfulfilled, a life of “what if”.

On the other end, we have people like Larry Sanders, who’re so driven on doing what they want and living the life they decide is best, that they refuse to make certain seemingly minor concessions that ultimately could enrich not only their lives, but the lives of others. As part of a sports family, I have first-hand seen the impact that the income from sports has made in countless family and friends.

Some people are able to toe that line and be fine; a recent example would be DeAndre Jordan. He was pictured this last summer smoking joints in Amsterdam, but he’s never been suspended for drug use. He obviously enjoys his time in the off-season, but when it comes time to play, he stops because his priority is to help his team get to a championship, and to continue getting paid handsomely.

I sympathize with Sanders because I have a similar personality trait in regards to being told how to live. I’m the same age as he is, and I’m just now learning in the last year or two to reign myself in at times, because I’ve seen the results of my reckless abandon; sometimes me being stubborn and doing things my own way inhibits me from learning how to be a more well-rounded individual. Maybe he is going through the same internal struggles, to find the balance between being who he is, and holding back certain aspects in order to further the rest of his life.

It’s a difficult life to live when the path you believe God has for you is contrary to everything that the human life tells you is right. However I believe Larry is taking the right path, to stick with his convictions despite any outside noise that may try to interfere.

For those who say he just ‘doesn’t want to play basketball anymore’; I don’t think Sanders got all the way to the NBA without having a love and passion for the game. Just because he doesn’t want to have to live by rules that don’t really effect the game, but just limit his decisions as an adult, doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to play basketball. It means he doesn’t like being told how to live his life.

I have no idea what Sanders goals in life are; maybe his goal was simply to make enough money to retire early, so he wouldn’t have to punish his body excessively, and live a comfortable life, free from financial worries. And if that indeed is true, then he’s achieved it. We envision that every NBA players sole ambition in life is to be a champion, but not everyone has the same mindset.

However, if he does indeed feel like donning an NBA jersey again and become a dominant defensive force, he certainly has an open path ahead of him to do so. Anyone who dismisses Larry Sanders as unable to land another major contract must not pay attention to how things like this play out; in fact, I believe this is the best possible situation for Sanders from a long-term financial perspective.

His current contract had him making $11million a year until the summer of 2018; while that is good money, it is still below other player extensions his age, such as Klay Thompson making $15 million, up to $18 million, over the life of his contract. With the salary cap set to explode in the summer of 2016, this is the perfect window of opportunity for Sanders to get paid handsomely if he indeed decides he wants to focus on basketball for the next few years.

If he indeed does want to maximize his NBA earning potential, this is how I see it working out. Right now he can sign for the minimum with a playoff team in the West. and if he gets with the right squad to makes it at least the Western Conference finals, and be a significant factor in them getting there, he won’t have a problem getting a decent one-year deal from a team. Most teams are trying to lock in long-term deals this summer, as they’ll look cost-efficient and smart after the cap soars, but with Sanders ‘history’, those same teams will be fine with giving him a one-year contract to see if he can be consistent for them.

Of course he’ll have to prove it through hard-work, consistent play, and staying out of trouble with the league; but if he comes back next year focused and determined, come next summer he will have no shortage of suitors will an abundance of cap space. At least one of them will offer him a deal that surpasses that one he originally signed with the Bucks, with him being a 28-year old center with defensive prowess. Oh yeah, and he’ll still have checks coming in from the Bucks thanks to the buyout.

From one young man to another, I sincerely hope that Larry Sanders finds balance in his life; not so I can watch him play in the NBA again, but because I know how difficult it can be to find that balance in life. Perhaps he has; I don’t know him and don’t pretend to understand what he’s gone through, or where he wants to go. What I do know is that he has a unique opportunity to make more money then he likely will be able to through any other avenue that will ever be available to him. Money isn’t everything, but the things you can do and lives you can impact through money is important.

If there’s one quote that has stuck with me through the years, it’s this one: Potential has an expiration date. Honestly, from this whole debacle, the only thing I fear for Sanders is that he may not utilize his physical potential to the fullest over the next few years, and will decide that he wants to be back in the NBA too late. I just don’t want him to have any regrets about his decision, because the lifespan of a NBA career is so short and fleeting.

What I’m most curious about, is what does he plan to do in the next five years or so? It sounds great to sit back and be retired early, but everyone needs something to do, especially when you’re young and active and have energy to burn. I’d love to hear what other goals outside of basketball he wants to pursue long-term, because that would help me understand where he’s coming from.

If he decides to sacrifice, he could use the proceeds from that efforts to help enact the change sees fit. That could be as simple as donating to charities, financially backing friends and families investment opportunities, or even buying his own land and growing his own marijuana to distribute to medical patients at low/no cost.

He could turn this situation around and stick it in the leagues face if he wants to. Imagine if Larry Sanders decided to re-join the NBA, and he’s able to use his popularity and funding to help accelerate the legalization of marijuana! Just because he’s unable to smoke while playing, there’s nothing against him advocating and supporting it. In fact, he could be the driving force behind convincing the league to change their policies.

I think it’s will be best in the long run if he can tough through the next five or so years, in order to enrich the lives of millions of people through having a loud, public voice to advocate for athletes who use marijuana. The laws are being changed every year in various states in regards to marijuana, it’s about time the league does too.

But what I think is best doesn’t mean it’s what Sanders thinks is best. Perhaps he is indeed done with basketball, having made enough money to live comfortably for the rest of his life. Maybe he has other plans in store for his future, ones that don’t jibe with the 82-game schedule and constant training needed to stay in shape. Whatever his decision ends up being, I hope that he makes it after deep consideration of his options, and that he is at peace with whatever it is he ends up doing.

People who dream about playing in the NBA like to push their desires onto people they’ve never even met; they disparage them for not being wholly obsessed with basketball. Derrick Rose was subject to criticism when he talked about his health long-term, and how he doesn’t want to be limping in meeting or when playing with his kids after his career is done. People were seriously questioning his determination or work-ethic because he had the audacity to concern himself about his quality-of-life past basketball.

I can understand the frustration of people taking shots at you for simply living your life the way you see is best. I have no allusions to being some guru in the life of Larry Sanders. What I do know is that the Declaration of Independence states that we are all granted the unalienable right to “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”, not the pursuit of money. It’s funny how easily people get those two mixed up.

 

(The above was written prior to Larry Sanders releasing his explanation video on The Players Tribune. I decided to leave it in-tact for posterity, and write my reactions below)

 

After listening to Larry Sanders explain himself in his video on The Players Tribune, I feel like I wasn’t too far off with him. The questions I had were things that I knew I couldn’t understand without hearing it from him, and it makes perfect sense that the stress of the life of being a professional basketball player could be overwhelming. Like I said before, people tend to assume that just because they would love it and can handle it, that every person who actually makes it should automatically be the same way.

We are all people, and just because cameras are on you and you get paid more than most people doesn’t change that fact. He worked as hard as anyone to get to be where he is, and he simply decided that enough was enough for now. Part of why people try to get rich is to be free to make their own decisions, and he was simply exercising that right. If playing in the NBA isn’t making him happy, and he rather pursue his original passions, he now has a solid financial foundation to do so, while providing for his family.

Really, what else do you want from life? I’ll reiterate what I said before; the only thing that has to be in consideration is the fact that the window of being paid handsomely for playing basketball is relatively short, so this decision must be made with that in mind. I already outlined how he could potentially still come out on top financially. Sometimes all we need to do is take some time to step back, pursue other interests, and then you can come back to whatever it is you were doing and finish strong. Taking a year or two off might be all he really needs, or maybe he’s done. I guess we’ll all have to sit back and find out.

I can easily tell from the video that he is quite at ease with his decision, and that’s all that matters in the end. I wish you the best of luck in whatever you decide to do, and if your ever in LA, I’d love to play a game or two with you!

One Response

  1. John

    I think larry Sanders threw away his career! Weed is cool but theres a place and a time for everything, right?

    Reply

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