Why Did Larry Sanders, Only 26, Reject Millions and Quit the NBA?

Larry Sanders needs more than money and basketball to feel complete. That’s not the way he defines success in life. So he chooses to walk away from it.

Larry Sanders doesn’t see success as money or as basketball.

It must be a tough decision for any person faced with the draws of fame and money. Perhaps the stresses behind the spotlight were overwhelming. The things he had to give up for success didn’t suit him.

Larry Sanders

Larry Sanders jumps for the opening tip against the Washington Wizards. (Image: “Larry Sanders Emeka Okafor” by Keith AllisonFlickr: Larry Sanders, Emeka Okafor. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

After being drafted by the NBA in 2010, his game steadily improved with the Milwaukee Bucks. Sanders was then offered a $44 million dollar contract extension in 2013, to stay with the Bucks for another 4 years.

But things started to spiral downward that same year. Sanders injured his hand in a violent altercation off the court. And in 2014 he sustained a fracture to a bone in his face on the court. His return to action was then delayed further after NBA testing for marijuana use. The Bucks ultimately bought out the rest of his contract and waived him from the team.

Larry Sanders dunk

Larry Sanders throws down a dunk. (Image: “Larry Sanders dunking” by Keith AllisonFlickr: Larry Sanders. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

But Larry Sanders’ ultimate decision to not return to the NBA, along with his personal unhappiness, stemmed from the loss of control he felt. He didn’t like the way people around him changed with his success, and he saw the limitations on self-expression that come with being in the public eye.

I feel that Larry Sanders is leaving the NBA because there are more things he’d like to do. He also wants to build meaningful relationships in life and understand himself better. You can’t argue with the man for that. What good is having money if you haven’t found purpose? He’s giving himself the time and space to explore the more existential questions in life, the things that don’t come with a price tag.

Take a look at some highlights from his time on the court:

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