Prior to injuries and suspensions, Larry Sanders appeared to be a budding defensive star in the NBA. The VCU product and 15th overall pick in 2010 didn’t truly breakout until his junior year in professional basketball. In the 2012-13 season, Sanders nearly tripled his points per game from the previous season, averaged just under 10 rebounds per game, and swatted about three shots per game all while shooting 50 percent from the field. It seemed like the Milwaukee Bucks’ project at center had finally come to fruition, and the organization felt confident enough in Sanders to reward him with a four year contract worth $44 million. However, that quickly appeared to be a mistake after Sanders missed more than a quarter of the following season with a thumb injury he sustained while in a fight at a nightclub. Later that season, Sanders suffered a fractured right orbital bone, and it was announced he would miss the rest of the campaign. Sanders was later suspended twice by the NBA for testing positive for marijuana, and in his final two seasons with the Bucks, he only played in 50 games. In 2015, the Bucks bought out Sanders’ contract. After that season, Sanders announced he would be taking a leave from basketball, and it appeared that the then 27-year old talented big man was done for good.
Just days after Sanders’ release by the Bucks, a video surfaced of him explaining that he was entering rehab and enrolling in a program to help treat anxiety, depression, and mood disorders. He said that the program led him to realize “what’s important, and where I would want to devote my time and energy” and that ultimately he realized that “for [basketball] 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 did, however, reiterate his love for the game and said that if he felt capable to play again, he would.
In his time away from basketball, Sanders devoted himself to getting healthy and right with the law. He even took time to start his rapping career which, if you ask me, isn’t that bad. Really, just YouTube “L8Show” and you’ll find some sick beats. Sanders’ time away from the game hopefully gave him a new sense of self-worth, and his newest contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers should do nothing but add to that.
On March 13, Sanders signed with the Cavs after Andrew Bogut, another former Buck, broke his leg just two minutes into his Cleveland debut. Sanders has been on a D-League assignment in Canton for most of his tenure with the Cavs, but if all goes well, he should be a contributing piece to their championship run this spring.
Larry Sanders was one of the most entertaining personalities the Milwaukee Bucks had possessed in a very long time. He was fierce on the glass, could throw down, and was never afraid to talk trash to officials, opponents, or fans. I was saddened to see Sanders go, despite his antics. He was just a fun player to watch. You couldn’t ever expect him to drop 30 points or shoot the lights out, but that wasn’t his game. He was an elite defender and rebounder–what every team wants their center to be. His journey back to that level will be a challenge, no doubt. And even though Sanders will be playing alongside LeBron James, a Bucks killer, I will be cheering for him every step of the way.