Sixteen months ago, Larry Sanders walked away from the NBA and $27 million. There wasn’t one singular reason that led Sanders away from the NBA, but the 27-year-old center has dealt with depression and anxiety in the past. Having been away from the game for almost two seasons, Sanders is ready to make his way back to the NBA, but on his own terms. “It’s not that worth it,” Sanders said about basketball during a video for the Players’ Tribune back in 2015.
Now, in the summer of 2016, Sanders’ mindset hasn’t really changed, but he’s ready to begin to try and balance playing basketball with everything else that he’s interested in, which includes making music, painting, and just having a peace of mind. “There are parts of the game that really turned me away,” Sanders explained to Complex by phone. “But there are always parts of the game that I will always love and that’s why I still play the game now. A situation where an understanding team allowed me to invest in my other passions in life, now I’m bringing all of that with me and I feel there may be a home for that.”
Outside of basketball, Sanders has already started up his own company and spent plenty of time in studios working on new music for himself and with other artists. “I think now I can explore the thought of dedicating my time and effort to a team with all of my other things in the works,” Sanders said. With all of his other passions— a clothing line, music, and directing—taking off over the past year, Sanders now believes he can balance it all with a return to the NBA. Part of the reason Sanders walked away in the first place was because he was worried he would have to wait to pursue his other interests when he was much older.
That fear may have paid off in the long run for Sanders, as he now has his other ventures in order and can balance that with a revived career in the NBA. “I feel like I’m moving toward that space,” Sanders conveyed. Even with the indication that Sanders is heavily leaning toward a return to the NBA this season, he did warn that it’s not a 100 percent lock that he plays in 2016. “If I can be more balanced outside of basketball, I think I can be an even better player, honestly.”
Of course, an NBA return for Sanders also requires interest from a team, though a source close to Sanders indicated that teams have inquired about his services. Teams that are reportedly interested include the Los Angeles Lakers and defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers, though officials from those teams did not respond to Complex’s request for comment. On Saturday night, Sanders stirred up a storm on Twitter when he tweeted out separate pictures of a group of Warriors and a Cavalier, which led fans to think that Sanders was close to choosing his new team.
While Sanders is leaning toward a return to the NBA, it’s currently unclear when he will actually sign with a team. On Wednesday, ESPN reporter Ethan Strauss reported that the Golden State Warriors tossed around the idea of adding Sanders, but ultimately decided against it. Still very young and with a skill set that is much-needed in the NBA today, it likely won’t take long for Sanders to find his new match in the league.
“I want to be in the right place mentally, and they deserve that,” Sanders said. “The team and the fans deserve that and it will be a situation where I feel completely safe, the team feels completely safe and we’re ready to rock ‘n’ roll. I’m not going to go to a situation with one foot in and one out. It would be a fully committed thing with no pressure.” As far as his motivations to play professional basketball again, Sanders said that it has nothing to do with money, but rather, with the quest to win a championship.
With his eyes on a return, Sanders is finally in a space where he can fully embrace who he is outside of an athlete. In the long run, that’s exactly how he will be truly happy and make the most of his upcoming NBA comeback. You can watch the debut of Sanders’ new music video above.