(CBS Local)– Former Milwaukee Bucks center Larry Sanders never planned to play professional basketball.
Sanders didn’t start playing hoops until he was 15 years old and was interested in things like oceanography and architecture while growing up. Despite the late start in basketball, Sanders became a first round pick of the Milwaukee Bucks in 2010. After five seasons in the NBA, Sanders walked away from basketball. While the former center violated the league’s drug policy multiple times for smoking marijuana, Sanders wants to make it clear why he was done with basketball before the age of 30.
“I could feel the effects it [marijuana] was having on my body, on my sleep and pain in comparison to the pills I was given” said Sanders in an interview with CBS Local’s DJ Sixsmith. “As a scientist, I knew what helped and what worked. It always came down to legalities. I felt like I was in the pre-historic age where we were still in this discovery mode. It sucks that people are still suffering when there are solutions out there that are deemed illegal because of some stigma.
I had to take chances with my health and I knew there were risks involved. There are other risks bigger than a fine like reconstructing my brain chemistry by taking a pill. I understood the stigma. The NBA has an identity issue. The overall identity of the NBA is still trying to be controlled by the owners. Marijuana is not why I left the league. Honestly, I would have just been in the league smoking weed if I wanted to stay in the league,” said Sanders. “It did cast a negative shadow and it did make it a lot harder to just play basketball.”
During his time in the NBA, Sanders played for former Chicago Bulls head coach Scott Skiles and got the opportunity to see a young Giannis Antetokounmpo develop. The former center’s best season came in year three of his professional career during the 2012-2013 season when he was third in the voting for Most Improved Player. Sanders ended up securing a $44 million extension as a result in 2013.
“I played with Brandon Jennings, Monte Ellis, Drew Gooden, Keyon Dooling, Andrew Bogut and I had great teammates,” said Sanders. “The fans are dope in Milwaukee and they are longtime fans. It was good to be a part of that community and they really took me in. I felt like I was really a part of the Milwaukee community. There was always a Larry chant. It really felt like I was coming to see my people every day. It was good.”
While Sanders had some great moments on the court, his next chapter off the court has been even better. The former Bucks center is an entrepreneur who has dabbled in music and fashion and even bought a house on the West Coast as an incubator for artists to develop their creative projects
“As soon as I left, I really started to take production seriously and producing seriously. I built a studio in my crib,” said Sanders. “I had an artist incubator. I had a photographer, a screenwriter and a fashion designer. We all collectively did work and I helped them individually. All those guys are thriving now and in better situations. All of those guys were pretty much homeless before then and I met three of the guys in Milwaukee. During that time I was able to produce with Drake’s producer PARTYNEXTDOOR and created my own clothing line. I wrote a couple of TV shows, a movie and a book. I’m in the midst of trying to get that stuff off the ground. I just like being creative.”
Watch all of DJ Sixsmith’s interviews from “The Sit-Down” series here.