Larry Sanders and Bucks Part Ways


I’m a person. I’m a father. I’m an artist, I’m a writer, I’m a painter, I’m a musician. And sometimes I play basketball.[1]

Milwaukee Bucks & Larry Sanders | Sport$BizLarry Sanders (“Sanders”), a 6’11” center from Virginia Commonwealth University, was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round (15 pick) in the 2010 NBA draft. While, Sanders appeared in sixty (60) games in the 2010/2011 campaign, fifty-two (52) games in the 2011/2012 campaign, and seventy-one (71) games in the 2012/2013 campaign, of late his appearances have been sparse (2013/2014 – 23 games, 2014/2015 – 27 games). While Sanders statistics are not overwhelming, he has been one of the leaders in the league in technical fouls and ejections.

On August 20, 2013, Sanders signed a four year, $44 million contract extension with the Bucks. Unfortunately in December of 2014, Sanders was sidelined for 25 games after sustaining a torn ligament in his thumb in a nightclub altercation. Sanders was fined for two municipal citations of disorderly conduct and assault and battery charges, but police did not pursue further criminal charges.[2]

On March 20, 2014, it was announced that Sanders would miss the rest of the 2013/2014 season due to a fractured right orbital bone.[3] On April 4, 2014, Sanders was given a five game suspension for violating the NBA’s drug policy after testing positive for marijuana.[4] Sanders again violated the NBA’s drug policy in the 2014/2015 season, and was subsequently suspended without pay for a minimum of ten games on January 16, 2015.[5]

As previously suggested, Sanders has a history of technical fouls, ejections and NBA fines. Through all of his shenanigans, Sanders has become one of the NBA all time hotheads. There have been charges of animal cruelty and missed time for “personal reasons.”[6]

Larry Sanders’ roller-coaster stint in Milwaukee finally came to an end. Sanders and the Bucks have reached a buyout agreement that will erase the three years remaining on his contract. It has been reported that the Bucks will pay Sanders between $13-$15 million dollars of the $33 million he is still owed after this season. Article 2, Section 4 of the NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement (Compensation Protection) addresses when players are compensated in the event of lack of skill, death, basketball related injury, injury, illness, or mental disability. Most NBA contracts are guaranteed, and one must presume that Sanders has guaranteed protection for mental disability. Therefore, he would have had some leverage with the Bucks relative to continued payment. The Bucks on the other hand probably would have taken the position that Sanders situation was simply a failure to perform services, i.e. the result of a resolution in the form of a buyout.

The Bucks will utilize the stretch provision of the Collective Bargaining Agreement to lessen the impact to their salary cap. However, Sanders will remain on the books for seven seasons, but at a greatly reduced cap number.[7] Under the 2011 NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement an automatic stretch provision helping teams who waived players was implemented. The Automatic Stretch provision provides:

(1)   For contracts signed on or after December 9, 2011, the salary of waived players will be “stretched” for cash purposes such that the player’s remaining protected compensation would be paid over twice the number of remaining contract years plus one year. However, if a request for waivers is made on or after September 1, the player’s salary for the current season will continue to be paid in accordance with the payment schedule set forth in his contract, and salary for future seasons will be stretched.

(2)   Instead of the usual Salary Cap treatment, the waiving team may elect to have the waived player’s salary follow the stretched cash allocation, except that a team may not stretch a waived player’s salary for Salary Cap purposes if the portion of total team salary attributable to all of the team’s waived players in any future season would exceed 15% of the Salary Cap in effect during the season in which the player is waived.

After two months, we may finally be seeing the bigger picture as to the whereabouts of Larry Sanders. On February 25, 2015, Sanders told his story through a video published by The Players’ Tribune. In his own words:

Well, I know I disappeared for a while, and people were wondering where I was. I actually entered into Rogers Memorial Hospital, and it was a program for anxiety, depression and mood disorders. It taught me a lot about myself. It taught me a lot about what’s important and where I would want to devote my time and energy[8].

While this does not excuse his behavior, it does give some insight into what was going on with Sanders. Anxiety and depression are often companions and the most common mental illnesses affecting Americans. Even with the commonality, however, only about one-third of those with complaints seek treatment.[9] Each and every case is different and each and every case has to be treated within the scope of that one patient. There is no cure-all, no magic bullet to alleviate all symptoms for all who suffer. Many self-medicate.

Sanders also described the atmosphere he was thrown into:

You come into the league, you get dropped this large amount of money out of nowhere. People automatically change around you. That just happens. You become an ATM to some people. You have to be correct in your statements. You have to state things a certain way. You give up your freedom of speech, for real. You really can’t say how you feel. There’s no one really, you know, trying to guide, teach you what you should do and shouldn’t do.[10]

One can hope that the new owners of the Bucks take this heart and help guide incoming players or work to find them assistance they need, work to keep them in touch and on track, help them find better outlets for their frustration than on the courts or in the bars.

For a young man, in such a prestigious job, to seek help and be forthcoming about where he’s been and what’s been going on, is nothing short of courageous. For Sanders to acknowledge the need for help and actually seek it out, shows wisdom beyond his 24 years.

We hope that Sanders find what he needs and think he’s made a great start down a new road. He’s secured his family’s future for the time being, and he’s come to realize what’s most important to him:

I think this seems to be a desirable, lucrative job and position, so people say, ‘How could you be unhappy there? How could that be a place you don’t want to be?’ […] Values and the relationships with the people I love — that’s, like, my real riches. That’s my lasting wealth. […] Happiness is an internal thing.[11]


[1] Devine, Dan, “Larry Sanders explains his exit from the NBA: ‘Right now […] it’s not there for me,’ February 25, 2015,—right-now——-it-s-not-there-for-me-181808329.html

[2] Weitzman, Yaron, “Larry Sanders, Bucks agree to contract buyout, according to report,” February 21, 2015,

[3] Associated Press, “Bucks’ Larry Sanders Out for Season,” March 20, 2014,

[4] Ziller, Tom, “Larry Sanders, like most Americans, thinks weed should be legal,” April 5, 2014,

[5] Devin, Dan, “Buck’s Larry Sanders suspended 10 games for another violation of league drug policy,” January 16, 2015,–larry-sanders-suspended-10-games-for-another-violation-of-league-drug-policy-223028192.html

[6] Chouinard, KL, “Larry Sanders is out for personal reasons,” January 2, 2015,

[7] Helin, Kurt, “It’s official: Bucks reach buyout deal with Larry Sanders,” February 22, 2015,

[8] Devine, Dan, “Larry Sanders explains his exit from the NBA: ‘Right now […] it’s not there for me,’ February 25, 2015,—right-now——-it-s-not-there-for-me-181808329.html

[9] Anxiety and Depression Association of America, Facts and Statistics,

[10] Devine, Dan, “Larry Sanders explains his exit from the NBA: ‘Right now […] it’s not there for me,’ February 25, 2015,—right-now——-it-s-not-there-for-me-181808329.html

[11] Id.