What We Can Learn From 26-Year Old Larry Sanders’s Decision to Walk Away From $21MM of a $44MM NBA Contract


What can we learn from a 26-year old young man named Larry Sanders, who decided to walk away from a four-year $44 million NBA contract? Plenty. Mr. Sanders did not walk away with nothing, however, as his team, the Milwaukee Bucks, bought out his contract somewhere in a reported $13MM to $15MM range. Consequently, in total, Mr. Sanders will still receive about $23MM or so of his original $44 million contract. Still, what would make a man walk away from $21MM in the prime of his athletic career? Mr. Sanders himself provided the answer yesterday in a personal video he released. To begin, he revealed that he has been suffering from anxiety, depression and mood disorders. He said that in seeking treatment for his emotional problems, he learned “what’s important and where [he] wants to devote [his] time” and that basketball at this stage in his life was just “consuming so much of [his] life and time,” that for him, it wasn’t “worth it.” But it’s his further revelations that shed more light on his decision.


“This is seen to be a desirable, lucrative job and position (as an NBA player). So people say, ‘How could you be unhappy there?” Sanders continues. “Values and the relationships with the people I love around, that’s like my real riches…You come into the league and they drop this large amount of money, out of nowhere, and people automatically change around you…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. You really can’t say how you feel. There’s no one really trying to teach you what you should do and what you shouldn’t do.”


Interestingly enough, Sanders also revealed to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal in a recent interview that his real love was art but he never had a chance to pursue his passion because of the devotion that playing basketball required. “I like to stay creative,” Sanders said. “Creativity is the only thing you own. You don’t really own anything in this world but what you create. And our imagination is just endless.”


When people found out Sanders was walking away from $21MM, Sanders couldn’t believe the reaction of many to his decision: the crazy thing to me is that people are making it about the money. As a person who grew up with nothing, I know money is important. I’m incredibly grateful to have had the chance to play in the NBA. But at the same time, that’s not what fuels me. I’ve never chased money. It’s never been how I define success. Happiness isn’t behind a golden gate… I’ve had to make the difficult decision to follow my intuition, and allow myself the space and time to explore my true purpose in life.


Though people have criticized Sanders for being spoiled and not appreciating how blessed he is for having the luxury of making millions to play essentially a child’s game while millions of people are out of work in the United States, if one listens carefully to everything Sanders stated, these types of criticism ring hollow. Sanders acknowledges that he is incredibly blessed, yet he also acknowledges his dislike for people treating him like an ATM machine once he went from having nothing to having millions. He further expresses his inability to comprehend why most everyone always defines success by how much money one earns. Because Sanders does not define success by the size of his bank account, because Sanders understands the value of not being controlled by a stifling organization like the NBA that censors one’s speech, because Sanders wants to pursue a love of art that is unfulfilled, and because Sanders desires to find his true purpose in life which he already knows is not to make millions to play a child’s game, people want to criticize Sanders for not sharing the same values they share. Seems to me that Larry Sanders has it right and most of us have it all wrong.


I say congratulations to Mr. Sanders for swimming against the current and not doing something just because everyone else wants him to do it. In the end only Mr. Sanders knows what’s going to make him happy and he’s off to a solid start by walking away from basketball. So what do Sanders’s comments have to do with global finance? In my opinion, the dots to connect these two topics do not reside as far apart as most people likely initially think. Given the global recession afflicting all populated continents on this planet at the current time, many people are struggling just to make ends meet. When one is struggling just to make ends meet, people often dwell in misery because they force themselves to take jobs they hate just to pay the bills. At the opposite end of the spectrum, many people stay in high-paying jobs they hate to keep up appearances of “success” not just because they fear being unable to find another job that pays as much as they currently earn, but also because they truly fear what other people will think. At one end of the spectrum there are people dwelling in misery, and at the other end, there are people paralyzed by fear, but is either condition really any more desirable than the other? I would say not, though again most people would state that they would rather be earning millions and hate their life rather than earning close to nothing and hate their life.


And regarding the ridiculous level of importance to which those in power have successfully elevated sports in society specifically to keep people distracted from real issues in life, those in power have to be absolutely dancing in glee that they have been able to transform professional sports into modern day Roman Gladiator games that keep the masses distracted from the truth about their exploits (specifically the truth about the modern day banking system) and allows them to control the masses. The evidence of their success in using sports as a tool of distraction is all around us, from the ridiculous amount of money commentators at ESPN.com receive to discuss sports as if it is the most important topic in the world while people remain oblivious of threats of a potential war between Russia and the United States, to the fact that people get in heated arguments on a daily basis about sporting events or athletes, to the moronic death threats fans send to professional athletes and to umpires they deem “responsible” for their team’s loss in a child’s game (see Green Bay Packers Brandon Bostick receives death threats, MLB Umpire Jim Joyce receives death threats). And it doesn’t even stop there. In sporting matches across the world,  horrific deaths have directly resulted from disagreements on futbol fields (see Otávio Jordan da Silva de Catanhede, Linda dos Santos Abreu and futbol referee all murdered during futbol match over game dispute) and sports addiction has caused mental illnesses among many sports fans (see Alistair McGowen: Football Cost Me My Partner, Ronnie Ancona).  A quick Google search of such incidents reveals that these are not isolated incidents but all too common in the world of sports. If we all just devoted 1% of the energy we waste in arguing about sports to learning the truth about the immoral and criminal modern day global banking system, we would all refuse to accept our current banking system under any conditions, we would be well on our way to replacing it with an honest banking platform, and we would be off to a great start to solving global poverty not 10 years from now, but by the end of this week, not to mention the fact that the entire world would be happier as a consequence of these actions.


But the question very few people ask that Mr. Sanders has not only asked himself, but also forced himself to answer, is this: “Is there a better question I can ask that will provide me with a better solution to my dilemma?”  I believe there is, it is this, and Larry Sanders has already discovered it. The question is, “What is my purpose in life?”  If everyone found their purpose in life, from the people just scraping to get by that hate their jobs to the people that dwell in excess that hate their jobs, 99% of all people would find that their purpose in life contributes, instead of detracts, from the happiness and quality of life of their fellow human beings. The 1% of the population that are currently psychopaths would not. However, would not most people in this world support an endeavor that makes others happy and improves the quality of life of people in their community? Currently, this generation is the “lost generation”, a generation whose quality of lives are worse than our parents. So there is an enormous amount of room for growth and expansion in the “contributing to a better quality of life for all of humanity” sector of the global market. And if we all took the time to discover our purpose in life (and I assure you it’s not to gather as much crap as we can to show off to our friends before we die) and actually took steps to pursue our purpose, everyone would be much happier in this world, even those that dwell on the extreme outliers of the socio-economic spectrum. I truly believe that.



About the author: JS Kim is the Founder & Managing Director of maalamalama, a fiercely independent research, consulting and education firm that helps Main Street beat the fraud of Wall Street. JS’s purpose in life is to help humanity re-establish an honest banking system based upon gold, and only gold, as money, that would reintroduce honesty back into backing, re-level the playing field for everyone, and end the criminality and fraud in our banking system that keeps billions oppressed, poor and dwelling in poverty. Follow us on YouTube and at www.maalamalama.com

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