Cannabis helped former NBA player Larry Sanders manage his mental health — and now it's part of his business portfolio. He explains how he's investing his time and money in the industry.

  • Larry Sanders, formerly of the Milwaukee Bucks, became a strategic advisor and investor for the Southern California cannabis oral spray brand CLICK in June.
  • Sanders said that cannabis was a huge part of his own mental health treatment while he was in the NBA, so joining the industry felt like a natural fit.
  • Sanders hopes to help CLICK develop its reputation as a lifestyle brand by building off his previous experience in basketball and business.
  • The company currently offers four sprays with THC and other compounds, from CBD to green tea extracts.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

There's been a growing trend over the last several years of former NBA players turning into cannabis entrepreneurs and advocates — consider early entrants Cliff "Uncle Spliffy" Robinson, who opened a weed store in Portland, OR, in 2016, and Al Harrington and his budding Viola Brands. 

A recent addition to this group is Larry Sanders, who signed on to become a strategic advisor and investor for the Southern California oral spray brand CLICK in June. 

For Sanders, the move from hardwood to the cannabis sector was inspired by his own mental health treatment, as well as a never-ceasing passion to learn and develop in all aspects of life. 

Walking away from a dream career to focus on mental health

In 2010, Larry Sanders was picked 15th overall by the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA draft. He would go on to serve as an integral component to a young Bucks squad — in August 2013, his impressive play was rewarded with a four-year, $44 million extension with the team. 

But by January 2015, Sanders would be out of the league and focused on his own wellbeing.

He told Business Insider that the decision to step away from his career came when the effects of his anxiety and depression began to take a physical toll, which included a lack of sleep and an overall feeling of his body breaking down.

"At that point, I knew I had to step away," Sanders said. He added that he hadn't been doing much for his mental wellness until this point. "I knew I had to take other measures to improve my health, physically and mentally, and cannabis was a big part of that," he said. 

Sanders tested positive for marijuana twice during NBA drug screenings in 2014. Knowing he couldn't wait to address the matter any longer, he retired midseason.

Cannabis and mental health were mentioned as factors in his departure from the NBA. Each helped generate criticism of Sanders early on, something for which he holds no grudge. "It's the unknown," Sanders said. "People really didn't know why I'm stepping away or what was going on with me. So people just made the assumption."

The assumptions began to fade in 2015, when he released a video through The Players' Tribune detailing his mental health condition and rationale behind retiring. Sanders touched on a myriad of points in the video, from how his happiness wasn't fueled by money to how cannabis came into his life later on as a medical option.

In the years since, Sanders reported that several players have spoken with him directly about mental health. Meanwhile, the league has begun to embrace mental health more than it had during Sanders' playing time. Those include more prominent and accepted stances taken by stars such as the Cleveland Cavaliers' Kevin Love and DeMar DeRozan of the San Antonio Spurs. 

The change in the league's mental health practices means a return to the NBA isn't entirely out of the question — Sanders briefly came back to the NBA in 2017 to play five games with the Cleveland Cavaliers — nor is a return to the 3-on-3 Big3 league, where he was drafted third overall in 2019.

But since his departure he's found himself delving into various entrepreneurial endeavors, including his most recent work with CLICK.

Creating a post-NBA life in cannabis

The time away from professional basketball coincided with a move to Los Angeles, which enhanced a desire to dive much deeper into business endeavors. While trying to grow his own brand, Sanders aimed to help other creatives hoping to make it. 

After dabbling in a clothing line during his playing days and starting an incubator, Citizens of Matter, as well as trying his hand at real estate, Sanders was presented with the opportunity to get involved with CLICK by former NBA colleague Omri Casspi, a global cannabis investor. The non-smoked, microdose spray piqued Sanders' interest as a cannabis smoker, and allowed him to treat himself without potentially exposing his three young children, aged between nine and three, to any smoke or aromas.

Sanders hopes to help CLICK develop its reputation as a lifestyle brand, building off his previous experience in basketball, art, and business. "Everyone involved in CLICK has an innovative mindset," Sanders said. "It's bigger than just a spray," he added. The company currently offers four sprays with THC and other compounds, from CBD to green tea extracts. 

Managing mental health as an entrepreneur means listening to yourself

While each person's mental health treatment can be unique, Sanders said that the key for him was listening to his body.

"If I get a little miserable or sad, it's because I'm bored," Sanders said. "I need to fill my time up with something."

One option over the years that worked for Sanders included shifts in his diet, like going meatless for a month or two. 

Another is learning new subjects. As of late, he's found relief and growth in studying Spanish and Mandarin Chinese, which he believes will benefit his life in all aspects. 

"I need to learn it," Sanders said. "I feel like it's gonna make me better in business."

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