Some athletes tell journalists of their belief in God. Larry Sanders of the Milwaukee Bucks proclaims his belief in ganja.
“I believe in marijuana,” Sanders told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. The NBA believes in suspending players who practice what they preach on that score. So, last week, Sanders received a five-game suspension from the league. Given that the fourth-year center/power forward has missed more than two-thirds of the season, five days to play Xbox instead of basketball shouldn’t be much different than any other five days in the life of Larry Sanders. The days tend to get lost in the haze. Pass the Doritos and turn up Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots.
The Bucks’ league-worst 14-63 record appears as a hallucination in the newspaper standings. When readers wake up to its reality, questions naturally arise about what performance-inhibiting drug could make the Milwaukee Bucks play like the Washington Generals. Even for the Philadelphia 76ers, who tied a league-record 26 losses in a row, out-flopping the Bucks has proved as an exercise in futility. Next time, just put LSD in the Gatorade.
“It’s something I feel strongly about, just to let you know something personal about me,” Sanders told the Journal-Sentinel. “I will deal with the consequences from it. It’s a banned substance in my league. But I believe in marijuana and the medical side of it. I know what it is if I’m going to use it.”
Sanders surely isn’t the first athlete to use drugs. Dock Ellis pitched a no-hitter tripping on acid. Golfer John Daly maintained in a 2010 interview with the Charlotte Observer, “I played better when I was drunk.”
But Sanders doesn’t compete with body-by-Budweiser guys. He plays among some of the most gifted physical specimens on the planet. It’s one thing to decry the intrusiveness of testing for a substance legal in several states. It’s another to indulge the delusion that a drug known to award man-breasts to its chronic users somehow unleashes myriad health advantages. “I study it and I know the benefits it has,” he insists. “In a lot of ways we’ve been deprived. You can’t really label it with so many other drugs that people can be addicted to and have so many negative effects on your body and your family and your relationships and impairment. This is not the same thing.”
Sanders studies it. Most just smoke it.
Another oft-injured six-foot-eleven player, Bill Walton, sang the medicinal virtues of cannabis. “He said that a certain doctor had said that the use of marijuana could help his knees,” UCLA coach John Wooden recalled. “I said, ‘Bill, I’m no doctor, but I only need to know one thing. That’s against the law.”
Sanders understands that part. “The stigma is that it’s illegal–I hate that,” Sanders offered. “Once this becomes legal, this all will go away. But I understand for my work it’s a banned substance.”
When you win an NBA championship, compete in a season’s slate of games, and play up to your first-round potential, that might be a good time to announce your 4:20-friendly stance. Doing so in the midst of the most horrible season in franchise history just reinforces the cultural attitudes the Bucks big man seeks to dispel.
Put another way, people will listen to your theories when you’re Larry Bird. When you’re Larry Sanders, they just laugh.