“Too many people are unhappy with life,” says Larry Sanders, the former Milwaukee Bucks center who, instead of commiserating with his old teammates about the recent end of their brief playoff run, is sitting in a Complex conference room overlooking midtown Manhattan. His hands are about a foot apart, palms facing each other. An audience that includes his wife, two publicists, a team of photographers, and me focuses on him. He looks at the space between his hands: “You pan out—I start talking and rambling—you pan out, you pan out and you look at life and, like, man, this timeline, these certain elements, how we lived for this certain time, and then, all of sudden—boom.”

There’s a story unfolding in Sanders’ head that he’s trying to put into words. “Automobiles,” “electricity,” a three-century era of technological progress that, for him, feels like too much, too soon: “We just exploded in time, and now we’re in this point where we’ve been living this way for, what, 300 years almost, not even that,” he says. “People have displaced emotions, anxieties; they need to create. That’s what we come from. We’d lived that way for 15 million years. Now, it’s this 300-year span, and everyone’s working, unfortunately.”

It’s funny to hear from someone who is just 26 years old and technically retired. On February 26, after playing just 27 games of the 2014–15 season, Sanders left the NBA. He had recently entered himself into the Rogers Memorial Hospital in Milwaukee to receive treatment for a mood disorder, anxiety, and depression—issues which, in the past, he has tied to his turbulent upbringing. Many congratulated Sanders for making the tough and unconventional decision to walk away, even at the steep financial cost attached to his choice. Others criticized him for the money left on the table—$27 million, to be exact—along with who knows how much in potential future contracts and endorsement deals. A handful of cynics readied us for the slow, post-spotlight decline, the stories of bankruptcy and drug-related arrests to come.