Six-Year NBA Veteran Makes Surprising Decision to Leave NBA

One NBA player has decided to leave for his mental health.
Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Yuta Watanabe is one of the most recognizable Japanese NBA players in history. At one point throughout the 2022-23 NBA season, he was viewed as one of the best three-point shooters in the NBA. Unfortunately, those days are over now.

Watanabe revealed on Instagram Live that he will be leaving the NBA to play in Japan. When it came to reasons why, Watanabe stated that it was best for his mental health. The Japanese sharpshooter will decline his $2.6 million player option with the Memphis Grizzlies to play in Japan next season. Watanabe only played in five games for the Memphis Grizzlies, often missing games due to personal reasons.

Throughout Watanabe's 6-year NBA career, he played for the Memphis Grizzlies, Toronto Raptors, Brooklyn Nets, Phoenix Suns, and Memphis Grizzlies; he was arguably most popular while a member of the Raptors and Nets. He appeared in 213 career games in the NBA and was earning $2.3 million with the Memphis Grizzlies this season. Watanabe's career averages were 4.2 points, and 2.3 rebounds on 43/37/68 shooting.

It's very rare for a younger NBA player to decline millions of dollars to play overseas, so hopefully, whatever Watanabe is going through isn't too serious. His ability to space the floor from three is something that many NBA teams could definitely still use, so hopefully, Watanabe can find the solace he's looking for in Japan.

Farbod Esnaashari


12-year NBA veteran that's covered the league on Sports Illustrated, Forbes, Bleacher Report, and ESPN