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Tyrell Terry’s NBA Retirement at 22 is a Reminder That Athletes Aren’t Machines

Tyrell Terry announced his retirement from the NBA just two years after he was drafted, due to the “anxiety this sport has caused me.”

For many athletes, retirements come with bittersweet celebrations—the melancholy from reflecting on the highlights of one’s long career, all while knowing that the story is coming to an end. And usually, the end comes with age.

But Tyrell Terry’s retirement from the NBA tells a different story.

On Thursday, the 2020 NBA first-round pick announced that he would be retiring through a post on Instagram.

“Today I decided to let go of the game that has formed a large part of my identity,” Terry wrote in the caption. “Something that has guided my path since I took my first steps. While I have achieved amazing accomplishments, created unforgettable memories, and made lifelong friends…I’ve also experienced the darkest times of my life.”

A budding career

Tyrell Terry was the 31st overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. After playing just one season with Stanford during his University days, where he averaged 14.7 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 3.2 assists, he was drafted by the Dallas Mavericks.

Following the draft, the 6’2 guard only went on to appear in 11 games with the Mavs. At the time, he already hinted at his mental health struggles after explaining to reporters that his missed time on the court was due to “some mental health stuff that runs in my family.”

After his rookie season, Dallas released Terry. He was later picked up by the Memphis Grizzlies, who offered him a two-way deal. This gave him the opportunity to shift between the professional team and the G-League.

However, Terry only ended up appearing in two games for Memphis. As for the G-League, he played in 29 games with the Memphis Hustle.

Now, he has decided that his time in professional basketball is up.

Tyrell Terry precluded his retirement announcement by saying, “This message is a very difficult one to share and an emotional one to write.”

The 22-year-old went on to explain that despite the fond memories and accomplishments he made, he also experienced “the darkest times of my life.” Throughout his brief career, he shared that he would question his self-value. He would wake up feeling nauseous and struggle to take normal breaths, all because of the weight that he carried in his chest.

Honoring his truth

Anxiety among athletes is not uncommon. Though many may not be open to talking about it, a review from 2019 suggests around 30% to 60% of athletes experience what they refer to as sports performance anxiety.

“While I’m grateful for every door it has opened for me, I can’t continue this fight any longer for something I have fallen out of love with,” he wrote in his announcement.

“To most, I will be forever known as a bust, a failure, or a waste of talent,” he continued. “While those may be true when it comes to basketball, it is the biggest failures in life that lead to the greatest success. There is more for me out in this vast world and I am extremely excited to be able to explore that. And for the first time, to be able to find my identity outside of being a basketball player.

While he believes that some will see him as a failure, his story should only remind us that athletes are not machines and the successful are not exempt from struggles such as this.

Though it may be sad to see such a young talent leave the sport so early in his career, there is definitely a lot of strength in his decision to retire at his age.

Despite being in a position that many young athletes dream to be in, his choice to honor his struggles and walk down a different path in hopes of “being able to love myself again” is a courageous decision in itself.

Banner image from Tyrell Terry on Instagram.