Latrell Sprewell will be known for playing hard on the court but will also be best known for chokiing then Golden State Warriors P. J. Carlesimo during Warrior practice.
Sprewell was suspended for 10 games without pay. The next day, in the wake of a public uproar, the Warriors voided the remainder of his contract, which included $23.7 million over three years, and the NBA suspended him for one year. Sprewell took the case to arbitration, and, as a result, the contract voiding was overturned and the league suspension was reduced to the remaining 68 games of the season.
Due to the NBA lockout, Sprewell did not play again until February 1999, after the Warriors traded him to the New York Knicks for John Starks, Chris Mills and Terry Cummings. Sprewell played 37 games for the Knicks that season; all but four off the bench.
New York shocked the NBA as they navigated past the Miami Heat, Atlanta Hawks, and finally the Indiana Pacers en route to becoming the first eighth seeded team to make it to the NBA Finals, where they met the San Antonio Spurs. They eventually succumbed to the Spurs in 5 games, though Sprewell enjoyed a good series for the most part, averaging 26.0 ppg. He tallied 35 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the Knicks’ 78-77 Game 5 loss. He was featured on the cover of the September 1999 issue of SLAM Magazine.
Sprewell moved into the Knicks starting line up for the 1999-2000 season at small forward, and averaged 18.6 points. The Knicks gave him a five-year/$62-million contract extension.
Sprewell made his only All-Star appearance for the Knicks in 2001, scoring 7 points off the bench. In 2001-02, Sprewell averaged 19.4 ppg, including 49 points in a game against the Boston Celtics, one of three times he scored 40 or more points that season.
However, prior to the 2002 season, Sprewell reported to training camp with a broken hand, which he claimed occurred when he slipped on his yacht; the Knicks fined him a record $250,000 for failing to report the incident to them. Sprewell sued the New York Post for claiming that he broke his hand in a fight.
In 2003, Sprewell made NBA history as he connected 9 of 9 from the three-point arc, making the most three pointers without a single miss en route to a season-high 38 points versus the Los Angeles Clippers. The record has since been tied by then-Chicago Bulls guard Ben Gordon and broken by Nuggets guard Ty Lawson, who made 10 threes without missing in a game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. After the season, Sprewell was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves in a four-team trade involving Keith Van Horn, Glenn Robinson, and Terrell Brandon.
During that regular season, Sprewell became part of the league’s highest-scoring trio, alongside Kevin Garnett and point guard Sam Cassell. Sprewell helped the team earn the first seed in the Western Conference playoffs as they navigated past the Denver Nuggets in five quick games and Sacramento Kings in seven tough hard fought games in the first two rounds of the playoffs, but Minnesota’s franchise-record playoff run drew to an end when they were defeated by the Los Angeles Lakers in 6 games in the Western Conference Finals. Sprewell finished second in team scoring, pacing at 19.9 ppg behind Garnett’s 24.0 ppg.
On October 31, 2004, the Minnesota Timberwolves offered Sprewell a 3-year, $21 million contract extension, substantially less than what his then-current contract paid him. Claiming to feel insulted by the offer, he publicly expressed outrage, declaring, “I have a family to feed … If Glen Taylor wants to see my family fed, he better cough up some money. Otherwise, you’re going to see these kids in one of those Sally Struthers commercials soon.” He declined the extension, and, having once more drawn the ire of fans and sports media, had the worst season of his career in the final year of his contract. He hasn’t played in the NBA since.
There is no doubt that during his time playing thought Sprewell was someone that everyone came to see and was someone everyone shared an opinion about, whether it was about his choking a head coach, making clutch plays on the court or overestimating his contractual value with the league …he was hard to ignore.
Smallthoughs : Old School Tuesday salutes …Latrell Sprewell.